Sunday, March 14, 2010

Walk Like a European


Albert Einstein once wrote:

“The American lives even more for his goals, for the future, than the European. Life for him is always becoming, never being.”

This is one of the greatest and hardest lessons that I have learned in my past 2 months here. The Europeans lead very SLOW lives—where basically everything but speaking (the only thing I truly need them to slow down for) is done at a very leisurely pace. As a person who is constantly on the go, I have been forced to breathe, relax, and remember that I am in SPAIN, where I am allowed to enjoy the moment I am living in instead of constantly looking ahead at what will come next.

I (as a true Ann Arbor-ite pedestrian) have problems waiting at stoplights. For some reason, it is the one thing that truly gets under my skin, and I can’t stand standing on a corner as all the cars get to whiz by. But the other night, as I rushed home from class, dodging cars, dogs and bike-riders, I was forced to wait as a giant procession of cars took a good 10 minutes to pass. Annoyed, I happened to glance up at the sky above me, and my heart flipped at the image above me. The sky was filled with the most beautiful dark clouds, illuminated by the lights coming from Sevilla’s world-famous cathedral. For the first time since I’ve been here, I stopped and just stared, awe-struck at what I could have easily missed just by being so concerned about getting home as quickly as possible. I spent the rest of my walk home gladly strolling at the same pace as those around me, enjoying my scenery and soaking up the MOMENT.

I unfortunately have not had the same awe-struck reaction to my classes here, but I figured that after finishing my first full month of classes at the University of Sevilla, I should at the very least verify that, yes, I am ACTUALLY completing the ‘study’ segment of my ‘study abroad’ program. I have elected to take 3 classes at the University, and 2 classes at my center, which go as follows:

Creative Writing (my famous birthday rhyming poems translated into Spanish are unfortunately not cutting it)
History of Love, Passion and Death in Spanish Literature (5 words—balconies, horses and dark cobblestone streets)
History of Slavery in America (interesting to study this from another culture’s point of view)
History of Modern-Day America (currently watching a Robert De Niro dubbed-spanish movie…I’m not complaining)
History of Contemporary Andalucia (figured I should get some studying in on the region I’m living in)

I have also joined a conversation program through the university which pairs people who want to learn English and those who want to learn Spanish together. My first partner, after living in the US for 3 months, had come to some interesting conclusions about Americans altogether…

Surprise! The fat American image. He told me that his dad, who would be considered heavier here in Spain would ‘definitely’ be considered skinny in the US. He also excitedly told me that when he returned, for the first time in his life he could ‘look down and see his stomach bulging out.’ Lovely.

His second impression was a little more profound. “It appears that you have everything in the world and still aren’t completely happy.” Going back to Mr. Einstein, the world’s view of Americans seems to be of people constantly pushing for bigger and better, never content with what the moment holds.

I took his statement as a challenge. In my six months here, I hope to leave every person I meet with a more positive imagine of Americans. Certainly there are aspects of American culture that are materialistic, but to classify the whole country as unappreciative and unhappy, this doesn’t fly by my book. I happen to appreciate what I have AND am happy! So granted I make more friends, watch out España, the American is about to surprise you.

On a final note of surprises, I have clearly been speaking too much Spanglish here. The other day I accidentally told my friend (who had lost his voice over the weekend) that all I wanted to do was molest him. (Molestar in Spanish = bother.) His eyes grew wide and barely able to speak, managed to spit out in a raspy whisper, “You want to do WHAT to me?” So yes, España, watch out. Surprise! The American is coming out to molest you.