ECG’s and Club Soccer by Grant Lewis

 

See below…an ECG machine in Argentina…

ECG Machine

After completing an entire semester in Buenos Aires, Argentina and now that I have been abroad for almost a month in Madrid, Spain, I am used to being away from my family and friends. Leaving home is not as strange as I remember it being when I first left for my freshman year at Tulane. Furthermore, I can confidently say that I have stepped out of my comfort zone quite a few times. Specifically, I would like to share an example of when I had to book a doctor’s appointment for a physical, so that I could participate in club soccer for the Universidad del Salvador, aka USAL, one of the colleges where I studied while in Buenos Aires. Both the appointment and joining the team required me to leave my comfort zone.

Although I have been studying Spanish for a long time, making a phone call in Spanish can still be stressful at times, as I usually prefer to send emails. In this case, I was faced with the problem that I could only book the appointment via cellphone. So, rather than be discouraged, I made the call and, as most things are after worrying a lot about how they can go wrong, it went completely fine. However, it was not the call but the appointment itself where I would truly find myself outside my comfort zone and face to face with a mysterious device that I had never seen before, the ECG machine.

Admittedly, on the form I filled out prior to the physical, I saw a strange term relating to a test, the ECG, that I didn’t really understand. The questionnaire asked me if I had ever received this kind of test. Since I had been to a doctor’s appointment many times before, I just assumed that I had done this test before and checked yes. I know now, thanks to the internet, that ECG stands for electrocardiography, which is the process of recording the electrical activity of the heart over a period of time using electrodes placed on a patient’s body.

After getting my height and weight measured, the nurse (who was not very communicative) asked me to lay down and remove my t-shirt, and placed a dozen suction cups, which now I know were the electrodes, on my chest and rib cage. From fear of the unknown, I began to worry. Unaware of what would happen next, I feared some sort of shock or pain; however, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it was just monitoring my heart activity and not some robotic octopus monster trying to electrocute me.

Now that I had my physical, I was cleared to play in the club soccer games that were held every Saturday (until the season ended). Joining the club team required me to leave my comfort zone because I was the only US citizen and English speaker on the team. At first, I knew nobody else on the team, and I could only speak Spanish with them because the majority of them spoke little to no English. It was a challenge getting to know the coach and the players at the beginning as well; however, after a few practices and games, they accepted me as a teammate and a friend (we still keep in touch via Whatsapp). Eventually, I became the starting right back/right midfielder on the team, it was a great experience! Now that my semester in Argentina is officially over, I am eager to see how my experience in Spain will compare to it, and look forward to the rest of my time here in Madrid.

Telling Jokes in the UK by Ruth Yao

Did you have a hard time communicating with host country nationals when you arrived? Share an example. Did you adjust your communication strategies in response? How?

I would like to make a joke about difficulties communicating once coming to England. However, everyone who knows me also knows that my jokes are the absolute worst. For instance, my favorite joke is about a tomato…why did the tomato blush???

because he saw the salad dressing.

Since coming to England, I’ve had no major difficulties in communication. All communication errors were due to myself getting too excited and not being able to form words. But all bad jokes aside, the few times I’ve had difficulties understand a local British person is because of the slang. The word keen seems to be used to describe everything, literally everything. “That person was keen.” “That person was keen to [verb].” “Ah that’s so keen!” They use keen like a teenage American girl says “like”.

Another fun one is how grown men call people honey. In the past I’ve only been called honey by kind old women or sweet workers at Bruff who swipe my mealcard. Here, literally the trendiest men will call you honey. I’m trying to think of more unique, less understandable slang, but it’s impossible. How can you remember the word you never heard before, left you confused, and you never understood.

British use of slang has been the only hurdle in communicating. I’ve adjusted my strategy from asking every time someone used slang, to just nodding and continuing the conversation, trying my best to guess what it meant from context clues. It’ll work just fine for now.

The Daily Commute in Lima by Audrey Preston

Combi
This is called a combi. This is what people in Lima take to get around. Makes the streetcar look pretty posh!

Basically, a combi, also called a micro, is a vehicle that ranges in size between an old Volkswagen van and a regular sized bus, with everything in between. The reason for the variety is that combis are not very well regulated: they started as informal businesses to combat the lack of public transportation systems outside of the city center. These endearing buses take a boring commute and turn it into a daily dose of adventure.

School Bus
How school buses celebrate Halloween

Here’s what to expect on your average commute to school:

You leave your house at least an hour before your first class. You will probably still be late, but the professor won’t be there yet anyway, so it doesn’t matter. You squint to see the street names painted on the sides of the combis before they drive past you, because the route numbers on the front don’t mean anything. Huzzah! You have found one that looks promising. You flag it down.

Ready Set Go
Ready…Set…GO!

The cobrador quickly opens the van door and yells “SUBE SUBE SUBE”, so you run to catch it. Chances are, it’s still moving when you get a foot in the door, and it doesn’t wait for your other foot before taking off again. It’s rush hour, so everyone is packed in like sardines. The cobrador yells “AVANCE AVANCE AVANCE” and everyone squishes in a bit tighter to make room for you.

Loaded down
Not that much of an exaggeration

You settle in and rummage around for change. The combis don’t have a fixed rate, but instead charge by distance. The university is three districts away, so the cobrador charges you 2 soles, or about 60 cents. You get a small colorful ticket in return.

Ticket
They bear no relevance to the amount you actually paid.

Hark! A seat opens up! You slide in and position yourself so that sharp piece of metal doesn’t poke you in the back. Your legs touch the backrest of the seat in front of you, and you pity everyone taller than you.

The best part of the combi ride is the people watching. There are people in nice suits with briefcases, old people who can barely walk, and students scrambling to finish their readings before class. Some talented women can put on a full face of makeup, including curling their eyelashes. The truly gifted are able to sleep. Periodically, a street vendor will board the combi, selling Sublime candy bars, 2 for 1 sol. You’re not in the mood for chocolate this morning, so they hop off at the next stop.

Sublime
So tempting.

Sometimes, the combi breaks down on the way to the university. The irony is not lost on you that the word “van” in Spanish means “they go”. These vans are mostly held together with rust and a prayer.

Finally, you hear the cobrador shout “PARADERO UNIVERSITARIA”, which is the name of your stop. You stand up, yell “BAJA”, and elbow your way to the front. The cobrador responds “BAJA BAJA BAJA”, and you slide out of the van as it pulls away. Congratulations, you made it!

University
Can’t wait to do it again after class!

To me, combis epitomize the Lima experience. I definitely took a while to get used to the public transportation system in Lima. It’s very different from paying a single fare to get on a clean, spacious, air-conditioned subway car, which will take you anywhere you want, along well-publicized routes. But I really respect the ingenuity and grit of Limeños. They created a system that actually works pretty well, despite its dysfunction. There was a need, and they filled it in a creative and entrepreneurial way. In a weird way, I will miss the combis and their ability to turn an everyday occurrence into an adventure.