The other day, as I was exploring Alghero, I was approached by young students. They were wearing white T-Shirts with their school logo on them. They were carrying a clip board. They were a bit shy, whispering back and forth to each other, but there was one in the group saying in Italian, “Come on, we have to do our assignment. She looks like a foreigner.”
As they approached me, they said in their newly learned English, “Do you know about the Santa Barbara church? Can we show you? Are you English?”
I smiled knowing that how I responded would determine the next 40 minutes of my time. Yes, I said, “I speak English. Are you going to give me a tour of this beautiful church?”
Once I said that the excitement started. The group immediately shuffled me over to the front of the church. I could see on their clipboard that they had memorized different scripts, like tour guides would do. Also, they were determining what order they would speak.
A young girl started telling me about the front of the church. A boy was “reminding her” of everything the teacher had told them to do (make eye contact, point to the objects you are discussing, etc.).
As we entered the church, I was truly amazed. I would NEVER have found this by myself. Incredible the bright colors of the murals all over the walls and ceiling in such a small space.
One of the students was talking about each mural, but was not showing me where they were. Keep in mind, they had memorized everything, so their goal was to make sure they finished their script without mistakes. A boy behind the girl, told her to point to what she was talking about. Soon my head was going from side to side, to the ceiling, everywhere to catch up with how fast they were talking (smiling).
The boy took over, he had a strong voice and was wearing cute round glasses. He looked like a mini professor, which was amusing. I followed him to the alter area and he started to speak about this.
The church was crowded with many groups of students talking to tourists. Before the children let me go, they had been instructed to have me write in a book, my name, where I was from and any comments.
They were very sweet, hanging over my shoulder to see WHERE I was from and WHAT I would write. I joked with them, “Should I tell your teacher you were excellent or terrible?”
It took them a minute to decide what “terrible” meant and then, as true animated Italians, they said in unison, “No, non terrible, excellent!” I gave them a thumbs up!
As I left, I said, “Don’t you recommend a restaurant?”
They looked at me confused. That was not part of the teacher’s assignment!