Ya He Llegado!

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.

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