On Becoming a Tío

by Mateo, Tufts 1+4 Participant

“A tía isn’t just someone that’s related to you. They’re someone who watches out for you and takes care of you.” I remember walking towards the city center with my host brother when he told me this. We had just passed his aunt’s house, and I wanted to know how exactly it was that she was related to him. He quickly laughed and revealed that she wasn’t actually a member of the family, but rather a friend of his parents. Nevertheless, being that he’d grown up with her love and support his entire life, in many ways she really was like an aunt.

At my work, La Asociación de Las Tías, the students refer to staff members as either tía or tío (the latter meaning uncle). When I first arrived, I was super excited about the fact that I’d get to come in and be a tío to so many kids. There was just one problem, however — I wasn’t. Unlike staff members, volunteers at Las Tías are referred to be their first name.

Continue reading “On Becoming a Tío”

My 1+4 Story: Aberdeen

Hello world it’s me, writing a personal blog for the first time in a long time.  What am I up to?  Currently I’m laying on the president’s lawn at Tufts enjoying the 80 degree weather (so long as I pretend our planet isn’t dying) with a new friend I made this semester.  First semester here I saw a lot of people around campus that I wanted to be friends with but never reached out to so my social goal this semester was to approach everyone I had a “friend crush” on and try to befriend them.  So far it’s worked out swimmingly.  I used to approach situations from the standpoint of “Oh no… they’re too cool for me…” but I realized that’s ridiculous and if someone thought they were “too cool” for new friends then I probably wouldn’t want to be friends with them anyway.  I’ve worked to surround myself with people I enjoy being around- people I want to make happy and people who want to make me happy, largely my 1+4 friends, because being emotionally content is just as important as doing well academically and I think I solidified that life outlook last year.

This year has been trying but I think about where I would be had I not taken a year between high school and college through 1+4 and I think I would have dropped out of Tufts.  I always receive shocked and disturbed looks when I say that but what is really so surprising about that?  Many students pass through college not having any direction or passions they’ve realized yet but they’re there to get a “good” job in the future.  Isn’t that a bit more scary than dropping out to pursue some other sense of fulfillment and meaning?  I don’t think a goal such as a good job could have sustained me for very long and I would have decided to pursue something else to find out how I could contribute to something bigger than me and find it meaningful.  I needed time before college to ask myself what mattered to me and I was privileged enough to have that opportunity so I’m still thankful for everyone who helped me do that and everyone in the 1+4 family.

Generic updates anyone?  I have them!! I intend on declaring a double major in Environmental Studies and English, with a minor in Portuguese.  I have become co-director of a club on campus called Students for Environmental Awareness and this has taken up a fairly large portion of my time but it’s very fulfilling and makes me happy.  I run this club with my roommate, who is also my best friend here at Tufts, and we have lots of fun and it’s something that really matters to me.  We do volunteer work in the community, advocate for current environmental issues, attempt to spread awareness on campus, and run events on campus to involve Tufts students in the environmental movement.  I am also in a cooking club which is a ton of fun.  I will be interning at an environmental justice organization this summer called Groundwork Somerville working with ‘at risk’ (I use quotes because I have some qualms about this wording) high schoolers from Somerville in Groundwork’s urban garden where the students will be running the farmer’s market as well as their summer job.  This project is working with problems of environmental racism, social injustices, healthy food access, and marginalized populations’ representation in the environmental movement.  These are all things I’m really passionate about and know that 1+4 was a really important part of preparing me to be qualified for this internship.  On the other end of things, I’ve been reading and writing more poetry this year which has been a source of great joy for me.  I finally decided that I would like to pursue an English major because it’s something I simply enjoy doing and I think that is really important.

And there you have it folks, 1+4 shows up in my life still in subtle and obvious ways that all impacts me positively and I don’t expect that to go away anytime soon.  When school becomes too much I know I have my 1+4 family to lean back on for support and that’s a really wonderful feeling.

La Cremá

by Mikel, Tufts 1+4 Participant

Two weeks ago, Valencia celebrated their world famous Fallas/Falles festival. I, along with my friend from back home, Eddie, headed to Valencia to partake in the celebrations. We stayed with Carmen, a friend of mine studying in Valencia, and her roommates who also invited a number of their friends. Thanks to Carmen, and her friends, Eddie and I were able to enjoy Falles through a somewhat local perspective; although they are not from Valencia, they have now lived and studied there for several years. Falles felt like a kick start to the last two months of my time in Spain, providing a spark that made March fly by, leaving me and my fellow fellows, trying to fill every weekend, day, and minute with a meaningful and new experience.

Falles was, like most European festivals, a pagan ritual that celebrated the spring equinox and was later converted into a Christian celebration. Falles now coincides with the day of Saint Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. Falles has become Valencia’s most important and celebrated festival, attracting young people from across Spain and the world to participate. The main attraction of Falles, is the massive cartoonish doll structures that go by the name of the festival itself. Each neighborhood has their own falla that sits in a major street or intersection, along with tents serving food and drink to members of that community. Each neighborhood also has a procession with girls and boys of all ages dressed in traditional Fallera clothing and accompanied by a marching band. This neighborhood setup to the festival allows for neighborhood bonding as well as friendly competitiveness between rival neighborhoods.

The festival of Falles lasts one week but is truly a yearlong cyclical process. Every year the new Falles season starts in the weeks after the actual festival comes to an end with planning and design for next year’s falles. Each neighborhood hires an artist/carpenter to design, and oversee the construction and setup of these structures. Besides providing a year round job for many artists, this long process symbolizes the underlying theme of Falles.

On the last day of Falles, at midnight and into the early morning, each neighborhood lights their falla on fire using firecrackers and gunpowder. In a matter of minutes, these immense pieces of art, are burnt to the ground in a fiery and explosive display. Photos from the hills to the outskirts of the city are able to capture this event every year, making Valencia look like one of those animated models of ancient cities as they are set ablaze in a siege or uprising. This event, ‘La Cremá’, besides definitively confirming Valencianos and Spaniards fascination with fire and gunpowder, also illustrates the cycle of this festival and the unique way Spaniards view life itself.

According to my father, the French, who stereo typically spend their time drinking Bordeaux and discussing philosophy, still jealously say that the Spanish live twice. After living in Spain now for 7 months, having attended many festivals, enjoyed many long weekend lunches, taken one too many siestas, and been out to enjoy Spain’s tapas culture, I can confirm this assertion. It may be the Mediterranean culture and climate that dominates much of the country, the abundance of good food and wine, or Spain’s history that includes its rapid fall from imperial giants to one of the most underdeveloped European countries at the turn of the 20th century, but Spaniards tend to have a cynical yet relaxed view on life and death. I will not go as far to say that there is no fear of death, but it seems that in Spain, and much of Latin America where Spanish influence runs deep, death is an accepted and awaited end, allowing Spaniards to enjoy and accept life for what it is and live in the present. Falles in this sense is a yearlong process with a long, yet fundamental process that all culminates in preparation for one week of celebration and excess finishing in a fiery, and violent, yet calming and bittersweet Cremá.

One day as we shared delicious paella and good conversation in a beautiful terrace in the center, Carmen mentioned a saying I had not heard before, “La vida es una lenteja, o la tomas, o la dejas”, translating to “life is a lentil, you either take it, or leave it”. Although it sounds weird in English, in Spanish it defends itself as it rhymes and lentils are a very common food. Although the saying is silly, it does relate to my experience in Spain. I have had my bad moments, my mundane moments, and my exhilarating ones, but I have learned to try and accept life at face value and enjoy it while I can.

My volunteer experience, although it may understandably, not be among the most exciting things that I have done this year, has provided a fundamental basis that gives my life here a defined purpose, much like the preparations for Falles. My travels, festivals and holidays, lunches and dinners with family and friends, concerts, fútbol matches, and other unforgettable moments, can all be considered my week of Falles celebrations. With only two action-packed months left, I haven’t quite come to the Sunday of la Cremá, but I can definitely see it right around the corner. Leaving will be no less heart wrenching or fiery than when I had to leave Ecuador, but I hope this time, with Carmen’s ‘la vida es una lenteja’ saying, and way of viewing life that I will more easily accept the end and be able to move on to the next period of my life at Tufts, much like Valencianos do as they clean up the ashes of La Cremá and step into the next season of their sacred Falles.