Though it doesn’t feel like the learning curve is getting much flatter, week three was definitely one for growth and development. Not only am I becoming more familiar with all the Italian counselor and kids, but I am also able to solidify a niche for myself in terms of my roles there and how I can best deliver a good experience.
Sara and Ronel, the two lead supervisors of the camp, have essentially appointed me as the resident American counselor for the American Games station because of my ability to communicate with the kids, which is also why I end up mediating much of the correspondence between the Americans and the Italians in general.
More than this, however, I was very satisfied to have finally wedged myself into the sports tournaments that are held every afternoon. In the first few weeks, the Americans counselors tended to feel the most excluded during these games because the majority of the roles like coaches, referees, and scorekeepers were taken up by the already experienced Italian counselors. Observing this early on, I never saw it as an intentional slight on their part to disregard us from the camp activities. It is only natural that the Italian counselors can relate better to the kids, not just because they share the same mother tongue, but also because they have grown up in the same community and have been through these ‘oratorio’ camps as peers just as much as counselors and campers.
However, whether it was because I was finally able to impose myself in the camp with my speaking ability, or just the simple fact that many of the Italians were absent this week because of exams (I’d like to think the former was at least a healthy factor), I was able to act as both a coach for my basketball squad one day and the referee the next day. Though the refereeing was a bit unnerving since the kids are quite competitive and close calls would often bring protests, the coaching was extremely enjoyable. I felt it gave me a much better connection to the kids in my team, and it definitely solidified my dream of one day coaching youth basketball at a place like my old middle school.
Speaking of relating to others, my goal starting this next week is definitely going to be geared more toward meeting new people – Italian and otherwise – that are closer to my age. While I love being able to practice my Italian with whoever is willing to converse with me, going to the same bar that is filled with the same underage Italian adolescents is becoming quite tiresome. This past Thursday, I was essentially cornered by five Italian high school girls who were fascinated to learn about American and Californian culture and its differences to Italy, among other things. While I find it flattering that they took such an interest in me, I think it would be much more conducive for me to meet people I can actually relate to in terms of the current stage of our lives. Thankfully, I think the group in general is ready to try new places that are frequented by a more mature crowd and would give us a chance to try something different! I can only hope I have enough time at this point to make lasting connections.