Many, many summers ago, I spent a summer in Mexico doing an intensive summer language program with UST (University of Saint Thomas). We lived in what was once the Governor's Home in the Yucatan in a town called Merida. Sounds palatial, I know. It wasn't.
A bunch of partially supervised college kids in a tiny town with no drinking age. With only one disco that had no phone and no way to call cabs. Uh-huh. We hitched rides from strangers to get home late at night after curfew from that disco. Yup. We did.
We bought hammocks in a store where they asked us to go back into the back room and I promise you now, we were lucky to have come out of the back room alive.
The owner of the house had a hairless dog and a hairless cat. Do you know how weird these animals look in real life? I was in equal amounts awed by their looks and repulsed by them. My friend, Craig, in an inebriated state after one of these trips to the above mentioned disco, went so far as to describe this hairless dog to our driver while trying to get home. He kept repeating "We have to get home. We have a f-ing hairless dog. I have a f-ing hairless dog!"
During this summer, the historical event that was captivating me was the sale of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor's private jewelry collection. It was going to be 'the auction of the century.' I think I read some Dominick Dunne story in Vanity Fair and it inspired me to write my thesis paper on this auction and their love story for my paper...and are you ready for this? In Spanish. I think the blood, sweat and agony that my friend Eli went through helping me get that paper finished is what bonded us for almost 30 years now.
Why am I recapping all of this? I guess my daughter asked me tonight why I knew so much more Spanish than her. I was able to recount how I did and think about why I did. I had forgotten I knew this language once. I loved this language once. I experienced this culture and was forever changed by it.
I cannot wait until my daughter asks to study abroad. "Yes, Yes, Yes" I will say...."Go, Go, Go" I will say. Come back and have stories that you cannot tell me and friendships you will savor for a lifetime. Experience going into a mud hut with dirt floors and no furniture, where meals are cooked in an oven outdoors, and people who cannot afford beds offer you a soda, because you are their guest. Stay in a house with no air conditioning. Eat food that gives you many types of intestinal problems. Go be with people who have nothing and have no idea that they do.
Go, baby, so you can be the one sitting at the dinner table years from now recounting an amazing journey to your daughter with memories that make you look back and think "Wow, I did that?"