If you passed a tiny bulletin board in Anderson Hall this week you might have seen a sheet advertising International Languages Day. I’m not trying to rehash the whole holiday motif, but this is a holiday that should not go unnoticed.
Simply stated, the world does not begin at Maine and end at California. At the same time, this doesn’t mean that people who don’t live within those boundaries — and within any English speaking country — are that different from you and me.
As I wrote in my last column, I planned to spend my Spring Break in Mexico. Though our southern neighbor has traces of American influences (McDonald’s, Blockbuster), the places I visited, mainly Merida in the Yucatan Peninsula, and it’s many surrounding Mayan ruins such as Uxmal and Chichen-Itza, revealed an exciting new world.
A world of music, food, crafts and religion. A world in which a clashing of culture and history unfolded before my eyes. And while I couldn’t always understand what people said to me, I felt enlightened just to experience the sounds and piece together what I could.
I felt privileged to buy a Henequin bag for my girlfriend and also to learn about why the ancient form of weaving is so special to Mayan culture.
Eating the ancient meal of pollo pibil (chicken wrapped in banana leaves), I tasted something so similar, yet entirely different, to the chicken meals my mom prepares.
I have to thank Temple’s Latin American Studies Semester for giving me the motivation to venture outside of my familiar world and into a world without … cell phones!
Even though there were no cell phones, I didn’t get away from technology completely. Internet cafes are prevalent in Merida. For only 15 pesos (about $2), I was able to send this column to the Temple News offices.
The point of learning a language and visiting a country that speaks that language is not to get away from your own culture, but to better understand the world as one culture. Seeing the similarities as well as the differences creates an entire picture that only becomes clearer with time.
Neal Ramirez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org