Category Archives: Language

It’s a wonderful-to-be-alive-in kind of place.

I’m happy.  The kind of happy that makes you want to smile from ear to ear the all day long.  I can’t even describe how elated I am.  Although study abroad in general is an emotional roller coaster, more often than not I’m at the top of the hill ready for the screaming, heart-racing, plunge.

Sevilla truly is a wonderful-t0-be-alive-in kind of place.  But that’s not the only reason I can’t stop grinning.  Have I mentioned the plaza?  Almost every week my friends and I go to a certain plaza in the city center that is filled with Spanish people, and literally no Americans.  Every week it has been a new adventure, because we make new friends all the time.  The best part is that it never gets old because we’re always meeting new people and we get at least 4-5 hours of non-stop practice with Spanish conversation.  Some times we meet people with whom we enjoy talking, and then we go our separate ways.  One night when we just wanted a casual break from the boredom that is sitting in our rooms on our laptops, we went to the plaza and met really interesting people.

We’ve hung out with them three times since we first met, and we all have each others numbers and we’re friends on Facebook (so it’s clearly legitimate).  Last night we met them in the plaza and they introduced us to more of their friends.  We talked and laughed and joked for about 5 hours, walking to other bars and a club.  At one point we were all laughing and joking with our new Spanish friends when a friend turned to me and said, “We are so lucky to have this opportunity.  This is amazing.”  She didn’t have to say anymore because I knew exactly what she meant.  It literally brought tears to my eyes.  Not only had we meant an amazing group of guys who love to hang out with us, we are able to express ourselves with ease in Spanish!  Here I am in a bar in Sevilla, surrounded by new friends, American and Spanish, having sincere conversations, some deep, and some lighthearted, all in Spanish.  Here I am texting my new friends in Spanish and receiving messages in Spanish and joking in Spanish and it all feels very natural and at the same time so exciting and foreign and wonderful.  You see?  I can’t even properly express my emotions because I’m just bursting with joy at this immense accomplishment.

I am lucky to have this opportunity, lucky that Jess led us to the Plaza that feels like my second home, and lucky to have met muy buena gente (genuinely good people).  This weekend I’m going to Madrid with 6 friends on my first away from Sevilla, not with the program, travel adventure and I’m exstatic.  In all honesty, however, I’m still really excited to meet up with them next week.

It’s a wonderful-to-be-alive-in kind of place.

 

Joking and laughing with Jaime and Pablo

 

El viaje que siempre he imaginado…

I leave for Sevilla today (in more than twelve hours) and I feel like I should be feeling pretty chatty.  But for once I’m actually at a loss for words.  All of these emotions are stirring inside me, settling in my stomach and frankly making me pretty nauseous.  My bags are packed and my plane outfit is laid out and I’ve been reading Spanish newspapers and listening to noventa y nueve punto uno solo exitos to get my fill of trashy spanish love songs.  I looked up the words for fork and knife and plug and “to charge” and a whole bunch of other simple things I have forgotten since seventh grade.  I nervously bought myself three spanish phrasebooks and I’ve been reading them religiously.  Why do I have the feeling that I’m not going to retain any of it?

I’m anxious about the strangest things.  Will my senora be entertaining or serious?  How will I survive all the time between breakfast and lunch when a normal spanish breakfast is coffee and toast?  How can I explain to her that I’d really rather wash some of my clothing in the sink and not in her washer?  What if I feel completely alone?  I guess only time will tell.  For now I’m going to try to sleep and stop obsessing over all of the things I can’t remember how to say in Spanish…as if that will make me seem any less American.

Hasta luego amigos, ahora comienza el viaje de mis suenos.

On the question…why lerat?

Username: leratpack

Why?

Originally I wanted to name my blog “The Rat Pack” after the gregarious group of old time singers and actors whom I admire so much.  I love them for their classic charms, timeless and heartwarming music, and the way in which they remind me that class, creativity, and hard work will never go out of style, in the entertainment business or in plain old life.  When “The Rat Pack” was already taken I decided to use “le” the French word for “the” because of its simple elegance when it rolls off the tongue.  It doesn’t sound all that cohesive next to the harsh English consonants in Rat Pack, but I liked it nonetheless.

It was after I hit enter that I made a fascinating discovery: Le Rat is actually the name of a prominent French grafitti artist named Blek le Rat. His work fascinates me– especially the way in which he uses delicate stencil work to convey controversial social messages on an edgy and dangerous canvas. Read more about Blek:

“Long before there was “street art” as we now know it, there was Blek le Rat. He was one of the first graffiti writers in Europe; one of the first people to use stencils to make public art on the street; one of the first—if not the first—to break away from the dominance of New York graffiti style; and one of the first to use icons instead of writing his name.

How did you come up with the name Blek le Rat?

Blek le Roc [Blek the Rock] was a comic strip that I used to read when I was a kid. Blek le Roc was a fur trader or a trapper in the USA fighting against the British invasion army during the [sic] Boston Tea Party era. I used to love this comic strip, [which was] actually written and drawn by an Italian guy in the ’60s. When I started to make graffiti I took this name of Blek and I changed “the Rock” to “the Rat” because I used to paint rats in the street of Paris and also because in “rat” you can find “art.””

Much like Blek, I took a label, a name, from an old group of men (and women) whose work and life I admire.  I took the name and made it my own.  In “lerat” I found “later.”  Later than Frank and Marilyn, inspired by the past and the present, writing for today.  A little cliche…but aren’t we all sometimes?

Man Who Walks Through Walls

All you knead is love.

Ever since I’ve returned from my alternative student break trip to Guatemala I can’t escape the images of the children flashing through my mind.  The way their tiny hands and thin arms grasped at my arms and legs.  Their sincere smiles, though often black and sometimes toothless, as they played jump rope in their plaza for hours.  Their hands full of warts and calluses from constant play and not enough hand-washing.

I met two different types of children during my week in Casa Guatemala: the believers and the skeptics.

The believers would run up to you and ask “Como te llamas?” (What is your name?) “Rosita,” I would say.  And before I could return the question they would be reaching for neck excitedly, hoping for a piggyback or an airplane ride.  I scooped up each of their fragile bodies as I trotted around the plaza, sometimes like a horse, sometimes like an airplane.  I would run until I was out of breath.  As soon as I put one down, another would come running.  These children believe.  They believe in you.  They believe that the love and attention you provide, even though it is shortlived, is worth taking advantage of.  And they have grown to depend on the constant volunteer who will always be there for their next ride.  They smile a lot.

Then there are the skeptics.  The skeptics approach and ask “Como te llamas?”  “Rosita,” I reply, “como te llamas?”  But they don’t answer.

They looking up at you searchingly, “Cuando vas a salir?” (When are you going to leave?)

This is the reality.  I only stayed for six days.  I hugged, and carried, and smiled, and laughed and played for six days.  And then I left.  It is so unfair.  Somehow the skeptics know.  They know that most volunteers, even if long-term, will only stay for two years.  They know that their orientador (counselor)  will not become their mom or dad.  And because of this, they avoid attachment, because none of it is permanent.  One day the hugs, the free clothes, the piggy back rides…they will all be gone.  And they will be adults.  Adults without adults to guide them.

Casa Guatemala is an amazing place.  The children are so close because they have to be.  Friends are their family.

Our last day at the orphanage was so bittersweet.  Some wanted to say goodbye to children with whom they bonded.  But I didn’t.  I didn’t want to say goodbye because I felt guilty for ever saying hello.  It felt so selfish.  I traveled here to enrich their lives as well as my own.  And while I dug holes, and collected manure, and organized the bodega (warehouse), I still feel as though the time I spent with every child was something selfish.  For even one child to know means one child that will have to miss me, even for only a few minutes or hours.  To not have a hand to hold on the way to the mid-morning snack.  Most of them are young enough, so I know they will forget.  But in those brief moments when they have to watch me speed away on the boat, I am sad.

I am privileged to  have had this opportunity.  To remind myself of all of the things that I take for granted.  Which is why I want to help the world.  It is why I am devoting so much time to Challah for Hunger.  I have the time, the love, and the resources to help others.  What was I waiting for?  Why did it take me this long to wake up and realize that?  Every minute I spend mixing, kneading, baking, braiding, and selling is one more dollar towards a child in need.  And hopefully another person is inspired to do the same.

After all, all you knead is love…

love is all you need.