Hi again friends, I hope all is well! So I promised myself I’d faithfully blog and document my shenanigans, especially where cross-cultural learning is concerned. But it seems I fell into the trap I swore I wouldn't whilst studying abroad… Like many a student before me, I fell in love with my host country and forgot I was supposed to be blogging.
Well I am back and am eager to share what I have observed since we last spoke... One thing I've become extremely aware of as of late is that the Spanish semester is quite a bit different from that of America. While Marietta’s Spring Break has just begun, for me midterms and Spring Break are still over a month away. Why are our timelines so off? Well here in Spain, finals week is at the end of January, rather than December. This means the new semester gets pushed all the way back to the first week in February.
While normally this difference escapes my attention, this past week or so leading up to MC’s spring break has made the change pretty hard to ignore... You see, for the past two years I've been fortunate enough to spend my spring break at Pine Ridge Reservation for ASB South Dakota. In my mind, it’s become something of a routine… Experiencing the culture, the land, the people, and even the wind as it rolls over the Black Hills is something I anticipate all year long. So being here in Europe right now seems, well, kind of foreign.
|Missing South Dakota.|
While there’s a substantial part of me that wishes more than anything I could be in South Dakota building a bunk bed for the Oglala Lakota tribe members or watching the sunrise over the tan, rolling hills, another part of me also knows that deviating from my normal routine is how I learn about the world around me. If I never stray from my comfort zone, I miss out on opportunities to encounter new perspectives.
So rather than sulking about missing out on an amazing ASB trip, I left my home base of Madrid and spent my weekend exploring the famed city of Paris. Though France is just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Spain, Paris proved to be quite different from Madrid. From the language, to the metro system, to the way I was treated as a woman, my 48 hours in Paris gave me a glimpse of just how diverse Europe is.
|Some tourist traps are worth it.|
Curiously enough, a large part of my weekend consisted of comparing Paris to Madrid. With each difference I encountered, I found myself becoming more and more convinced that Madrid was better... But is that really true? While my Spain-loving self would passionately declare, “What a silly question, of course Madrid is better!” my more level-headed and open minded self would suggest that cultures can’t (and shouldn't!) be ranked.
After all, our preferences are driven by a menagerie of personal factors, including our past experiences and our prejudices. Therefore, we all couldn't possibly react the same way where cross-cultural interactions are concerned. And while we won’t like or agree with every culture we encounter, that doesn't mean we have the right to discount it. After all, diversity deserves respect.
While Paris initially threw me for a loop, after adjusting my mindset I was able to see the things that my prejudices had previously hidden from view. I saw beauty as the last rays of sun faded behind the Eiffel Tower... I saw charm as children giggled and danced to the songs of street performers... I saw love as an elderly couple smiled at each other and held hands by the river...
Little, wonderful moments like this exist in every single culture. You only have to look for them. Until next time, friends.