Lost in Bafalandia and Siena
Week one here is already coming to a close as fast as it started. This semester we added a few new activities to our orientation. The first was an activity designed to take students outside of the city walls to explore parts of Siena that are not intended for tourists but are important for everyday life. We split the group into five smaller groups and armed each of them with maps, explanations of how the bus system works, and a few key phrases in Italian. We drove them to various points outside of the city with the simple instructions: “Find your way back!” We called the activity “Lost in Siena,” but a goal of the activity was to combat the fears of getting lost that students often have. It was a success! All five groups were able to bond over their experience and they all made it back just fine.
Our second addition to orientation was geared to address the important issue of intercultural diversity. In researching intercultural group activities we recently stumbled upon a game called “Bafa Bafa.” We adapted some aspects of the game to our group and ended up with a version that’s different for the original but that suited our needs perfectly. All students and all staff participated but we needed one person to be the mediator. We elected former student Juan Carlos Ruiz-Coll who is back in Siena for the next two years taking courses for a master’s program through the University of Siena to be our mediator. He split us into two groups. One group was the “bafa bafa” who were instructed to follow strict cultural rules of conversational engagement. Example: the “bafa bafa” people could only engage in conversation after being saluted military-style. No salute… no conversation! There were a total of three rules to remember. The non “bafa bafa” group was the “tourist” group whose job it was to observe, attempt to converse, and ultimately “make friends” with the natives. The activity went extremely well and led to some very intelligent and interesting correlations made by the students regarding their own interactions with Italians.
Tomorrow we’re off to the hot springs!