Could I Possibly Stand Out Anymore?

30 Jan

Never before have I gotten so many looks in my life.  I knew I would stand out here but, boy, I never knew I could do so many things wrong and fail to fit in.  Things that are perfectly acceptable in the states are seen as weird, odd, or just plain bad.  For example, the amount of looks I got while I ate a sandwich while walking to class was unreal.  Eating in public outside of restaurants is not the norm here.  It’s certainly not like Chicago where carrying a coffee is not only done by everyone but also seen as classy.

My friend  on the Metro with a drink...gasp!

My friend on the Metro with a drink…gasp!

Or how about the multiple times that people have stared us down because we were being “those loud Americans”?  Not to mention that a lot of the people automatically try to speak English to us before they even hear us speak simply because we look American…what does American even look like?  Also, I feel as if I really stand out is when I go to mass.  Although I have been to church every Sunday and the mass is the EXACT same format as back home, prayers I know by heart are in foreign words that I find hard to understand in the large, echoing, ancient cathedral. I am grateful that the service follows the same format so I can still understand the service, but I am held back because I cannot sing or say the prayers with my fellow Mass goers. I couldn’t even say peace to my neighbors when it was time because I couldn’t recall the word.  I just smiled and said gracias with the words “foreigner” stamped on my forehead. Despite my lack of understanding the words, I find the mass to be just as beautiful, if not even more beautiful here. There is something very rewarding about knowing that all over the world, Mass is exactly the same.

All of these events make me understand what it is like to want to fit in, but struggle to do so.  I have more respect than ever for our foreign students at Purdue.  Perhaps one of the biggest wake up calls was when my Japanese roommate showed up at my Señoras house yesterday. She seemed so naive, not being able to understand my señora and just smiling when you could tell she had absolutely no idea what was going on.  My first instinct was to think, ahh this is really frustrating that she can’t understand us, but then I had to stop myself and remember that I am not much ahead of her and that I was in her exact spot 2 weeks ago!  It is incredible to observe the language difference between the two of us.  My Spanish skills have skyrocketed and although I am absolutely 100 percent NOT FLUENT at this point, I cannot even imagine where I will be at the end of six months!  Classes start tomorrow…I hope my listening skills are sharp.

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3 Responses to “Could I Possibly Stand Out Anymore?”

  1. Michael Czerny January 30, 2012 at 5:04 pm #

    It was the same for me when I studied abroad. It certainly does give you a new perspective on the foreign student population here at Purdue.

  2. Phyllis Lira January 31, 2012 at 1:56 am #

    Hey Mandi, I just caught up on all your blogs–very interesting reading. You are having a lot of fun adventures. I’ve never been to Spain, but you are making it come alive. Keep the narration coming. Love, Gram L.

    • madridmandi February 16, 2012 at 12:13 am #

      Thanks Grandma! I am glad you are reading these. I hope I can keep providing more interesting stories! I hope you are doing well.

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