Walking down the streets of Venice is not so different from any other street of major cities in the Untied States. No matter where you go, tourists look the same. People have the same maps. People have the same cameras. People have the same hats. And, they have the same confused, almost terrified looks on their faces. Unfortunately, we were such tourists. All day we had been wondering around Venice praying we wouldn’t get lost. We would go in and out of shops owned by one or two people and thought nothing of it. We didn’t ever feel any similarities between them and ourselves. They were shopkeepers and we were fortunate enough to visit their beautiful city full of waterways, history, culture, and religion. We figured they probably hated us, we figured they probably loved Italy, and we figured they probably weren’t too fond of America.
It seemed the same as any other tourist shop in Venice. Various items scattered the store: shiny glass made in Murano hung in the windows, medicine masks made in factories hung on the walls, shot glasses made in China scattered the counters and T-shirts made in Italy with I LOVE VALENCIA written across the chest dangled behind the counter.
The shop smelled like all the others filling niches along the many narrow streets ending at the many narrow canals. A musty, seaside shop smell greeted us as we entered. To us the shops appeared all the same. It was almost as if we entered the same shop not ten minutes before.
We didn’t expect anything out of the ordinary. Three college girls studying abroad from the United States of America, we were in search of a cross made of Murano glass. We had perused other stores and expected this one to be exactly the same. We expected it to fail our expectations, we expected to leave after a few minutes, and we expected to go to the next touristy shop and do it all over again.
Fortunately, we were wrong.
After a few minutes of looking around at the same products, we spotted some crosses hanging on the side of a cluttered shelf. One of the crosses appealed to my travel companion and friend, Hannah. She inquired to the cost and the shopkeeper said 15 euros. We talked about it for a second and then decided the price was worth the beauty.
The cross was a deep rich purple glass. In the middle of the beams were mounted paths of multicolored glass spheres. The spheres gave the right amount of color and character to the cross. Hannah said the cross would be a perfect gift for her mother.
She went to pay for the cross. Expecting nothing but the normal pleasantries that accompany such a transaction. But, the next few minutes shocked us all.
“From America?” asked the shop owner.
“Yes,” we replied in unison.
“Are you the owner?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said. “But it is my dream to travel to America one day.”
His answer came expectantly, and I am sure my next comment wasn’t what he expected either.
“Why do you want to do that?” I asked somewhat shocked. Earlier in the week I had reflected on how much America had gotten wrong throughout the years. We didn’t value family as much, we didn’t give back to the environment as much as we should, we didn’t eat as fresh as we should, we didn’t walk enough and we didn’t mind our own business when it came to other countries. In my mind, America was earning a less than decent grade. Whenever I would step outside in Italy I made it my goal to not look like an American. For some reason, I just didn’t want people to think less of me because of my nationality. Yet, his answer inspired me.
“It has been my dream since I was this tall,” he replied signaling with his hand down at his hips.
We were all silent for a moment and just stared at each other.
Intrigued by his response, I didn’t want to let the opportunity to know more go to waste.
“What part do you want to go to?” I said.
“The east coast,” he said. “Is that where you are from?”
“No we are from Texas, but when I graduate I am moving east.”
He asked me why, and I told him it was my dream too. He then pointed to the map he had next to his cash register; a map of the United States with a big star marking New York City. I could only think of how I had crossed the Atlantic Ocean to refine the skills allowing me to go there some day; and, even though I am studying in Italy, I constantly think about New York City and turning my dreams into reality.
“This is my motivation,” he said. “One day I will be there.”
I imagine his dream parallels mine: go to New York, start at the bottom, work the job ladder to the top, sit at the top and see all the accomplishments made, relish in all you are blessed with and reflect on the memories made along the way. We wished him luck and left the store. All three of us were mesmerized by what we just witnessed.
Growing up we learn about the American dream, we learn how immigrants want to come to the United States and start a life, work their way up, and become successful. I guess I didn’t realize citizens of other countries still held this dream.
Before I came to Italy I took America for granted. I took for granted our freedom, our opportunity, and the inspiration we have each and every day: inspiration to dream, to achieve and to make something of ourselves.
Without the opportunity America gives I know I would not be so motivated. I would not have the passion for writing I have. Most importantly, I would not have the dream of success I have. It amazes me how a shopkeeper from another country has the same dream I have. I sincerely hope the shopkeeper makes it to the United States one day. It doesn’t matter what country you come from, everyone deserves the opportunity to pursue dreams; and honestly, I feel like he deserves it more than me.