Saturday, August 11, 2007

Portico (Essay- using the senses)

Finally, my last year of College! This year the new student ID's are made of thermo plastic PVC with the picture printed on them. Mine is laminated and torn down the center, with my picture fading. When I show my ID younger students laugh, and most of them are younger at this point. Not many survive an intensive 5-year program in engineering at the "Harvard of the Caribbean". If I stay one more year I will inevitably become what here is refered to as a dinosaur.
I find myself in the middle of a class, sitting under the Portico, the concrete doorway which serves as the symbol of my university, and thinking very soon I’ll be coming back for the class picture. I wonder if the picture will show everything I’m seeing right now. I wonder if it will bring back the memories I want to remember.
It’s close to one o’clock in the afternoon. The assignment for this Advanced Composition class is to use our senses to describe the scenery and write a descriptive essay. The professor-a young, good looking gringo surfer with a PhD in English-tells us to begin with sight.
I look up and see the sky as an infinite light-blue color, already filling with dark clouds and the promise of rain for mid-afternoon. Green is the most predominant color. It makes the short-cut grass look like a golf field, and gives the stereotypical-tropical-island look to the million palm trees surrounding us.
Students walk by on their way to class. Most of them by themselves, some in groups of two or three. The guys wear their mandatory uniform: T-shirt, baggy jeans and Reef sandals. The girl’s outfits vary more, except for the short spaghetti-strap tops which expose two or three inches of skin at the waist. The clothes are of bright colors which don’t always match. Some girls wear long hippie skirts, some jeans or shorts, some summer dresses. Most wear flip-flops or metal colored sandals, fewer wear tennis shoes.
It is surprisingly quiet for this time of day on campus. The only noise is the far away sound of a construction machine working on a road that will never be finished.
The students around me complain about the heat. The sun is bright and hot at this hour. It burns the skin and gives it an itchy feeling. A soft breeze can be felt from time to time, but it isn’t enough to take away the awful sticky feeling of heat and humidity.
I can not help notice the language the students use when complaining. It’s funny how we can begin a sentence in Spanish, end it in English, and still understand each other. The accent each one uses is as different as the person using it: the campesino, the Newyorikan, the effeminate.
We begin to get desperate for more sounds when the bells suddenly begin their usual Alleluia and Alma Mater. I wonder if everyone is singing in their minds the popular version of the song, like I am.
Alma Mater Colegial. Epopeya del saber donde se aprende a beber…
The professor tells us to describe the smell.
“The brewery,” one of the students says.
I’m so used to the smell from the brewery I didn’t notice it. I don’t think this particular smell will remind me of my college days in the future. Whenever I feel the thick warm smell of beer coming from the brewery, it still reminds me of boiling panas in Abuela's kitchen. Maybe that's their secret ingredient!
One smell which will definitely remind me of college is the smell of tuna fish from the nearby Star Fish atunera. In my dorm (or Lady's hostel) we blame the sharp stinky odor on whomever hasn't showered yet.
We finish taking notes. It’s time to go on with the rest of my classes. Soon it will be time to go on with the rest of my life, leaving behind the great five years I’ve spent here. I wonder how it will be if I come back one day. Maybe if the class picture doesn’t describe everything I want to remember, at least this essay will.

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