Bus rides: Reflection, Spurts of Wisdom, and Slight Nausea

By Erica DeBarge

It has been roughly eight months since we left our 1+4 host sites, and I’m currently on a bus from Hartford to Cambridge after a relaxing winter break. During my bridge year, I spent so many hours on buses, that if I didn’t look up every once in a while, I might forget that I’m actually in Connecticut.

Yes, time has passed. But I don’t find myself forgetting. Not the important stuff anyways. There is no way the terrazas and golden streets of Madrid at dusk, the constant buzzing of el Retiro, the shrieks and cackles of my host sisters, or the salty, wholesome taste of tortilla could ever slip from my memory. And if I do happen to do a little forgetting, I always have the “a year ago today” Google Photos notifications to remind me of the gorgeous cities I was galavanting exactly 365 days ago (as I sit in the library).

I’ve done my fair share of missing, but now I find comfort in my future. Madrid was an inexplicably beautiful experience, but college has begun! I can now study and live and laugh with my closest friends (who are also gifts from 1+4). Some people struggle freshman year to find their people, but I’m lucky to have already located mine.

My first semester back to school went rather swimmingly, but it wasn’t perfect. Something that bothered me and served as a source of stress was my low number of clubs and activities. In September, I was focused on my studies and getting back into the swing of academics, and I was afraid to stretch myself too thin my first semester. Therefore, I didn’t join as many clubs as everyone else had.

Over winter break, I decided to address my dissatisfaction. I scoured the 2020 and 2021 Facebook pages to join e-lists and apply for e-board positions in organizations that looked fascinating to me. I liked pages, researched websites, emailed professors and community service organizations, and became very close with Student Information Services. I can’t wait to get back to campus, get involved, and take charge of this semester.

The moral of the story is that everyone goes at their own pace. Stay present, stay golden, and don’t freak out!

Rocking Chairs

By Sophie Impellitteri

Like many homes in Nicaragua, my host house is littered with rocking chairs. Made from dark wood and wicker backs, some have permanent spots while others appear to multiply as my host mother arranges and rearranges them. On my first night I decide to trust in some orientation advice and take my book out of my room where I fold my legs into an oversized rocking chair. When my host sister joins me and asks something in Spanish, I twist my eyebrows and give her an awkward I have no clue what you said smile. On top of the Spanish, my mind was still trying to digest the fact that this 13 year old girl – irrefutably the scariest demographic – seemed to be being . . . friendly?

She laughs and repeats the question more slowly. In this way we pick our way through simple conversation for nearly 2 hours; rephrasing and miming and rocking and laughing out no entiendo after no entiendo. When she pieces together my thought, she spits it back in the correct grammar. I try to fit the words back into my own mouth, though they feel like square pegs in round holes, and she laughs and slows down.

She tells me about how she hates English class and about her volleyball team and listens to me talk about New England winters. We laugh at how she can’t pronounce Connecticut and at how I can’t pronounce almost anything. We talk about our families and our friends and our schools and where we want to travel and what we want to do when we’re mas grande. The whole time I speak in broken present tense, waving my arms in front of my to show when I’m talking about the future and pointing behind me when telling about the past, but this doesn’t seem to bother her.

It’s not raining but I watch thunderless lightning fill the whole ceiling, because in Nicaragua you’re never really inside, least of all when you’re in the center of your house. At the end of the night I smile because we’re 4 years, 2,000 miles, and a language apart but we both still agree that school is usually boring and that we really hope to see Paris some day. I think every house needs a few rocking chairs.

I’m Not in Texas Anymore

By Stephanie Waugh

I have had more adventures in the last few weeks in Ecuador than in the last few years of my life. I have been to the mountains, the beach, and the rain forest. I have driven across water, over mountains, and on highways with nothing between me and the horizon. Waterfalls as tall as skyscrapers rain down on trails that I have hiked. And cities bigger than my hometown have spanned in front of me. Sometimes the sky is bright blue, other times it is gray and storming. At dusk, the sun paints rainbows in the sky using every color imaginable. During the night, millions of stars light up the black nothingness. But, without a doubt, the most amazing sight I have seen is the Andes mountain range. Continue reading

Roots

By Brenna Trollinger

Today, I bought a plant.

Every day on my walk to work I am surrounded by organized chaos. Here in León, Nicaragua, I pass by camionetas overflowing with people, groups of little boys playing “quitball” ( a version of baseball using arms instead of bats), and little old ladies who sell fresh tortillas on street corners. There is a small pulperia that sells various plants in anything that could be used for a container. Coffee cans, milk jugs, and plastic water bottles house the assortment of plants that change daily. Seeing the greenery amid the craziness when I walk past Pulperia Marielos, I can’t help but admire how these plants thrive. As far I can tell, these odd containers of old milk jugs, buckets, and bottles make excellent homes for plants.

On this walk I think to myself, I want to buy one of these plants and be able to see it grow during my time here. In León, there is constant sun and it rains often enough that I would not have to worry about watering it. Despite the cannon that goes off at 7 am every morning, the random fireworks, and constant noisy parades, a plant would just grow. Seeing it outside my room every morning would be a reminder that something from this land belongs to me and will grow alongside me.

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