Thursday, April 29, 2010


One of my trepidations in starting a blog was that I would cease to be dedicated after the novelty of pretending to have readers wore off. I originally wanted to focus on my pursuit to change the world, one homeless man at a time (I did buy lunch for a very appreciative pair today!) intending to channel my writing aspirations into an avid blog. When the novelty of that wore off, I reorganized and decided to be devoted to just blogging. But about what? Sometimes I sit in front of the blank post screen tapping the keys wondering, "WWCBW: What would Carrie Bradshaw write?"

I have many things I think about, but are all worthy of becoming formalized text? In one episode of Sex and the City, Carrie mills over what to wear, referring to the classic female dilemma, "closet full of clothes, nothing to wear." Often I feel that I've got a brain full of ideas, nothing to write.

I sit here waiting for a thought to send me galloping off in a new literary tangent surging with energy, thought and feeling that I can't type fast enough to keep up with the strings of words circling in my head. The moment I'm away from my laptop my brain swirls with blog ideas and sentence fragments like puzzle pieces waiting to be fit together churning over and over again, but then I sit in front of the screen and the only word the continues to resonate in my head is blog. Blog. Blog. Blog.

Tonight is my last night at 22, the eve of my 23rd birthday. I wanted to blog about something to commemorate the final moments of this year of my life. I waned between blogging about my canceled flight this weekend, the new book I'm reading, my favorite college professor, my solidifying plans for attending grad school... but the words were static. I might as well have been punching in numbers. Then suddenly I was struck by the memory of another time when I was severely afflicted by writers block, only then the resounding word was ferrocarriles.

I spent a semester in a Spanish university my junior year of college. Spanish universities function predominantly off of student's ability to demonstrate fact rentention and memorization, a stark contrast from the analytically-dominated American system. Spanish courses are passed or failed based on student's scores on the final exam and occasionally a mid-term or term paper- no homework, no assigned reading, no participation or attendance required.

I remember arriving to take my first exam, a mid-term for my US History Course. There were a few other Americans in my class, a sprinkling of Erasmus students from Ireland, Germany and France, but the majority were native Spaniards. The professor distributed blank sheets of paper to the class and sauntered to the board slowly. With the flick of his wrist, he pulled up the projection screen and revealed the word ferrocarriles (railroads) etched in white chalk across the blackboard. I sat stunned. Railroads. What about railroads? Where was the question? What was I to answer? I glanced around at the other students- their heads were buried in their desks scribbling away- even the others Americans! What had I missed? I wasn't sure where to begin. There was nothing to compare and contrast. There was no request for specific dates, times, places, people- no direction at all. So, I buried my head and wrote down everything I could think of: Chinese immigrants laying rails out west, the Southern Pacific, the transporation of goods, the Civil War and Lincoln... anything and everything I could think of that could in any way correlate to los ferrocarriles.

I left the exam feeling confident. I listed all the dates I could think of. I discussed influences of war, privitization, economics... I'd heard horror stories of Americans failing classes abroad, but after that exam, I felt confident I'd escape placement in that category. A few days later grades were posted outside the professor's office next to our name. I slid my finger down the list searching for my name. Much to my surprise and chagrin, I had failed. Although students have minimal interaction with professors outside of class, I walked in to his office to discuss where I'd gone wrong. Waving his hand over the body of my scattered dates and facts that littered the page, he concluded I'd failed to reference that Chicago was known as the slaughter house. Yes, I'd failed because I omitted Chicago's role. Fortunately all Spanish exams comes with a make up test for all those who fail and those to fail to attend the original test date, and I was hardly alone for the retake. (Although that didn't coat my embarrassment that I'd failed a history exam about my own country!)

I did pass the second exam and the course in the end. On top of proving I could pass Spanish university classes, I also will never forget that Chicago was the hub of slaughtering livestock shipped from the west en route to eastern markets.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"thumbs up"