I’m sure many of you follow Proctor’s off-campus blogs, but for those who do not, each week, students share perspectives from their studies abroad. In the most recent Proctor en Segovia post
, one student shared the following snapshot of a morning with his host mother, Ana. The following words reinforce our belief that off-campus experiences possess tremendous power; a power to provide perspective, to appreciate other cultures, and to bring out the best in each of our students.
“I am awoken by an electric mamba ringtone produced by the little Nokia cellphone across the room. Before attending to the cancerous noise, I look out the sliding glass doors to the balcony and do some mental meteorology to prepare for the day. It will be another twenty minutes or so before the sun makes its presence known, and the dry dark dawn remains brisk as usual here. Like most mornings I take a moment to appreciate the tasteful decorations of 'my' room. It is a true relic of the 90’s. The walls and ceiling are a coarse white drywall, furnished with lightly stained simple wood furniture detailed in royal blue; the kind you see in kindergarten classrooms and pediatrician offices.
“The shelves above my bed are filled with colorful kids’ books with Spanish titles, which I take jabs at translating from time to time. Around the books transformer action figures are playfully arranged alongside stiff plastic dinosaurs. The shelf to my left contains a completed 3d puzzle of what I assume to be some famous cathedral. Next to the puzzle are a row of model cars and behind them stands a handful of figurines from the movie Space Jam. On another wall two seven foot high shelves stand adjacent. One overflowing with CDs and the other with VHS tapes, many of which I have seen years ago. Atop a tall dresser in the far corner sits a large Playmobile pirate ship: the exact one I had as a kid that would sail through the fiercest storms I could create in the bathtub.
“My phone was about to go into the third verse of the high pitched electric mamba and I bring myself to my feet. I am careful with the doorknob, a novice would make the mistake of not being careful and potentially disturbing the whole household’s sleep, but this morning Ana is up before me.
“Hola Mih-Kel!” She says from the kitchen, “Tu quires tostadas?”
“‘Si, Si, Tostadas es perfecto, gracias Ana.’ I project towards the stairwell.
“The cold tiles of the bathroom floor are a drastic transition from the wood. The bathroom is eerily reminiscent of the bathroom in my grandparents house. Pale pink tiles running from the floor to half way up the wall. The stand alone porcelain sink with a thick shag carpet near the base. Half way down the stairs I can smell the distinct tang of tomatoes being cooked and at the bottom of the stairs I turn left into the kitchen and see my father in his sweatpants and white v-neck, stirring a massive chrome pot of tomato sauce while watching Sunday football on the TV. But it’s not my father, it’s Ana in the kitchen and it’s a Monday and it’s not a pot, it is a pan where small cherry tomatoes cut into halves simmer in olive oil. I am not disappointed though.
“She has set the plate of toast on the counter next to the single stool in the middle of the kitchen. With a smile Ana gestures for me to sit down and eat. Over the course of my meal we make small talk as she passes back and forth from one side of the kitchen to the other managing an array of tasks. There are lulls in our conversations at times when I am unable to conjure up a new sentence, but I prefer it this way; it feels more natural. I eat my breakfast quietly and admire Ana’s skill in the kitchen and listen to tomatoes sizzle in the pan. The clock on the oven tells me I am late, Ana can see me looking and knows it too. I tell her “Gracias para desayuno” and she smiles and says “nada”. She moves to the side to let me slip out of the narrow kitchen and says “hasta lluego!” before I close the door. ~ Michael Benevento
*All photos courtesy of Proctor in Spain students.