“The Travel-People” crowns the efforts of our participants to the cultural diversity workshop, which is part of the “New Minorities of Bucharest” project. The high school students, working under the helpful guidance of trainers Amalia, Cristina and Andrei, took monologues based on their own experiences and interactions with persons from different cultures. But how did the work go? Here are the trainers’ answers:

How was the collaboration with the students during the work sessions?

Amalia: To me, it was surprising. I was expecting it to be hard, but things came along nicely from the very beginning. We relearned together, them and me, what it feels like to be new, open, fresh. I got attached, I’ll admit.

Cristina: We became “travel buddies” very soon. Due to the fact Andrei was already acquainted with some of the participants, the first steps were easier. I enjoyed the easiness and openness with which they all received our proposals. The title of the play created with them and by them is “The Travel-People,” and I believe that for these three week-ends we managed to transcend our trainer-student relationship and become storytellers, sharing stories about ourselves, the others and the in-between.

Andrei:  It was a fun collaboration. I met wonderful kids, smart as a whip, willing to learn.

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How much did they already know about cultural diversity?

Amalia: They brought quite a lot of knowledge. The most beautiful answer that I received during one of the workshops was: “What I like to do when I meet people of other nationalities is interact, learn new things, share interests, hobbies; when I travel abroad, I try to integrate, to adopt their lifestyle – experimentation is the only way I’ll ever get to know and understand.”

Cristina: From the beginning I found out that many of them had travelled almost everywhere in Europe and beyond – Africa, Asia, America (one particular answer became an instant classic at the first workshop, when Rares told us: “I visited the United States… well, only 26 of them!”) So they already knew a lot, had encountered other cultures and were aware of the different visions, lifestyles, ways of thinking.

Andrei:  The kids had a very rich experience; they told us about the impact with the other cultures in the countries they visited.

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Describe the content and the message of the final play in a few words.

Amalia: I think I will answer this question in their words, more or less: “I want to learn to observe people and get to know them. I want to understand. I want people to get along, regardless of culture or nationality, because, although we don’t speak the same language, we feel the same, and that unites us.”

Cristina: What we tried to encourage by means of our talks on tolerance, discrimination, and diversity, was, first, an exercise in awareness – and this will show in the final play. We asked each of them to describe an encounter with a person who made them discover more about a different culture, as well as about themselves – because personal experiences are an honest incarnation of the topics that we discussed at a general, theoretical level. These experiences are also when you truly get to be aware of your behavior and change your attitude, without anybody else telling you “that was right,” “this is wrong.” The message of the play is conveyed in several ways and on several voices, and can be summarized by a single keyword: openness. It is just like sociologist Sam Richards’ invitation of attempting to take a small step away from our point of view and see things from someone else’s. By doing this, we get to see our life differently and be part of the world. Their monologues show how far each of them has come and the forms empathy can take in the most unexpected situations.

Andrei: The workshop taught every student more about the respective cultures of eight minorities in Bucharest.

What is your gain in this workshop?

Amalia: I think the most important thing was getting to know these beautiful children, and welding them into a team; and I think that even if only a small part of the future generation looks like this, there is hope for a better, simpler future. Yes; I think we have gained more trust, hope and freshness.

Cristina: Amalia, Martha, Karina, Marinel, Aron, Denisa, Cătălin, Andrei, Pitu, Nicolae, Maria, Yaelle, Rareș, Vahid, Ion. They are, in a random, non-alphabetical and non-discriminatory(!) order, what I have gained after almost two months of work, in which I discovered, side by side with them, prejudice in myself; in which I have stepped out of my comfort zone. And for that I thank them with my heart, as warm as all the cups of coffee we had together in the morning, and I look forward to applauding them at the end of the play.

Andrei:  What I took from this workshop is all the wonderful people I have met.

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