I would argue that Sunday is the most conflicting day of the week. It’s the last day of freedom before Monday, a day that is introduced with an intrusive yet essential beeping that sneaks into my dreams as a car alarm, a phone call, or a door bell, to remind me of reality and responsibility. The purpose of a Monday is clear, whereas a Sunday’s identity is split into two: do I sleep in, have a late brunch, and watch some telenovelas with my host mom? Or do I wake up early, go to a café, and let my fingers carry the day away searching for definitions of Spanish words and phrases, creating essays, and analyzing short stories from brilliant Latino authors who blow me away with their complexity and ability to think beyond this dimension of time and space, like a script from the Twilight Zone?
Despite all of the differences between countries, cultures, and generations, I know that I can count on the destiny of any given Sunday being unclear for gringos and Ecuadorians alike. From Sunday trips to El Parque Carolina, to plans to meet up for lunch or explore downtown, there’s always some number of people not wanting to face the reality of a Sunday, similar to my experiences in college in the U.S., especially as a resident assistant. From my own personal perspective, the double-sided identity of a Sunday is one of the most beautiful aspects of being a human – and the similarity here in Ecuador to a Sunday in the United States has helped me realize that my infatuation with this day of the week is something that unifies my experience in the world with many others, even those living in another continent. It has also awakened me to realize that everyone needs a break sometimes, and that no one should feel guilty about it.
I hope that this post will inspire people to enjoy their upcoming Sunday, instead of worrying about the Monday that follows it. Although last Sunday was not an academically productive day for me, it was a day that I will never forget. It was the first time I had ever climbed a volcano, and I felt like I was on top of the world – a tiny gringa in a huge city, just taking it one adventure at a time.
Pichincha Volcano is an active stratovolcano in Ecuador. Its two highest peaks are Wawa Pichincha (wawa is kichwa for child or baby) which is approximately 15,696 feet high, and Ruku Pichincha (ruku is kichwa for old person) which is approximately 15, 413 feet high. Luckily we did not have to hike from the bottom, since there is a gondola lift known as the TelefériQo, one of the highest aerial lifts in the world, rising from 10,226 feet to 12,943 feet. From there, we started our ascent to the top of Ruku Pichincha.
As we got closer and closer to the top, the wind become harsher, but was still refreshing. When it wasn’t covered by clouds or fog, the sun beamed down on my skin, warming me to my core, inspiring me to continue trekking to the top of Ruku’s peak. After several stops for snacks, water, taking off and putting on layers, and of course, posing for pictures and admiring the breathtaking views, my friend Stephanie and I finally made it to the top of Ruku Pichincha. The group that we started with split up a little bit based off of pace and comfort level. It took us about 4 and a half hours to make it to the peak, but when we stepped foot on the top of the summit and saw the sign welcoming us to the la cumbre (the top), a gust of wind full of joy and pride whisked by me and as I took a deep breath in, this wind sent chills from the bottom of my toes to the tips of my fingers, and I knew that I made the right decision to make this Sunday a beautiful and inspiring day for myself. It was a day unlike any other, surrounded by the natural beauty of the country that is my home for the semester, as well as wonderful and supportive friends with whom I shared a common goal: to push ourselves, together and individually, to greater heights than we had ever gone before.
My study abroad experience in Morocco has made me more confident than ever that I want to pursue a profession in journalism. Meeting professional journalists, being put in positions as real journalists and not students, and being able to go after stories that we had some freedom with gave me the chance to see what my life might be like as a journalist. I want to be the best journalist I can be, and there are some things I have learned I need to improve on. I really need to buckle down with my language skills, especially Arabic. Struggling to communicate with people to have more productive interviews has motivated me to do much more to master Arabic and other languages as well.
At this point, I am still unsure if I will go to graduate school. I am getting mixed advice from my teachers and mentors. On the one hand, if I were to get into a graduate program at a school like Columbia Journalism School, or Berkeley, then that would be clearly beneficial. However, the advice I have been given recently has been more along the lines of simply going into the workforce. This, my advisors say, gives me the most opportunity to learn true field reporting skills that are not always learned in grad school.
What has changed is what I plan to pursue after I graduate. I am very interested now in applying for scholarships like Fulbright to study post-colonial effects on Southern Italy, or a comparative study between Mediterranean countries. The more time I spend here in Morocco, the more I realize how important it is to promote the history of my heritage’s specific area, or of the greater Mediterranean area as a whole.
There was a point where I was on a train from Rabat to Marrakesh where we passed some very rural and poor areas, and I could not help but think of Mezzogiorno, the Southern region of Italy. (I apologize that I keep harping on this, but the awareness that I have gained from studying abroad in Morocco has had a fairly profound impact on how I see myself, the area around me, and my family’s Italian roots.) Looking at the landscape and the ocean in the distance, it just looked so familiar. Morocco and the Mezzogiorno have been victims to similar kinds of destruction. As I am Neapolitan, I feel like it is not only my place, but my duty to ensure my country is given the proper respect and opportunity it deserves. My ancestors fought and gave their lives to defend our sovereignty and dignity, and were defeated. I feel like it is my responsibility to carry on their fight in a way that I can: through journalism. I would do that by exposing the effects colonization still has on the people of the Mezzogiorno through research and field work. If I can, in addition to that, bring the same awareness I now have of the region to other people in the region, I would feel I have completed something very important.
My professional goals have not changed, but have felt more solid and confident. I think my academic goals have changed to reflect my greater awareness of a history and culture that I am a part of, something I am not sure would have happened to the extent that it has, had I not studied abroad in Morocco. And for that, I have one more thing to be grateful for.