Wednesday evening, 5:00pm. My weekend has begun. My first exam is over. I’m not too sure how I feel about it. 3 questions in short essay format. During the first one I felt as if rather than writing a well structured essay I was simply writing a block of cyclical notes, my writing style hindered by my limited Spanish vocabulary. I normally rely on my writing style to save me when I am unsure of the information I should be writing about. Some call it “BS”, I call it a well written work. However, there was no help of this sort here. I strained to write down anything I could think of, knowing that the more information the better in this situation.
Moving on to the second question I came up with a similar response; the road network and system of redistribution and reciprocity of the Incas. The outline was formed. I began to write closer to my normal structural style. Yet I wished I had a translator handy, as my vocabulary was still limited. Sweat formed puddles on the desk as it flowed out of my armpit down my triceps. I kept the pace moving, making up for lost time as well as lost potential to demonstrate my understanding of the Incas. As I flipped over the page to finish the concluding paragraph I admired my work, pleased of my achievement yet hoping that I had answered the question.
On to the last question. I sat there staring at it for a while. I had a general idea of what it meant but could not gather my thoughts to formulate a worthy response. Art and spirituality, art and nature, examples. I decided to take a backwards approach and began writing down a list of examples: the reoccurring theme of decapitated heads in the Nazca culture. Trying to find my way around forgotten translations for words like “decapitated” I began writing whatever came to me about this theme. I concluded again, unsure if I had correctly answered the question but feeling better, much better than I had throughout the week.
As I left the classroom I felt the relief of the stress and worry for this test lift off me. I heard foreign exchange students talking in English as I walked across the grass, yet I was not stricken with the annoyance I had previously experienced. I thought about how at first many of the people on my program, including myself, wanted an “authentic Chilean experience”, denouncing anything we considered “tourism” or aspects of U.S. culture. Yet now I realized that this is a large university much like any of the UC system. Why should I feel disgusted when surrounded by English speaking students? This is, in fact, part of the culture here at PUC. I was also no longer frustrated by the fact that I couldn’t understand the Spanish conversation behind me on the metro but could understand everything the group of students from the U.S. were saying next to me, even why I was trying to ignore them.
It was almost certainly an effect of completing this exam. No more stress, no more impatient repulsion. I am now free to relax, catch up on my English writings, my Spanish readings, my cultural explorations of the city, all with the freedom of not having to worry about struggling to understand the language and concepts of the courses. I am now reminded of the long, slow process involved in learning a language, and even slower and longer to fully understand a culture. I can now go about this with the knowledge that it will come in due time.