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Gratitude for a 5th grade project assignment that ignited my hunger for travel

Gratitude for a 5th grade project assignment that ignited my hunger for travel

I have many things to be grateful for today and I try to not take them for granted in day to day life.  I am grateful for a loving family, a career that I love (despite crazy workplace antics), a house that makes me feel safe (in comparison to my days of couch surfing early on in life), and my gazilllion pairs of shoes. I am grateful for every bit, every crumb, every nook and cranny of my life.

While gratitude is often expressed for those things we hold dear in the present,  sometimes, our gratitude needs to be applied to very discrete moments in time of our past. Many years back I had a fabulous teacher Ms. Rizzo (yes, like in Grease) who was hip in an odd adult way. She was happy and eager to connect with her 5th grade students. She regaled us with her stories of travel and education. She had been to places that not many of us in the South Bronx had even heard of.  One Christmas season she gave me an assignment. She was about to travel to Scandinavia.  I blinked several times when she mentioned this and I struggled to pronounce it at first. She asked me if I would be interested in helping her do research on it so that her trip would be well-informed.

I was a big nerd and was eager to please. I took on the assignment with gusto. I conducted research on the countries and became fascinated by what I found.  There was such a different world outside of what I knew and had been exposed to at that point in time. I knew about other places through television. However, this was a different type of knowing. I was learning about culture and norms.  It was the beginning of my fascination with social interactions in differing cultures.

I honestly have no clue as to whether my research product was any good or truly insightful for Ms. Rizzo. For me, it was the world.  She bought me a giant coloring book for Christmas that I cherished will all my heart for many years thereafter. Not only because I didn’t tend to get many Christmas gifts due to my poverty status but also because the book was one of the Christmas traditions around the world. I barely colored in the book. I wanted it as pristine as possible because the traditions detailed therein were so fascinating.   My love of travel (although at that point in time it was a hypothetical) was catalyzed.

This Christmas I am heading to Berlin, Germany.   I am grateful for the opportunity to start living out that Christmas book that was giving to me many years back.   I am hoping to find such a similar coloring book for my son.

Thank you Ms. Rizzo for seeing my potential and igniting a fiery long-life interest.


8 replies »

  1. Rizzo/Grease, gazillion shoes… sounds like one of my posts! 😉
    But WOW! Berlin! How exciting! I trust you will take a plethora of photos for us to gawk at upon your return!
    Happy Thanksgiving Mimi!


  2. I see you intend to give some of those gazillion shoes some action in Germany. I found that traveling was always hard on the feet. Hope you have some real comfortable ones! Kudos to Ms. Rizzo for planting the “travel bug” in your head!


  3. Ms Rizzo sounds similar to my favorite teacher, Mrs. La Fleur. I am older than you so Ms wasn’t used when I was in high school, but Mrs. La Fleur called her students Mr. X and Miss Y. I know she traveled every summer, which has got to be one of the better perqs of being a teacher. She spent one summer in Israel and decided to teach Hebrew instead of Spanish for one week that year. She also joined the choir in the Temple my family attended, so I was able to spend a few minutes in her joyful presence even after I graduated. I’m sure you’d agree that it takes a special person to be a teacher, and a really unique person to be somebody’s favorite teacher.

    Liked by 1 person

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