Noah Guttesen is my 10-year-old nephew. He lives with his parents, my sister and Faroese brother-in-law, in rural Italy. Like me, he is figuring out how to be American and Faroese in a country where he doesn’t fit.
I connect with Noah’s experiences because they mirror my own: The isolation, the struggle with dyslexicia in an educational system that doesn’t recognize the condition, and the separation from friends and extended family. He is my version of a self-portrait.
This is the transcript from a recent conversation on Skype.
Benjamin – What language do you think in and dream in?
Noah – English.
B – Do you feel more American, Faroese or Italian?
N – Uhhh, I think Faroese. But I don’t know where I will live when I grow up. I think I will just live in Italy for a while.
B – Do you like living in Italy?
N – Yeah, I have got lots of friends here. I like the food, especially. And I like the little, the little, the little…How do you say a little city?
B – A town?
N – Yeah, I like the town I live in.
B – When you go back to the Faroes and visit [your cousin] David, do you think he understands what Italy is like, or is that hard to explain to him?
N – It is pretty hard to explain to him, because I think he imagines it another way. He thinks it’s really cold, like there. And that there is only pizza and only wine and those kinds of symbols of Italy.
B – Do ever wish that you were growing up in the Faroes or the States instead of Italy?
N – Sometimes, but it would be really different. I would have to start making friends all over again, and learn another language and write it, because I already write in Italian.
B – Do you feel like you are different from the Italian kids?
N – Yep. I don’t know so much of the culture. I’m not very good with the gramatics. And I’m not very good at school.
B – Do you think the way that your mom and I grew up is similar to the way you are growing up?
N – Yeah, because you are from one country and growing up in another country.
B – Does Italy feel more like your home? Or does the Faroes or the United States?
N – I don’t know. It depends on how long I stay there. I think now it is Italy, though.