I have been to Europe and Australia in the past. However, I have not had the time to really get out and about and become familiar with the culture of the places I have visited. I arrived two days early to the ECIS (European Council of International Schools) Conference in Nice, France. I had a little time to explore, and I learned some things here in France.
I know many of my respected colleagues in my PLN teach in other parts of the world, in both international schools and DoDEA schools, and I will be meeting many more this week at this conference. I live in a rather sheltered spot, Cape Cod, MA, and this week has made me realize that we must have our students become comfortable with dealing with people from other parts of the world. This is nothing earth-shattering to most of you, but it really became apparent to me this week. Can we successfully do this virtually? Probably not to the extent we need to acclimate our students, but technology can play a big role in at least starting the process of global and cultural understanding.
Here is what I learned this week.
It is lonely if you do not know the language of the country you visit. I could not engage in any small talk with anyone. That was hard for me. After being immersed in the French language for two days, and reading it everywhere, I can now understand signs, menus, and basic items. I do not even begin to say anything but thank-you, please, hello, and good-bye. Oh, and "I cannot speak French." Note to self-- always help non-speaking visitors in the US whenever possible.
Everyone in Nice has been more than helpful. I tried to pay the graciousness forward by taking lots of family photo shots for other tourists, from wherever they came.
I realize I can follow a map written in another language without knowing that language. However, I miss having GPS and interactive maps on the phone since I have no phone plan here. I had to download PDF maps to get around. Using the cell phone camera, however, helped me to leave a trail of bread crumbs so I could get back to transportation hubs and such.
People on subways act the same everywhere, even with no conversation involved. I was proud I figured out how to use public transport, even if someone had to show me how to purchase the tram ticket. No conversation necessary, just a lot of gesticulation!
One needs to notice when one is walking in the bicycle-only lane on the Promenade Des Anglais along the beach in Nice. Enough said.
One has to wear black here. Everyone does. And since Nice is a summer resort, everyone bundles up with scarves and mittens when it hits 50 degrees. I am thinking the weather is spring-like, as the New England cold weather has already begun to show up at home.
Everyone has a scooter-type motorcycle like mine! However, ATVs are street-legal and I even saw a regular motorcycle with two front wheels! (I want one of those.)
Now, after two days, I am feeling more comfortable, but certainly not totally. If our students have the chance to communicate, both synchronously and asynchronously with others, I think we should all make that happen. There should be no worries about streaming chat software, screen-sharing, and the like. Just make it happen to allow students from whatever country gain a better understanding of both what is the same and different about each other. Au revoir!
Here is a slide show of my photos for the past two days. (The Flickr set contains the object in the photo in the title of the slide.)