Five Weeks + Two Days

Sept. 03, 2008

So it’s been like two weeks since I last wrote….  My bad. Unfortunately, I am still waking up early to do monitoreo, although my assignment this week — Radio Alegría — broadcasts at the luxurious hour of 7 a.m., instead of 5:30. It’s nice to sleep in (a phrase I have neverbefore used to describe waking up at 7), because I’ve been sick on and off for the last … two weeks.

I finally went to the doctor today. He told me that: 1) I’m sick, 2) I need antibiotics, and 3) I can get them delivered straight to the residence hall. In fact, the receptionist at the Res called the pharmacy for me, took my money, and will hold the drugs for me at the reception until I come pick them up. That makes me feel a little bit less bitter about the fact that there is a receptionist at all. I’m so used to the super laid-back atmosphere of Hendrix residence halls that the rules here are killing me. For example, I can only host one guest at a time, and they can only stay til 11 p.m.  And I have to sign in if I come back after midnight or fill out anAviso de Ausencia form if I won’t be staying the night at Res — even if it’s just because I’m pulling an all-nighter in the library. It’s not terrible, but I resent it anyway.

I had to fill out an Absence Advisory this weekend, in fact, because I went on a two-day camping trip to Cuatro Ciénegas (Four Marshes) with about three dozen other international students. So fun! Check out the pictures! It was my first venture out of Monterrey, and I’m very glad I went. I knew very few of the other students on the trip, so I got to meet a bunch of new friends. Plus most of the attendees were French students with weak English skills, so I spoke almost exclusively Spanish for the whole two days. Phew!

It’s really interesting to monitor my Spanish progress here. Some moments I can barely pull out a “Buenas días,” and other times I just chatter away. In fact, one of the Frenchies and I had an extensive political conversation on the bus ride. It’s highly variable. Sometimes I’m annoyed (offended?) when someone who speaks both Spanish and English chooses to address me in English. But almost as often I am frustrated when they do speak to me in Spanish. Sometimes I feel much more adept at aural comprehension than at sharing my own thoughts, but other times — when I’m hanging out with a group of Mexicans together, or in my Política Mundial class — I feel like I barely understand the language. It’s definitely a learning process.

Adapting culturally has also been a minor challenge. Personal space bubbles are actually not much smaller than I’m used to, but I get overwhelmed by the tradition of greeting all acquaintances with cheek kisses. The hallways of the school are always packed — there is really only one, huge academic building that all the thousands of students share — and folks just stop in the middle to kiss hello and chat.  And people here. Walk. So. Slowly. Coming from a midwesterner, that means a lot; my German friends are driven crazy by the slower pace of life here.

The most surprising thing, though, is that the academic atmosphere is a lot like high school. Like, the most misbehaved classes in high school. Most students wait outside the door of the classroom until the bell rings, which I think is juvenile in and of itself, but others just saunter in a few (or more) minutes late with no apology. People interrupt the professor’s lecture without raising their hands. Some answer their cell phones in class, many send text messages, and others even (reportedly — as told to me by a friend) make calls during class.  !!??!?!?!?!!???!?!?!!!!! <– words fail.

The tone of the class is determined mostly by the professor, and I’ve luckily landed in mostly quite serious classes. But not all.  Today, my midterm test for Global Journalism consisted of five short answer questions, five identifications, and about 25 matching questions.  Matching questions!!  I’m nominating it for easiest test of all time.

I’m not complaining about having that easy class, though. With much less reading than I have at Hendrix, I get hours of extra time to spend on Facebook, keeping in touch with my Hendrix friends across the globe. (Ghana, France, Norway ….) And to obsessively read the New York Times, to keep up with American politics. (I must have spent two hours today reading about Sarah Palin!)

As a parting gift, I leave you with an album of photos of my life here in Mexico. Enjoy! I am!

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