Monday, June 25, 2012

First Day as a Student Again

Classes started today and they reminded me a lot of high school, and college classes to some extent. My first class was Composition 2, in which we made acrostics of our names and played a simple game using the articles el, la, los, and las. We spent a lot of time introducing ourselves using acrostics, though I do appreciate the fact that it wasn’t so boring that I fell asleep on the first day (after waking up at 6:30 A.M.). In addition, the professor made a reference to the TV show “Combate,” and I recognized her allusion to Team Blue, which always dances when they win to their theme song: “A-a-azul, a-a-azul, cĂșal es el equipo que..." I am already immersed in the culture enough to catch pop culture references :)

The second class was much more interesting and at the level of Spanish electives at Carnegie Mellon, though I had the same professor for both classes; the difference between them was night and day, "summer" in Costa Rica and the super-rainy "winter." We introduced ourselves with the meanings of our names, which was pretty interesting. I told the story of how my parents named me after Vivien Leigh, and how my mom says I was lucky that they mispelled it since Vivien Leigh actually plays a super-crazy person in the movie “A Streetcar Named Desire.” I also gave the translation of my Chinese middle name (“Liang” = jade); my name has a lot of meaning behind it, and that exercise really showed me that names carry a lot of power and significant history for each person (if they care about it).

In the second part of class, we focused on what “culture” is. One student said that my description of "cultura" was like a thesis; I wrote an outline of the important facets of a culture and placed them in categories, just like a good sociologist, haha. But, I’m not sure of what I’m missing from the big picture, because I didn’t mention art, music, or food in my overview of what constitutes culture. Also, I’m losing mastery of the gender of words in Spanish…

We also discussed the characteristics of “culture” that one author assigned to it. We had a grand discussion about what he meant in certain sentences, although it was frustrating in some aspects. There was a vast divide in interpretations between another person in my group and me, but I stayed optimistic about it the whole time. I appreciated the class’s focus on the philosophical basis for what “culture” is, and in addition the opportunity to share and encounter different perspectives (shaped by different backgrounds). We didn’t come to an agreement on mucho except that culture 1) is comunal (formed by a community of people in coordination), 2) is learned (it’s not something you’re born with), and 3) it helps form the conception of an “us” and an “other.” Good job, indeed. 

The acrostic I made for my name:

Nuevas experiencias

I live
New experiences.

Poetry in motion.