Saturday, December 22, 2007

We seem to live in a world increasingly devoid of personal contact.

Schools across the country are banning everything from hugging to high fives. An MSNBC article from October had this gem of a quote... '“Would you want your children to be hugging or kissing at school without your knowledge?”' That would be from David Hadley, the principal of some middle school in Texas.

Some administrators are citing "hallway clogs" as the reason to ban hugs, blaming girls for exchanging lots of hugs between classes, and others imply that hugging could lead to something worse. [Well, I suppose that Britney Spears' 16 year-old sister IS pregnant, so maybe they're on to something afterall.]

Spawns of Spears aside, it seems like a lot of us live without any meaningful contact from day to day. Touching isn't allowed, and with sexual harassment suits on the rise, it becomes more of a risk every day to reach out. I read an article once about a male teacher who took his young students into the hallway to help them zip up their jeans after using the bathroom, just in case. We don't trust each other, or can't. Touch has become a taboo thing, an excercise in deviancy practiced in the shadows by child predators and creepy Catholic priests.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

No, Gracias.
Nicaragua: Rainforests and Reality
MSU Study Abroad
March 4-12, 2006

Nicaragua crumbles upon you as you first emerge from the fluorescent glow of the airport. A towering, quavering, saturated wall of green. The night air is filled with the rumble of ancient engines, shouting of harried drivers, and the hum of everything out beyond the lights of the airport driveway. A full day of traveling, compounded with the loss of our luggage, made this new country seem altogether too overwhelming for even just one week. Where were we, and how had we ended up here?

Nicaragua, sandwiched in Central America between Honduras and Costa Rica, is a country roughly the size of the state of New York at 129,494 sq. km. The largest of Central American countries, it lays claim to coastal plains on both the Pacific and Atlantic sides, with mountains dotted by volcanoes residing within. Tropical forests fight to retain their ground as people attempt to make livings farming small tracts of land spread throughout remote areas. Nicaragua is a bright, bustling country marred by poverty and political strife. Colonization and occupation, followed by internal strife, corruption, civil war, and finally interference by the United States has left the country economically scarred, though work goes on to reverse that trend.

With only a week’s worth of time to experience such a big and diverse country, the group with whom I was traveling soon realized that we would be attempting to jam two or three days into each precious day we had. The MSU Study Abroad trip for which we had signed ourselves up was named “Rainforests and Reality,” and we left with what must have been wildly differing ideas about what our week would entail. I expected rainforests, of course, but what I really hoped for was a glimpse into a life completely different than my own in most imaginable ways, and some unimaginable. Here I was in yet another country whose language I did not speak— leave it to me to take years of French, and not visit a French-speaking country. I spent a good part of the week worrying that, in a moment of blind panic and reactivity, I would respond to someone’s Spanish inquiry with a rusty response of my own. That never happened, though I thought to myself in French some of the time. Some part of me, the world-conscious part, needed to prove that I did in fact speak a language other than just English. Someday I will.

My story actually began the day before departure.