Saturday, May 10, 2014

From Mexico to flamenco


The Travelled Monkey
Ciudad del Carmen, Mexico Photo by unknown 

I don’t know who took this picture, but I haven’t been able to get it out of my head all week. Whoever you are, I’d like to thank you – and thank my Mexican host-brother’s wife Nury for posting it on Facebook – because it brought back a tidal wave of happy memories and forever-lasting emotions from my time as a high school exchange student on that island – Ciudad del Carmen.

When I arrived there in 1998, that tiny speck of land at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico was nowhere to be found on most of the maps I looked at before my trip. Of course, this made going there all the more exciting. What I found when I arrived were some of the nicest, warmest, and most fun people on the planet. 

Dancing to 'El Mariachi Loco' - Liz, Tom and John

More about my adventures in Cd. del Carmen in future posts. I have to say though that my study abroad experience in Mexico not only played a big part in shaping who I am today, but in a strange way it led me to Belgium, where I live today. I met more Belgian exchange students there than any other nationality and, while that wasn’t the reason I moved to Belgium, I can’t describe how great it was to reunite with my friends from the Mexico days.

Today, my Spanish is a bit rusty as Flemish has taken over as my second language. But I can still clearly remember the first time the word “Flemish” entered my lexicon, although then it wasn’t “Flemish” that I heard but rather “flamenco.”

One evening I was riding in the car – a purple Volkswagen Beetle – with Liz Ruisanchez (pictured above), or Mama as all the exchange students on the island called her because her house was a home away from home for most of us. We were driving to the bus station to pick up Maja, who had been an exchange student the year before in Cd. del Carmen:

“Que idioma habla Maja?” (“What language does Maya speak?”), I asked.

“Ella habla flamenco, hijo” (“She speaks flamenco”), said Liz.

“Que es flamenco?” (“What is flamenco?”), I said, confused.

“Es que hablan en belgica” (“That’s what they speak in Belgium”).

Come to think of it, I’m not sure when I eventually heard the word “Flemish” for the first time. But that was definitely the night I realized that flamenco was much more than a Spanish dance. Ole!

Have you been a foreign exchange student? Or have you hosted exchange students in your home? Write a comment below and let me know!


Bad Kaarma

“Around midnight on April 27, a 17-year-old foreign exchange student from Germany named Diren Dede left the host home here (Missoula, Montana) where he played Xbox and drained cans of Sprite and set off with a friend through his dark hillside neighborhood. They passed a home whose garage door hung partly open. Using a cellphone for light, Mr. Dede headed in. 

Inside the house, motion sensors alerted Markus Kaarma to an intruder’s presence. Two recent burglaries had put Mr. Kaarma and his young family on edge, his lawyer said, and he grabbed a shotgun from the dining room and rushed outside. He aimed into the garage and, according to court documents, fired four blasts into the dark. Mr. Dede’s body crumpled to the floor.”

- International New York Times

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