BIG NEWS: my boyfriend and I got an internship in Indonesia for this summer and will spend six weeks teaching English in a village!! After that we’re going to backpack for a month. Absolutely cannot wait. If anybody reading has any advice, stories, etc about Indonesia/Southeast Asia I would love to hear it. I’ve done a lot of the basic research but hearing from people with experience there is always helpful.
On that note, I wanted to talk a bit about one of my favorite things about having an international group of friends, as I did in Glasgow.
Language barriers. They cause a surprising amount of amusement as well as confusion. Before I go into this and offend anyone, let me say this: I was constantly impressed with my friends’ grasp of English. I’ve taken 6.5 years of Spanish and am nowhere close to fluent, but the people I”m talking about had without a doubt achieved fluency. Their vocabulary impressed me and the fact that I didn’t need to slow down or use small words will always be incredible to me, as I know I would not fare so well in a Spanish-speaking country.
So, without further ado, a few of my favorite anecdotes:
– My friend Luisa is from Mexico. I was at her flat and to use the restroom I had to go through her room. It was kind of messy and the duvet (comforter) was on the floor. Explaining this to me, she looked at me sadly and said: “I wet the bed.” I was slightly baffled and didn’t know whether to laugh or not and just repeated her: “You wet the bed???” She responded: “Yes, I had a water bottle and I thought it was closed and it wasn’t and the bed got wet!” Needless to say, once I explained what “wetting the bed” actually meant we had a pretty good laugh.
– My Dutch friend got a little bit confused while attempting to remember how to translate something. He asked “What do you put babies in? Wait, wait don’t tell me, I know this…a coffin!” He realized his mistake pretty immediately…there is a pretty big difference between cradle and coffin!
-The same Dutch friend was telling a story about a crazy night and said: “Yeah, and I was so drunk I just passed away!” Oops.
[Side note, another funny story: I once accidentally kissed that Dutch friend. When I say accidentally, I don’t mean I got drunk and did something I regretted. I mean we were in a loud club and he was leaning in to kiss my cheek. Me and my awkward self thought he was leaning over to say something to me and turned to him like “whaaaa?” and my mouth collided with his. It was just a little bit awkward.]
And finally, two pictures from Glasgow City Chambers:
Friday I walked into my Math 118 recitation (stupid people math, basically- I’m a humanities student with no faculty for numbers) ready to do our group work assignment. I hadn’t gone to the lecture in about two weeks – I’ve found that I understand it a lot better when I teach myself from the textbook.
I walked into the room and rather than seeing chatted people divided into groups, I saw everyone hunched over their desks, an unfamiliar TA passing out papers.
“Who still needs a test?” she asked.
My first thought was rather explicit.
My second was: “Is this a dream? This sucks.”
Amazingly, I did not panic or burst into tears. I took a test from her, found a seat, and started rummaging through my backpack.
This was when I discovered my second big mistake: I had forgotten my calculator. For a test that required me to use logs.
I held it together and thought through my options. I went to the TA, told her I had somehow forgotten my calculator, and asked if I could use the one on my iPod.
“Don’t tell the professor….but I trust you.”
I would like to take a second to thank the apple geniuses for including a log function on my little iPod touch calculator. And I would like to take another second to berate them for either not including an “e” button or making it too difficult for me to find it.
[For the record I am a devout PC]
I didn’t know how to do all the problems considering I hadn’t studied at all, although thankfully the formulas were included.
The other part of this predicament (yes, it gets worse) was that I hadn’t finished my one page reading response for my class the next hour. I only needed 50 or so more words and a citation and was planning on finishing it while we did the group work (I swear I’m not as bad of a student as this makes it seem).
So when the time was up and I still had 2 questions left but only had ten minutes to finish my response, cite it, print it, and make it to my next class all the way across campus, I had a decision to make.
I was pretty sure the syllabus said our final would replace our lowest test grade, so this wouldn’t actually matter as long as I actually studied for the next ones, and the last 2 problems were worth less, so I turned it in unfinished and opened my computer in the hallway. I quickly typed the rest of my response, cited it (hopefully correctly, I was rushing), ran up two flights of stairs where I knew there was a printer, printed it, and made it all the way across campus in three minutes. I was only a minute late.
In my next class, I figured out how this had happened: when I wrote down all my exam and paper dates in my agenda I had somehow missed my math class. But I also checked the syllabus and verified that my final grade would in fact replace my lowest exam grade.
Mistakes are never as bad as they feel initially. All we can do is try to remain calm and do what we can with the situation. And when you’re overwhelmed with your own stupidity because seriously, how did I not know I had a math test? just ask yourself: will this matter in two years? Chances are it won’t.
And remember: mistakes almost always make for funny stories…
When I was 16 I stayed with a family in Spain for two weeks. It was a great experience and I’m glad for it, although the living situation wasn’t always comfortable. Their eldest son was about my age, and had spent two weeks with my family in the U.S. before we both went over to Spain to stay with his family. He was spoiled and childish, obsessed with World of Warcraft – let’s just say that spending four consecutive weeks with him was not pleasant.
I did, however, get along very well with his parents. The father was one of my dad’s good friends from work, and I had known him for a while. He and his wife were so welcoming and hospitable. We spent the first week in their apartment in Benidorm and the second in their house in Laredo, outside of Bilbao.
Benidorm is on the Mediterranean and I absolutely loved swimming there. If you stood still for a minute you could see huge purple fish swimming around your feet.
One of my funniest (and most embarrassing) memories from the trip occurred in Aqualandia, a water park there in Benidorm. I had gone to the bathroom and was trying to leave the stall when I realized the door was broken. I was stuck.
I hadn’t had any trouble getting into the stall, but there was a doorknob on the inside that I suppose wasn’t connected properly, and therefore wouldn’t open the door even when turned. I tried pulling on the top and bottom of the door to no avail. I considered crawling under, but I was in a bathing suit and didn’t want to rub my bare stomach all over the wet, dirty bathroom floor.
Finally, I stood on the toilet and looked out. A couple women gave me confused looks and I stood there for a minute trying to remember my Spanish.
I made eye contact with someone “Um, ayudame?” I asked.
She looked at me, not all that convinced that I was sane.
“La puerta,” I said. I didn’t know how to say “stuck,” however, which was turning out to be an issue.
She stared at me for a second before walking away.
Oh God, I thought, I’m going to be trapped in this stall forever all because I never learned how to say “stuck” in Spanish.
I had learned the word for “broken” at this point in my Spanish education but couldn’t remember that under pressure.
Finally, after repeated entreaties of “Por favor, ayudame,” hoping I wasn’t being rude by using the informal command but unable to remember the formal one (my Spanish suffers greatly when I’m stressed), someone walked up to the door and gave it a little push.
It swung right open, leaving me even more embarrassed than I had been while poking my head over the stall.
Naturally, I couldn’t think of any way to explain and weakly said “la puerta….” a couple times before washing my hands and getting out of there as quickly as possible.
The Laredo part of my trip consisted mostly of hanging out with a bunch of people my age who spoke too quickly for me to keep up and referred to me as “la americana” as if I didn’t have a name. Luckily, the scenery (though not my photo quality, sorry) was incredible enough to make up for that:
Excuse the T-Swift reference, it was the first thing that popped into my head as a title and it just kinda stuck. I apologize.
So, I have another story for you guys today. Kind of long, but here goes:
When I first met Seth I was wearing my whale rain boots, sitting on the floor of the library reading from an anthology for my English 120 class. I was sitting outside the door of a screening room, waiting to see a film for my Shakespeare class. He came and stood beside where I sat. When he started chatting with me, I thought nothing of it. Because we were talking we sat together in the room when it was time to walk in.
When he came and sat next to me in our next class period I still thought nothing of it. He was nice and funny and I enjoyed talking to him. I had a boyfriend, he had a girlfriend. We became friends, and started getting lunch at the dining hall together a couple times a week.
That’s my perspective. I only learned his about a week ago, but here’s what happened:
He got to the library for the movie viewing. There were two rooms and he set his stuff down outside one. He went to the bathroom and when he returned, he saw me sitting outside the other room and felt like he needed to talk to me. So he picked up his stuff and moved over next to me, where he stood for several minutes trying to figure out how to strike up a conversation. Finally he decided to just talk about what I was reading, as he was also in English 120.
Normally, Seth would go to breakfast after his 8 am class. In order to have lunch with me he started getting up earlier to eat before class so he’d be hungry again by the time I was free to eat lunch.
Our lunches were enjoyable and we talked about everything. We got along really well and talked easily.
He would invite me to do things with his other friends sometimes, which I always rejected. I wanted to go, but Jack didn’t like him, although he would never say so. We kept having lunch, though, and sitting together in class.
I was in the airport about to leave for Glasgow when Seth texted me to wish me safe travels. I realized he had no idea about my dad, and had to force myself to tell him. I hadn’t had to tell many people – Jack had mostly done that for me.
While I was in Glasgow my relationship with Jack suffered heavily. I never wanted to talk to him anymore. I depended heavily on my friends there and, increasingly, Seth.
Seth was one of my only friends who actually checked up on me regularly while I was gone. The girl who was supposed to be my best friend contacted me two or three times over five months. I was the one struggling, grieving, the one who needed her, and yet I contacted her probably three times as often.
When I got home Seth and I met up twice over the summer. In August Jack and I finally broke up.
Back at school Seth and I became closer and closer, and soon enough he was my best friend. He was the one who could always cheer me up, make me laugh. We understood each other, and he depended on me for help too.
I had feelings for him, probably had for a long time, but I was in denial. I was starting to realize he had feelings for me too, which I worked even harder to deny. I tried to friend-zone him over and over again, telling him about the dates I went on and asking him about his girlfriend.
When Seth realized he needed to break up with Sadie I helped him talk through it. I liked Sadie and I didn’t want them to break up because I worried that if they did Seth and I would end up together and ruin our friendship. I was still in denial. The night they broke up I was on a date.
I got home and soon after he texted me that they had broken up. He was upset, and I went over. We stayed up all night talking and watching How I Met Your Mother.
Three days later he was at my apartment and we were lying on the couch watching A Very Potter Musical. He turned and faced me, his face close to mine, too close. It had gotten dark. I was thinking Oh god, I should move, I shouldn’t let this happen, it’s too soon, I don’t want to ruin our friendship.
I didn’t move, and that first kiss was incredible. I freaked out a little afterwards but he kept kissing me until I had to kick him out…because I had a second date with that other guy.
My second date didn’t go well – I couldn’t stop thinking about Seth. I went on a third date with him anyway (so much denial), which was awkward and kind of disastrous.
At this point I finally realized what is now glaringly obvious: there was no escaping this. Seth and I were always going to end up together, we were always drawn to each other. It took me a long time to accept it, it took him a long time to get out of a long term, long distance relationship he had settled for, but we are so happy.