One of the situations our Ashesi students discover when studying in the States is a difficulty in making new friends. This complaint is typical:
We sat and talked after class for an hour or more, talking about all sorts of things, but the next time I saw her, she walked right past, like we had never met and I thought we were friends. Americans can be so rude.
Rude – Is this how I am seen here, I wondered? I think about the people who have befriend us from the village, and admit until I’ve run into them a few times, I have trouble remembering their faces. Often they come up to me, start talking, and I am wondering who is this?! Then they say something that triggers our previous conversation(s) and I clue in. Sadly, I know this will happen a few more times before I figure out we are friends.
Is this what happens to our Ashesi students in the States?
Is it me, or has the art of making friends in the States become a complicated two-step between chance and circumstance? Do we leave friend making to chance: If chance brings us together three times, and we build on that encounter each time, do we then become friends?
There is a saying here that a friend is someone you share the path with and I like that definition. Maybe new friendship is more complicated than it needs to be, when apparently the only requirement here is a shared path. Of course, there is another saying: two footsteps do not make a path and I think this saying highlights more than our cultural differences. Americans just need more footsteps to recognize the path and realize it was not chance that brought us a new friend, but our shared path.