For my last event of the semester I went to Persian Poetry Night. Frankly, I had no idea what to expect and as someone who has never heard the Persian language before, I really hoped the poetry wasn’t just in Persian. I showed up and grabbed some amazing Persian food and tea and was quickly overwhelmed by what seemed to be the entire Middle Eastern studies department crowding into the lounge in Farzaneh. The poetry was presented by students of Persian language classes. They read the poem in Persian and then read the English translation. This was honestly my favorite international event I have been to at OU. As a language lover, hearing the feeling behind the words in Persian and then a different feeling in English demonstrated what I love about language. That the same words have different feelings in different languages. It reminded me of the translation work that I did in Ecuador and how it seemed no matter how ‘accurately’ I tried to translate, some level of meaning was always lost. I was so inspired by this poetry night that I asked my mom for a book by Rumi for Christmas. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.
I’ve been learning a whole lot about energy this semester. I’m in three different classes that focus on the role of energy consumption and the changing environment. One thing that I have learned is that humanity 100% knows how to use renewable resources, but it is too expensive to convert our lifestyle NOW to a lifestyle that could use renewable resources for everything. For instance, Norway gets 95% of their electricity from hydropower electricity, which is completely clean and super cheap. BUT they are still one of the world’s largest exporters of oil and natural gas because that is what they have built their economy on. They could expand their renewable energy sector to encompass more hydropower and wind power, but it would cost too much money to stop exporting oil and to start exporting electricity. That is so sad to me. Everything in the world depends on money and that is why society persists in the damaging way that is has been for so long. I have been watching a lot of youtube videos about minimalism and living sustainably and I really want to develop a more sustainable lifestyle, but I can’t afford the kinds of food that requires on a college budget. I feel just like everybody else who takes the cheaper way out even though it is the worse kind of life to live.
So, lately I’ve been thinking about the PeaceCorps. I know that everyone in my life is telling me how smart I am and how accomplished I am and that I must go to grad school in order to start my career! But I don’t even know what I want my career to be? I feel like staying in the United States for grad school will lead to the inevitable settling down and getting married and having kids and living a mostly boring life. I don’t want that. I know that is not how things have to go, but for some reason, the PeaceCorps has been on my mind as a way to escape that life I fear. We read a book about a women who was in the peace corps in Malawi and worked with a midwife. The discomfort that she felt and that she wrote about on every page made me melancholic for my study abroad times. I miss not knowing what is happening or where I am or how to ask where the bathroom is. Those were the times that I couldn’t just sit back and let the world happen to me, I had to choose to play a role in it! Maybe the PeaceCorps isn’t exactly what I need, but I need some future that pushes me out of my comfort zone, and puts me in touch with people who are not like myself. I suppose I am just afraid of stagnancy. Maybe I will look into the PeaceCorps if Fulbright doesn’t work out.
Since I was unable to do Latin Dance Club this semester, I settled for the next best international organization and that was OU Cousins! My cousin’s name was Amaia and she was from Spain. I was very grateful to have someone from Spain because I know that there is often too many american students who want a cousin and are unable to match with someone that fits their profile. Amaia and I were able to speak Spanish together (yay!!) and even though she had a Spanish accent and I had a latina one, it was still a lot of fun to have a Spanish speaking friend again. One of the coolest things about Amaia is that she plays rugby! I was forever in awe of her powerful and strong woman abilities. Unfortunately, she couldn’t stay the whole year and so even though it feels like she just got here, she has to go back to Spain. If I am ever in that part of the world, I will have to say hi!
I went to the International Bazaar held on the south oval earlier this semester! They had the typical international student organizations out (ISA, ASA, VSA, etc.). I wish that more students who aren’t from those countries/continents would get involved with the organizations. I think there is this fear that you can’t participate or learn about something that isn’t a part of your life, and that is so not true! The best way for international learning is to share in one another’s cultures! I attempted to do the chopstick challenge where you have to pick up 15 little beans in 30 seconds and move them to a different dish and I totally failed. I think I moved about 8, which was apparently impressive for a white girl. I guess that just means it’s time to eat more asian food, I can’t complain about that. Anyways, I think there would be a bigger turn out for events like the International Bazaar if more cross-cultural learning took place OUTSIDE of the international studies department.
This past weekend I attended OU’s Latin Dance Club’s biannual salsa ball! If my math is right, this is my sixth salsa ball?!?! That is crazy! Even though I was unable to participate formally in Latin Dance Club this semester due to scheduling problems, I was really excited to be able to go to Salsa Ball. I was worried that my dancing would be a little rusty since I haven’t been practicing regularly, but I found pretty quickly that my muscle memory can take over when my mind is unsure of what to do! Going to salsa ball made me want to start listening to reggaeton again instead of avoiding it because I am sad to be in the United States. So, when I got home, I finally listened to the song Despacito which has apparently been sweeping the nation. Hopefully next semester I will be able to be more involved in Latin Dance Club than I was this semester. Especially since I am not taking spanish courses, I am thirsty for any sort of spanish connection that I can find.
The Vietnamese Student Association held an all you can eat Pho night! Normally, I wouldn’t go to a VSA event since I am not connected to the organization at all, but since Pho is one of my favorite foods EVER and since one of my roommates is Vietnamese, I got talked into going. I really enjoyed the event! All the students involved in this event were super friendly and talkative; several people sat down with us to ask us if we had ever done something with VSA before. Even though that region of the world is not what I have focused my studies on, I think that I will keep an eye out for VSA events in the future. I hope that no matter where I end up living, I will have access to Vietnamese food. And if not, then maybe it’s time I learned how to make it!
The Latin Dance Ball was my second international event of the semester. This one was a bit odd for me as the last time I had done social dancing was in Ecuador. In Ecuador, they most dance Cubano salsa, which is quite different from New York like they do here. I was really stressed the whole time because I had forgotten protocol for American social dances! One thing that was really disappointing was that they played music that was popular years ago in Latin countries and had only just arrived to United States pop culture. Overall, I had a very enjoyable time just by default of latin dancing, but the event as a whole really through me for a loop and brought me back to one of those “why-did-i-even-come-back-?” phases. Thankfully, it also reminded me of the amazing memories I had made abroad, so I was able to smile because of that. I hope that by the next salsa ball I am better adjusted to Latino culture in the context of the United States and will be able to enjoy the event more.
It is 2:00 AM and I am sitting in a metal can being jet propelled through the sky thousands of feet above the ground and I cannot sleep. All the lights are off and all the headphones are in and hundreds of people are developing neck problems that will manifest themselves 15 years from now when they can no longer sleep on their left side, and I cannot sleep. My contacts are out and I’m listening to an obscure collection of “relaxation songs” and I am wrapped in the blanket that smells of the home I just left behind and I cannot sleep.
How does one trade everything that they know and love for one small piece of paper that holds information such as “Departure Gate” and “Seat Number”? I wish I could tell you how seeing as I just did it myself, but my words currently taste like room temperature milk when I have been fresh squeezed juice for a while now.
I have never been phenomenal at goodbyes. A few of my Ecuadorean friends even figured that out this last month and have been giving me grief about the excellence with which I can slip away unnoticed from an interaction without so much as a kiss on the cheek. Perhaps it is because I have a fear of being alone, or perhaps because I enjoy being a mystery, or perhaps because I am afraid of death. There are a lot of perhaps’ you could attach to this quirk of mine but no matter what perhaps you assign it, I still had to face myself and learn how to say goodbye to a lot of things and a lot of people when I left this country just hours ago.
I’ve been on the verge of tears for nearly a week now, slowly realizing that no matter how globalized this world becomes, continents are still continents and I will still not be able to teleport. That means that my goodbye’s here have all been followed with a probable lie when I say “I’ll see you soon”. I went for a walk around Quito and whispered to the blackened ugly streets “I’ll see you soon” and Quito spat pollution and a beautiful sunset back at me saying “I doubt it” and I knew that she was true in her conviction. My darling Quito, may your doubt challenge me to prove you wrong.
Goodbye is one of those words that should be stripped of its entire honor and thrown in to the prison cell of never-should-have-happened’s and experiences-too-painful-to-put-words-to’s. It should be locked up and put on death row and injected with a serum that makes the world smaller or flights cheaper or makes it so I only fall for friends who live within 7 hours of me by car. Goodbye is so hard to swallow I wonder if the man who invented the word thought he was being clever when he put the word “good” in it. Someone should have smacked him.
I suppose I started saying goodbye a long time before it happened in the way I made excuses to stay away from my house and in the ways I tried to tell my friends that I love them. But when it came down to it, I was still trying to swallow waves when the moon just grew bigger and bigger, pulling them out of my throat. It’s even harder when you know how to say goodbye in two languages.
Now I am in a home with an infected ear piercing and the irony is not lost on me that it was fine until I showered in the States. And they told us to be wary of the water there. I’ve got songs I’m playing on repeat and I’ve got lists of things I want to tell you about my life here because I feel as if you’re the only one who will understand and I made fried bananas this morning. But these songs do not answer any questions and I’m the one that left and my bananas ended up looking like black poker chips and I’m glad to be home.
I’ve received so many messages from so many extranjeros that were with me and they all say the same thing. They say, “I miss you. I miss it. Everything is wrong. I’m so glad to be home.” This semester turned us into people who have realized just how wrong it is to lock young people up in classrooms with bare walls and tell them to read until they know and to fill in the right bubble and run the right equation. That is not how you learn, that is not how we learned. I did not learn how to say goodbye by reading books about it. I learned by having people become to precious to skip the one last hug. I learned by understanding that distance does matter and that memory fades and that time does not respect anyone just because they are young.
Ecuador was an unexpected shaking of the tectonic plates of our hearts. It was learning how to live and learning how to love and learning how to forgive ourselves and those to come. This semester will fade, quickly, but there will be days when we hear a song or smell food in the street and we will be sucked right back to day one. I will be cold and lonely for quite a few nights before I come to peace again with the instability of this world. Even though saying goodbye is a lesson that hurts to learn, I am so glad that my life is a life so full it constitutes learning it over and over again. Ecuador: do not let them tame you; do not let your heart beat slow. We ran up so many mountains, some physical, most not, and at the end of it all, we are still just trying to catch our breath.
A cumulative list of all the things we will forever bear on our Quiteñen hearts as we venture away from the lovely and charming trash compactor called Quito. Quito, may you forever remain the soap opera we call home.
- The three words that will ruin anyone’s day: Departing from Quitumbe
- Just as white men fetishize women of color, Ecuadorean men fetishize white women.
- It is in fact possible to survive on meals that cost $3.25 or less but doing this 100% of the time will result in a perpetual state of subtle hunger, malnutrition, and fatigue (Almuerzo? More like Almuerz-letz-GO).
- If you didn’t cry in Bungalow, did you really go to Bungalow?
- It’s pronounced ah-HEE, not AH-hee.
- The taste of street food is absolutely, undoubtedly, 100% worth the possible destruction that will take place in the bathroom merely hours later.
- If you don’t know a word in Spanish, just say it in a Spanish accent and someone will probably understand you.
- You know you’ve made it when the taxi driver asks you for directions.
- The whole “don’t drink the tap water” thing is more of a guideline than a rule.
- The whole “don’t be in parks at night” is NOT a guideline; it is a rule that should be strictly followed.
- If you’re doing well in a class it’s because the professor takes pity on your crappy Spanish skills because you’re a gringo. If you’re doing poorly in a class it’s because the professor is biased against you because you’re a gringo even though you speak perfect Spanish.
- Let’s play a game. It’s called “Fireworks, Car Backfiring, or Gunshot?”
- We are all royally screwed in our Spanish courses back in the States due to the fact that Ecuador taught us to use “le” in place of literally any direct or indirect object pronoun.
- We all “hate” reggaeton but will probably cry at our first club back in the States when we don’t hear “La Bicicleta” and “Shaky Shaky” four times in one night.
- When you’re ten minutes into Salsa and chill and he says “Kentucky”.
- Habas habas habitas habas habas habitas habas habas habitas habas, etc.
- We will undoubtedly be yelling “FONDO” at any given point this next semester and nobody will have any idea what we mean.
- Word most used of Fall 2016: Perdón.
- ALWAYS bring the topographical maps.
- If you’re about to do something social frowned upon or possibly illegal, just yell “intercambio” and you’ll probably get away with it.
- The guaranteed 45-minute bus ride to and from school everyday is actually very pleasant and serene.
- You know it’s going to be a good day when you can see all of Cotopaxi.
- The Mitad del Mundo Monument isn’t actually on the mitad del mundo AKA all of Ecuador is a lie (Curse you, France!)
- Do NOT by any means or for any reason eat frejol con tocino.
- Sometimes the bus route changes and sometimes they don’t tell you and sometimes you end up missing class because you were wandering lost around Quito for over an hour trying to figure out where your bus went.
- If your host mom gives you propoleo, do NOT let her put it in your mouth.
- Sometimes Quito really nails the street art thing.
- Sometimes Quito really sucks at the street art thing.
- Let’s play another game. It’s called “How many alpaca sweaters can I buy before I turn into an alpaca myself?”
- Every Ecuadorean ever: ¿Para quien votaste, Trump o Hillary?
- They most likely sprinkle a tiny bit of cocaine into the batter of the baked goods in the foyer at school.
- Fool proof way to attract a herd of gringos: open a bag of chifles.
- “Hablas español?” “Sí” *proceeds in english*
- When your friend asks if you’re going to Bungalow tonight: “Si te vas, yo también me voy…”