AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY

There are so many things I’d like to talk about here on my blog; my change of major last year, my move to France, my time on exchange, even my obsession with the TV show Arrow… Yet, as we find ourselves deep in *that* point of the semester, where getting up before noon any day might be too much to ask, wearing anything other than sweatpants is out of the question, and the main staple of the student diet is coffee, I’ve decided to try and hearten you instead with an encouraging story of how sometimes things work out in the best possible way.

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Train at Eigergletscher

So yeah, I’m in France for exchange, and I’ll go into that later, but what I really want to talk about is my trip to Switzerland.

It was my very first time travelling alone as a tourist, and I was a little nervous, as I am a firm believer of safety in numbers, and I love how having friends along with you makes every trip an amazing adventure. I was

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Stechelberg

deeply overwhelmed by the whole planning process. Not only did I have to figure out bus schedules, hotels, trains, and the like, but there is just so much to see and do in Switzerland and I just did not know how to choose!

After a couple of weeks of agonizing over the trip I finally I decided to take the most straightforward route and visit some of the cities that the internet said were worth it, (because you always want to trust everything online right?) but I also decided to not over plan. I mean, let’s not go crazy here. I did book a hostel for the first couple nights as I did not particularly fancy sleeping on a bench in the German part of Switzerland (most likely I would get arrested and not even realize it).  But as for the day schedule I simply decided to wait and see. And see I did.

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3X Glacier

It is relevant in this story to know that I am a huuuuuge Lord of the Rings fan. We’re talking reading ALL of Tolkien’s books (LotR multiple times, of course), including the obscure stories, watching all the movies every single weekend for months at a time (I’m not joking I can recite the entire thing) and at one point being somewhat able to read elvish.

The first days were absolutely wonderful. I met a Spanish girl at the first hostel and we went to the highest train station in Europe and a suspension bridge that connected two peaks. However, none of this can compare (in my mind) to my surprise and delight when after a fortnight of travel in Switzerland I found myself in Rivendell, or as it is most commonly known The Last Homely House. Kidding!

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Lauterbrunnen

Rivendell is the most enchanting valley in the LOTR books, where elves live peacefully surrounded by waterfalls and pines. I don’t mean that I fell through an orange portal that took me to a green screen studio in New Zealand. I was in the actual valley of Rivendell, or at least its real-world inspiration, Lauterbrunnen. Now I had done so little research about the places I was going to visit that I had no idea that Tolkien had trekked through much of the same dirt paths I was now walking on. I didn’t even know that Rivendell was based in a real world valley! But life is sometimes wonderful and funny, and one crisp October morning when you least expect it, you might find yourself walking, by pure chance, into Middle Earth.

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Lauterbrunnen Valley

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Please Speak Spanish With Me

Due to a new awesome course I’m taking, (more on this to come) I’ve been thinking a lot about my identity and how being in a different culture and surrounded by a language that’s not my mother tongue, affects my identity.

I’ve talked before about how growing up I was only allowed to watch movies in English. Now, I’ve come to realize how beneficial this has been for me, but there’s nothing like a university experience to make you question everything you know. So I’ve come to reflect lately: did I lose anything or miss out on anything (besides questionable translations of children’s cartoons, of course) when I became completely surrounded by English? If language and identity are so interlinked, am I missing a part of my identity?

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Well to answer this I might as well quickly explore if English and its attached culture has in any way taken over or replaced Spanish in my life or the Latin, Colombian-Ecuadorian culture in me.

First thing that comes to mind is that because I was in contact with English constantly, since I not only watched TV and movies in English but also read books and listened to music exclusively in that language, the only times that I had contact with Spanish was when I was speaking it. Thus it is often for me easier to communicate in my second language. This doesn’t mean that I am any less proficient in Spanish than in English, but because I am in contact more often with one than the other it is often easier to express myself. For instance, could I write this  without stumbling constantly over the idiomatic expressions in Spanish? Probably not; even in high school in Ecuador(i.e a Spanish-speaking country) it was far easier for me to write in English than Spanish (I needed google translate to translate from English, not to it).

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I don’t doubt that when an individual doesn’t use a certain language often enough, they become less proficient in its use.  I’ve seen it happen, not only to bilingual speakers but also with people who go live in a place where their first language is not the one widely used there. I can constantly sense this when a Spanish word drops from my mind and I have to resort to code switching (linguistics lingo for mixing two or more langugages while speaking) more often than not. More so, I noticed, because I am studying linguistics, that even when I introduced myself I stopped pronouncing my name, last name included, the Spanish way, like an Anglophone would, not how I would normally pronounce it.  /i s a β̞ e l/  à [ɪzəbɛl] (You didn’t think that I would miss out on showing how much of a linguistics nerd I am, did you?

The other thing is that I feel like  foreign influence and the idea of a “well rounded education” has forced my own culture to take a backseat in my education in favor of others. For example, despite living in Ecuador for fifteen years I have little knowledge on its history, economy, or political environment. Maybe they gained independence from the Spanish in 1820ish? And the first president was called Flores? And of Colombia, my own country I of course know absolutely nothing. But I can, however, recite the entire history of both world wars, a conflict neither country, Ecuador or Colombia, took part in (I think.)

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If I, who grew up surrounded by my own native culture, speaking my native tongue on a daily basis which is used all over the world, who was taught (although not a lot ) about her history and overall grew up in all ways secure of my identity; struggle to keep it present and pertinent, how massive is the struggle that the people trying to keep the aboriginal languages and cultures alive now a days face! How hard is it to keep their tongue alive when they not only live in the middle of a country that doesn’t widely speak share the same language, but they also live in a modern world greatly encourages and favors the use of English or others. Finally it seems proper to me to end this reflection with the following question: Can culture and diversity survive the modern “globalized” time?

The Earthquake in Ecuador

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I am fortunate enough to have more than one home; I think that I actually have three. To me, home is Glendon, is where I long to be after a long day of braving the wind and snow. It is where my life and my future are right now; after a long day of walking downtown my pace quickens when I see that York University sign on Bayview and Lawrence.Home is Colombia, my grandmother’s cooking, horseback riding with my grandfather up in El Retiro and eating sweeting popcorn surrounded by my cousins in a movie theatre.

And last, and maybe more so, home is Ecuador. Say “think home” and the first image that comes to mind is a great green mountain. This is where I grew up, my parent live here. My room with all my books and pictures is here.  I read my first words here, I made friends, I graduated high school; I built all my hopes and dreams from inside the shelter of the Andes, even if they are not to be fulfilled within.

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