July 30, 2008
The weirdest thing about coming to Monterrey is how easy it was. A 1.5 hour flight to Dallas, an hour layover, and another 1.5 hour flight, and I was there! It’s in the same time zone as both Conway and St. Louis. I almost wish I had had more flying time, to get better adjusted to the idea that I was really, truly leaving again. But before I knew it, I was on the ground, passing through security.
As I stepped out from customs with my baggage, I looked around confusedly at the mass of people holding signs. “Estudiantes de Intercambio” one said, and I paused. “Are you an exchange student?” the sign-holder asked me in Spanish. “Yes, but I was expecting to take a taxi to the university …” I told her. “Oh, no no. There is a bus that will take you. Go stand with the group over there. They are all exchange students.”
And so I went and stood over there. I met a very nice Columbian girl named Catalina, who had just been to Hawaii and who was studying engineering. A rather odd guy from Wisconsin asked to bum a cigarette and then gave me his e-mail address and a wink. By the time the bus pulled up in front of the university, several potential friendships were budding. But it was not to last.
I looked out the window at the residence halls. A big sign announced “Beinvenidos al Tec de Monterrey!” Welcome to Monterrey Tech. My heart sank. I was in a foreign country, in a huge city, at the wrong university. Shit.
I enlisted the help of one of the Tech students, who called me a cab and called my “I-Buddy” – the person the University of Monterrey assigned to help me – to let her know that I was alive and well and to get directions to her house. I would have called her myself, except I was crying. One of the tragedies of my temperament is that I cry at the drop of a hat. Even when I know everything will be OK, if I am in a mess, I cry. Often for hours.
Once I arrived at my buddy Ana’s house, I got some water and some food and stopped crying. “Do you have siblings?” she asked. I cried. We watched a movie, Dances With Wolves, and I cried because my family used to watch it all the time when I was little. Later, I took a nap and cried. Honestly!
The funny thing is, compared to last summer I was actually quite relaxed this time. I didn’t cry when I left my family, I didn’t cry in the airport, and I didn’t cry on the planes. And since I arrived in Monterrey on Monday, I haven’t cried at all. That’s already a big head start over last year, when I cried almost every day for two months. (It speaks well of Hendrix’s Orientation program to note that I did not shed a single tear when I came to Hendrix.)
So, anyway, I stayed with Ana and her family for two days, until the dorms opened up. And now I am here, in an enormous and beautiful room on the first floor of Residencia Uno. I adore Couch Hall, where I have spent my three semesters on campus, but I didn’t even imagine that dorms could be as gorgeous or as clean as this one is.
Here’s a picture of the dorms from the outside. The whole campus has really cool architecture. Also note the HUGE, amazing mountains in the background.
[link to photo has been removed]
One of my favorite travel quotes is, “When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.” I guess the Mexicans and I must have similar tastes. Aside from the beautiful campus, I am in Mexican food heaven – quesadillas and salsas and avocados and taquitos and … everything! It’s a far cry from my time in Europe, when I would have killed for a good burrito.
Even the Spanish speaking isn’t making me too uncomfortable. I am steadily surpassing the level of awkward mumbling. I’m sure I frequently misconjugate verbs and use the wrong indirect object pronoun, but I get my point across. And increasingly, I understand other people, too. (An important detail, since four of my five classes will be taught in Spanish.)
As it stands today, I wish I could stay here for a full year. I know I can’t, because I need to finish up my American Studies major back at Hendrix, but it will be interesting to see if this infatuation with UDEM keeps growing.