A Connections and Divergences Essay for the Tufts 1+4 fellows that is definitely not what it is supposed to be, but is what it is.
“Set the Scene” they say…
A big bustling city with a world below it. I am in the metro. My train flashes past the dark walls that lie below the century (or more) old architecture of Madrid. The Franco apartment buildings appear when my eyes become unblinded by the light. A brownish brick with green awnings, side the five story rectangles. Little edifices in the city, little edifices made of brickies. And they’re all made out of brickies and they all look just the same. I trot down the speckled concrete to Eva’s school. Her “profe”, in naranja like pants, yells “EVAA” and she comes skipping out. We giggle and sing our way to Montoya, the home, floating on our dreams together. Then comes Leyre, the second youngest girl in the foster home, with her wild eyes and sassy style, crashing into our dreamland to shake us back to reality. Number 16 of Carmen Montoya Street, we’re in Atico A. Juan Carlos, the educator in the home, is pitter padding around taking notes about learning and changing computer passwords. When along come Lucia and Carmen on their big blue bus, and with messy hair they drift into their deberes. Yaiza, one of the eldest, is already home because she knows how to appear. Ana is en route with Dani Luz, another volunteer, since Ana takes too long eating bocadillos with her friends on the way. I think this can be nothing like their lives over there in the hot summer of Brazil or the tropical Nicaragua. We buzz around like bees in a hive- zipping, zapping, zipping, zapping-back and forth-side to side. Our favorite words are ducha, dance, deberes. Our favorite phrase is “YOU ARE CRAAAZY,” but only when we say it like a Russian abuela. We work, we talk, we laugh, we eat, we live, we share, we dream. Five hours forget we’re there, and they tell us it’s time to go home. I tell Carmen Montoya buenas noches and I head for Ventilla, the metro station. Back to the brilliantly laid out universe under the city I explore by day. To Los Mesejo to chitter with my roommates. To my gray bed with my colorful dreams. To wonder or wonder not what my fellow fellows with their fellowships are wondering. What was their day like? Do they ever encounter Russian abuelas? Do they say Oh My Dog? I wish our wifi was better.
“Reflect and Compare” they say…
Right now, León, Nicaragua is 33ºC. Right now, Santa Catarina, Brazil is 31ºC. Madrid is 9ºC. Right now, it is 10:55 in León. Right now, it is 13:56 in Santa Catarina. It is 17:57 in Madrid.
Three cities, three time zones, fifteen jumbos. To be completely honest, the majority of my information about the lives of the fellow fellows is resourced from this application called Snapchat. You simply take a photo of your present moment, hit “Add to my story” and voila – I experience your present that’s past.
I reflect a lot. There are so many ways to read that sentence. I reflect a lot. I reflect my hometown, my parents, the food I eat, the people I encounter. Everywhere I go and everyone I meet rubs off on me a little. As a result, I reflect those places, things, and people. In my opinion, that can be said for anyone or anything on the earth. I reflect a lot. In the sense that I think, ponder, and challenge my experiences. I think about my surroundings, the people I meet, the words I exchange, the eyes I look into, the doors I walk through, and the objectivity of the weather. I ponder the meaning of actions, how I can improve myself, why I am living in Spain, and how I can relate to a seven year old orphan who speaks no more than ten English words. I challenge my experiences comparatively to those of my peers, my elders, my family, and my own expectations. I reflect a lot.
After six months in Spain, I have cumulatively reflected a lot. At the beginning, I reflected on how much being away from my home and my life there made me appreciate it all a little more. I thought about how important it is for us as humans to learn other languages, even if it is just the universal language of love. Without some type of communication between cultures, without some type of effort on both sides of the equation, we would never be able to collaboratively amount to anything. I experimented with ideas of travel and knowledge. I wondered about history and future. That was at the beginning.
Then, when the beginning switched to the middle, I could speak Spanish. It was a magical moment that granted me the ability to connect with my life around me. I started to reflect on the lives of my girls at Montoya. I thought about their historias, their parents, my relationship with each of them. I pondered the ways I could really impact their lives. What could I tell them to help them in their futures? Well one was definitely that boys aren’t worth precious thoughts and minutes that could be spent with a book or with your mom. I told them to wait to think about boys until they’re at least twenty two (I’m not quite there yet) because Michelle Obama didn’t pay attention to boys either. She seems pretty happy and successful. I trust her because she eats the right nutrients everyday. Those people are trustworthy. Another was experimenting ways to help Lucia work through her slow processing and dyslexia. I held her shoulder. I reflected on the way she snapped to attention. I tried to understand through research and questions how I could be most helpful to these girls as we move through these nine months together.
But after the beginning and the middle, I am here. It’s the middle of the third 500 meters of a 2k. Row. Row. Row. Maintain the present. I reflect, now, on the present. Which is past and present in the same. So I think about my fingers hitting the keypad. I think about how my stomach is a bit hungry and how I smell pizza. I think about the Velpers currently supporting the crowd funding app Velping that I am working on. I think about my cheeks being a little bit warm but my nose being like ice. The moment. Row. Row. Row. Row.
Daniel, in Brazil, wrote about hiking the other day in his blog. He was reflecting on how he has analytically assimilated into his year, into his home in Brazil. He is doing work. He presents business plans for entrepreneurs. He dressed like a girl for Carnival. He was beautiful. He is beautifully serving, in my opinion, he is beautifully growing. Like us. Abigail in Nicaragua has simple stories with eloquence. She is a writer in my mind, and I saw her afternoon antics with Emerson’s smile on a bike the other day. Emerson is my Voices BFF, and he seems to enjoy his home in the tropics. They painted a mural for Las Tias, and it took them three nine hour days. Aberdeen and Zoe send vibes of passion and tranquil through our phones with their images of the Brazilian waterfalls, passion for protecting our planet, and living for the betterment of society. Gabe is there too. He is hanging with the monkeys so that humans stop harming them. He is excellent at at his work. It’s an important and difficult job, but he’s gotten very tan doing it. Isabel lives in a paradise too. She smiles and wins a lot of samurai. We are similar because she works every day with children who need her and because she wins a lot of samurai. David!!! David smiles too and it is the brightest smile I have EVER seen. He sent us t-shirts from his home in Nicaragua and he makes us all so happy. He is very professional in Nica but I’m not quite sure at what does his profession aim. His wifi is very bad I think. He is so beautifully David though. Steven has super cool socks that he took to Rio. He is so mighty, we miss him. He’s saving the environment while looking Xtremely cool. Elaine too. She is in Nica understanding the challenge of serving abroad and having so much fun while doing it. Writing like a pro, loving her home, she says to us all,
“Buenas! All is good. Take your time. Find your place. You’ll love it here.”
The four of us, Dani Luz, Gongga XxX, Justin MeJJJJia and I, are all good. Reflecting, dancing, playing piano, serving, trying, learning and speaking Spanish from our home in Madrid. 13 Los Mesejo comparing our incomparable experiences- knowing we are all ok. Well, better than ok. We’re living. We miss you!