Don’t Even Try to Escape the World Cup

Let me start off by mentioning that the country that I am living in (Ecuador) did not qualify for this year’s World Cup. That being said, talk of soccer is still heavily present in every conversation and every inch of this country. If there’s not a game being played at the time, there will be conversations surrounding yesterday’s unbelievable game, or the anticipation for tomorrow’s game.

Got somewhere to go? You don’t even have to worry about missing the game when you leave the house, because it will be broadcasted on the radio in the car on your way over. And I can say with certainty that it is being shown at your destination. If there is a television showing the World Cup, you will find people flocking to watch, even if they are not customers. Everyone is invited to take part. And surprisingly, I have never seen anyone turned away from watching even without a purchase.

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Salida: República Dominicana

“I’m not ready to go back,” I confess while advising Juana, whose wizened hands masterfully craft the petrified cocoa seeds and emblem made from bullhorn I’ve selected into an artful, organic necklace. Yet, I’m not gloomy about returning. I’ve learned a lot about myself, my identity as a leader and the intersections shared between Dominican and U.S. American culture.

I just want to spend more time encountering daily life.

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Conversational Music

“I need you,” newfound friend Javi asserts.

“Why do you need me?” I demand.

Javi: “Para cuidarte, amarte y estar a tu lado” — to take care of you, love you and be by your side.  His words sound lovely but remarkably familiar. They come directly from music lyrics.

Tinged with sexism, many of my conversations with Dominican males took a — romantic turn.  Out of nowhere, men love me, need me and miss me. One suggested that I make him “feel brand new” — straight from a 1973 Stylistics hit song. We listen to merengue and bachata music, traveling to daily excursions on our chartered bus. Sometimes, the lyrics are in English, unmistakable. Hence, I know the source of Javi’s quixotic lines.

Music profoundly impacts Dominican discourse.

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Cordillera Centra: Montañas de la Gente

Listen. If a branch falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, yes, the branch has fallen; just ask the twigs crunching noisily beneath my boots. A cacophony reaches my ears while nature’s beauty informs my eyes — the forest has its own language.  The central mountain range near Bonoa, Dominican Republic speaks a distinct, mellifluous dialect.

Rio Blanco Ecotourism Complex is a 2-hour drive from our hotel in Zona Colonia. A day spent learning about local agricultural issues and the intricacies of coffee production and communing with the environment during free time overwhelms my heart with a sense of privilege, social responsibility and appreciation for the Cordillera Centra.

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Soy Americana

I know what the stereotypical American looks like. The country of my birth identifies me as African-American.  My own country misconstrues my national identity. However, a passage in my passport “requests all whom may be concerned to permit the citizen/national of the United States named herein to pass without delay or hindrance and in case of need to give all lawful aid and protection.”

This is especially contemplative, considering how people of color are treated in the U.S. Traveling abroad, I am no longer a suspicious, hyphenated or sub-American —  I become a fully embodied U.S. citizen.

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Getting a Taste of Europe Without Leaving the States

Last month, 16 students from my city planning program and one of our professors had a chance to go to New Orleans for the National Planning Conference (NPC18). Thanks to SDSU (we won part of a Student Success Fee grant) we were lucky to attend this important event in our field! Having a lot of stress before all finals and graduation, we enjoyed the chance to relax under New Orleans sun.

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Coachella is Amazing

The greatest thing about living in a new place is discovering the many sides to that place. Studying abroad in the United States has not only opened up the beautiful city of San Diego to me, it has also opened up California. There are many customs and events that I have discovered, but the one that I enjoyed the most has to be the how excited students here at San Diego State are about Coachella.

What is Coachella?

I always wondered that from my campus at the University of British Columbia. I got many answers coming to San Diego. Americans generally (not only residents of California) are really excited about this music festival, usually lasting over two weeks, during which they get to see their favorite artists perform, meet new people, party with their friends and bond with total strangers.

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