So, when I left my hometown in Michigan about a week ago, the weather looked more like the end of March, with freezing rain and mid 30s to low 40s temperatures. While I was sad to leave winter, because I am definitely one of those people who loves to do anything snow related, I was definitely happy to go where the name of the city–Aguascalientes–means hot waters.
I guess, to start, I’ll provide a background for my semester. This past summer (2011) I visited Aguascalientes, Mexico for a week to visit a friend. I was already looking into applying to study here through a program called SustR, which partners Michigan Tech with schools in Mexico and Canada, and provides students with a scholarship to study abroad. I knew I wanted to study Spanish, and I was trying to get an internship while abroad, as well, but because my major–Exercise Science–is a new one, it was kind of like pulling teeth (I have a funny story about that, I’ll get to it later) trying to get everything settled. But anyway, around October I got the final news that I would be able to study in Aguascalientes, at the Universidad Autónoma de Aguascalientes, this spring, take 2 courses in my major, a spanish culture class, and do an internship in a physical rehabilitation clinic on campus. All of that, added to receiving a large scholarship, and finding the perfect host family, combined to equal the fact that I have been very excited about this opportunity for a good long time now.
Back to the present. When I arrived here last Friday, because I had already visited twice (another time over Thanksgiving), while there is still quite a lot new to me, I at least felt at home when I got to my host family’s house.
The night I arrived, I went to the graduation party (from university) of someone I had met when I was here in July, which, I have to say, was a very interesting experience. When I think of graduation party, I think of my high school graduation, with people walking up and getting their diplomas. However, what I experienced was more like a mix between a high school prom (I was wearing the nicest dress I own and still felt “casual”) and a wedding (the grandparents, parents, and little kids didn’t quite fit the mold of what a prom looks like). The music was decidedly similar to what we’d play at a prom, though; I was told that a medley of songs played was of 5 Mexican songs from the late 80s, and everyone (except me, of course) knew the lyrics, and if I felt out of place trying to dance to those songs in the US, let me tell you, the decidedly more Mexican way of dancing was difficult for me to pick up. Also, did I mention that the party lasted until 5 or 6 am? Luckily I was able to leave at about 2, because after a whole day of airplanes, dancing gets old really quickly!
I loved church this past Sunday. My host family here attends (and serves in) a church called Centro Cristiano Internacional, which is housed in an old movie theater. Church lasted about 5 hours (as opposed to the MAYBE 1 hour service in churches back home), but it really was an amazing experience, even if I didn’t always understand the sermon. The music, however, was pretty easy to pick up on; it seems that the majority of them were just translated versions of songs from bands like Hillsong United and Jesus Culture, and knowing those was a welcome relief from the barrage of long paragraphs and phrases I didn’t understand.
Since my classes don’t begin until January 23, I have been taking a lot of time to do things like walk around the neighborhood I’m living in, learning to cook from my host mom (today she taught me how to make tamales), and hanging out with some of the youth (think high school and college-aged) of the church. Last night I went to a surprise birthday party for one of the girls from the youth, and before she arrived we realized we hadn’t purchased a cake. So five of us squeezed into this car that was clearly meant for people much shorter than I am (at 5’8” I stand about 3 or 4 inches above most of the women here) and went to a cake store nearby. On the way there, one of the guys asked me if I knew how to drive, and I said, yes, of course… but I don’t think I’d like to drive here. Not that they are particularly bad drivers, but I would be too afraid that I wouldn’t understand the signs!
(Aside: you don’t know how many times I’ve began writing a word in Spanish and had to delete it)
The birthday party itself was pretty similar to any I’ve attended in the US; we surprised her (kind of), threw balloons at her and each other, played Pictionary (do you know how hard it is to play Pictionary in a different language? Luckily I got 2 words I knew), and sang and ate cake. However, one thing was different that I really liked. Instead of bringing the obligatory card in which you’ve written a paragraph about how wonderful the birthday girl is and that you hope they have a wonderful year, each person at the party says a similar thing to her. Because my host sister was there, and I’ve become pretty adept at explaining to her what I mean without too many words, I asked if it was alright if I said my piece in English. The birthday girl knew some English, so she said it was fine. I wish I could have told her in Spanish, but I think she understood enough.
I think that last reason is good enough to want to learn Spanish. One thing I’ve definitely realized, having been here a couple times and now studying here, is that so many people taking foreign language classes in the United States don’t take it seriously because they don’t have a reason to. When I was in high school, I took Spanish classes as easy “A” classes. Now I know this: learning another language, like Spanish, is an opportunity to learn more about the world, and the people, around me. That said, I am so excited for this semester and 6 months!
Que Dios los bendiga,