As much as I despise it sometimes, there are some great reasons to be active in running. The biggest one for me: community. The community aspect of running is probably the number one thing that has kept me from hanging up my shoes for good. There's a bond you share with people when you go out and endure pain for an extended period of time that's different than most. Through the Fleet Feet community, I got connected with a friend from Hungary named Robi. This last weekend he celebrated his second anniversary of being in the US with a rooftop party in Wicker Park and invited me over to attend. Being that it was a party on a roof in Wicker Park on a nice summer night, I'd be stupid not to go! Plus Robi is a cool guy, so why not?
The night ended up being hands-down the most culturally diverse function I have ever been to. By the end of the night, I counted interactions with at least ten different nationalities. All on one small rooftop. It was weird being the minority as one of the few Americans in attendance and almost felt inferior as one of the only people up there that wasn't fluent in at least a couple of other languages. I mean I speak a bit of Spanglish but that's about all.
I learned a lot about different cultures, what brings people to the States, and overcoming language barriers. Most of this I had encountered at some point in my life but never with so many different nationalities at once. I learned that Chicago has the largest number of Serbs outside of Serbia's capital, that most students in other countries all learn English, and even discussed social media strategy with a Bulgarian who owned a carpet cleaning business. I also learned that paying attention in my social studies classes and watching the History Channel pays off. The people I spoke with were very candid about the generalized world view of people in the United States being ethnocentric - that nobody really knows what goes on outside of the US. Sadly, this is true for the most part. However, when discussing war histories and how some of these Eastern European countries came to be what they are today, I was able to hold my own in conversation. Thanks to my knowledge of things that typically haven't helped me in life beyond a game show, I actually gained a lot of respect from the other people there. Earning the nickname "Kentucky" for the night, I was able to show them that not all Americans are ethnocentric, that a lot of us do know what's going on in the world (even though I still feel a little ignorant at times).
It was like a UN convention on a rooftop. A great night of learning!