Saturday, 21 November 2009

Thoughts of late

Time has been an unbelievably fluid concept here but with only one month left in our academic program, it’s quickly taking tangible form. In our ultimate weeks together, few weekend excursions are planned and I greatly anticipate warm, bustling nights out in Andalucía. I regret the lack in published writing but I assure my daily itinerary has managed to fill itself, much like in Madison. On Mondays and Wednesdays I have been taking Flamenco classes after school with some fellow brave Americans of the program and I happily report our progress in Sevilliano dancing. On Tuesdays after class I volunteer at a Spanish school of all ages; my friend Danielle and I work in the 4-5 year old gym class, a weekly treasure I simply cannot get enough of. The boisterous group has come to love “the American girls”(in the beginning, they seemed curious but skeptical) and my heart still melts when we’re greeted with the smiling faces of Alejandro, Carmen, Antonio, Jose, Blanca, Christina, and the others. This past Tuesday we presented the gym teachers (who are both quite animated males themselves and asked us out to dancing after class... hmm) with an American favorite, Duck Duck Goose, translated as Pato Pato Gonzo, and explained the game’s objectives ourselves. Ensuring the complete understanding of this game to a rowdy group of youngsters in Spanish was easier said than done but the result far surpassed any expectations. It was a definitive success and they expressed their excitement to now knowing an American game, though they think ‘goose’ is a funny word. Aside from such extra-curricular activities, this week we had Midterms and it wasn’t the same without the tedious over-nighters at College Library, complete with turtle mocha and obligatory mint brownie. Lately, fellow peers have been visited by parents and given the opportunity to boast Sevilla’s greatest treasures to loved ones and I desperately wish my mom could come. This being the longest time spent away from home, I’m struck with opposing desires. As much as I anticipate returning home at times, I am just as sure I want to keep my bags packed and never return. I realize how much I truly miss the people in my life -my family, the longstanding friends from Wauconda, the unforgettable clan in Madison, my sisters at Hooters- all who I visit frequently by shuffling through old pictures. Yet, this experience has generated a cultural lens which has forced me to look at America in a completely light. In a country so fervent on an ideology, an idea of prosperity and freedom all wrapped in a red bow and white-picket fence, its actual deficit is of epic proportions. It is the most efficient, convenient, fast, and accessible, all of which only further proliferate a sense of stress and hurriedness. Where is the reward in efficiency and quickness when the completion of one task simply denotes another unchecked email? In pre-planned and packaged housing developments, where the only communication with your neighbor is a quick wave before leaving for work, where is the culture? In a country which prides itself on being the most powerful, influential, and great, why is it that most of its inhabitants financially cannot even attend college? After conversations with Australians, Spaniards, Irishmen, French and Argentineans, I couldn’t help but feel cheated by my own country which asks for $30,000 a year for schooling (a figure which all the aforementioned peoples did not believe). In Australia, the government funds every students’ college upfront and does not ask for a cent back until that student is making over $30,000 a year in a stable job; even then the tuition amounts to a mere couple thousand. As we drink and gather in the plazas together late at night, I can’t help but look around me and feel the magic, the story inherent in these preserved cultures. On a nightly basis here, I am granted the opportunity to indulge in the Islamic-influenced architectural gems which have stood since the 15th century while drinking a forty of Cruzcampo. The streets are sprinkled with hidden plazas, nooks which host old fountains and tile-works and a few jovial Americans, playing hacky –sac and toasting to good times. And whenever I feel the frustrations of the lacking internet access or get impatient with the aloof waitress, it is these things I remember. It is these times I cherish. Yet, in between country borders and city lines, one realization continues to emerge over and over again. No matter which zip code is currently engulfing me, no matter what dot on a map I may currently be, nothing will compare to the people from home. I miss you all more than you know.

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