Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Travel Plans and School

Hola a todos,

I hope that this write finds all of you well. At the very least, I hope that it finds you better than I find myself, as I sit in my bed and binge drink orange juice in attempts to bolster my immune system during— what I’ve decided to call— the cold war. The plan is to leave tomorrow (my half birthday, no less) around midnight and travel by bus to Lisbon, Portugal for the weekend. We will sleep for the duration of the ride and wake up in sunny Lisbon, returning Sunday night just in time for a late night Super Bowl screening and party. Should be a good time, assuming that I can shake off the congestion.  Here’s what’s been happening as of late:

Along with Portugal, I’ve booked a few other trips. In a couple of weekends, we’ll be going to Carnival in Cádiz with a big group for Alicia’s birthday. It’s just for one night, but I’ll be taking another trip there later on in the semester with school. It is my understanding that everyone dresses up in costume for Carnival. If anyone has any suggestions, please send them my way, as I realized that I won’t be able to dress up as anything that’s a play on words…erg. Two weeks later, we’re taking a weekend excursion to Morocco through a travel group that plans trips for international students. I’m pretty excited for that, too, and the itinerary looks neat. Rebecca talked me into spending an extra 20 euro, which includes a tour of Gibraltar and ends with time to play with monkeys in caves. Everyone seems really enthusiastic about this. The brochure even includes a picture of a girl with a large monkey on her head, but I admit I’m a little skeptical. In the photograph, she’s smiling while the monkey holds onto her face and shoulders, but I can’t help but think that she’s fighting a voice deep down inside that’s urging her to consider, “Are these not the same hands that likely threw feces moments ago?” I don’t know. I’m probably just going to take pictures of Rebecca and laugh about the irony of her middle name, “Jane.”

This has been our second week of classes, and school has been really interesting so far. I think there are roughly 300 students in the International Program, which well exceeded my expectations. I’m taking 5 classes: 3 Histories, 1 Art, and 1 Spanish Conversation; however, I find that the people are much more entertaining to observe and talk about. It became clear almost immediately that many of my classmates are viewing this as a time to reinvent themselves socially, which extends to life inside the classroom. I never realized how much cohesion exists at PC –exceptions, yes—but generally speaking, in any given class there is a shared basic sense of humor, expectation of manners, understanding of the professor-student dynamic, etc. Here, though, this hasn’t quite been the case, and I have broken down the average student-traveler into 4 main categories:

1) Normal – This student is hard to come by, something like the white rhino of campus. He or she has probably found other normal students to associate with during class time but is also stuck having to hang out with the 2’s, 3’s, and 4’s who came from the same university.

2) The Steamroller – This is nearly always a female who feels the compulsive need to prove her intelligence and charm while also meeting every student sitting within a four-chair radius. Your efforts to end a conversation or Q&A with her would be thwarted the same as if you were to try to stop Niagara Falls with a tennis racket.

3) The Bro – You have yet to hear this individual talk about anything other than alcohol, Spanish women, or alcoholic Spanish women. He makes it a point to announce his reasons for eating a mint or using Visine even though it is noon, and he has worn his Mountain Weekend tshirt at least twice.

4) The Unicorn – You were unaware that people like this were alive. You are captivated when this person speaks and often find yourself wondering, “Why?” This category is a hard concept to grasp, so I took the liberty of jotting down what I call a Unicornistic Exchange in my Spanish Conversation class today so that it may be conveyed a little easier:

Girl 1 –“¿Como se dice, ‘Her hips don’t lie’ en español?” {stifled giggles}
Girl 2 – {snort}
“Oh my gosh, Heather, you did NOT just ask that!” 
Professor“I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that. How do you say what?”
Girls 1 & 2 – {shaking with both hidden knowledge and a case of the sillies}
“Her hips….her hips….don’t….BAHAHAHA

:  - ___ -


If these descriptions sound somewhat familiar, it is because the International Program is almost entirely American (much to the dismay of my roommate). I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea, though. I absolutely love my classes here, and I’m still having a great time. In looking at my calendar, I can tell that this semester is going to fly by. It seems like I’ve got something planned for just about every weekend, and I can’t wait to kick the whole thing off with Portugal tomorrow. I hope that as you sip on your Airborne or Emergen-C you’ll think of me, as I have not yet been able to find a Spanish equivalent.

Until next time,

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