They say when you learn a new language, you discover a new part of yourself. This fall, I started Italian and now I like expensive cheese?
Yep. The College of Arts and Sciences hosts a week of events to celebrate the culture of many of the languages taught at the University of Oklahoma. Italy Week was a blast.
It started out with pasta making, something I was determined to excel at now that I was learning about my Italian self. My roommate, Amy, and I went to the class. I followed the directions, was proud of my creation, and sent a photo of my achievement to my friend in Asti, Italy.
“It isn’t normal,” was his response.
I couldn’t get myself to eat more than one bite…maybe pasta making isn’t my thing.
The “Is it Italian or American Nutella?” event sounded a little more promising – and less difficult. I go through about one jar of Nutella a week, so I was bound to notice the difference between the two.
I couldn’t. They tasted the same to me. But it was free Nutella on the South Oval so I was quite pleased.
Now, here comes the highlight of Italy Week: Cheese and Olive Oil Tasting Class.
I like my cheese cheap and American on hamburgers and grilled cheese, but my ~cultured~ side was coming out so I had to give it a try.
We started with tasting olive oils. By tasting, I mean sniffing, swirling, smacking and contemplating the hundreds of ways to describe
how a teaspoon ofolive oil can taste. I know the difference between the good stuff and the bad stuff, but I’m quite puzzled as to how one can describe olive oil as a green banana or wood. But those were options on the score sheet…
And then we had three, thin, triangular slices of cheese in front of us ranging from a few weeks to a few years in age. I will argue that tasting cheese is an art form of its own and it is fascinating to hear the history behind the pecorino sardo, piave vecchio and casatica.
Even though my Italian friend criticized my pasta, we shared the same preference for pecorino. That boosted my confidence.
I still make ravioli in the microwave and enjoy frozen pizza, but I learned to appreciate the origins and the stories behind some of the most admired food in the world.
Four girls represent three continents in one apartment.
I decided to live with exchange students this year. My first semesters at OU, I was always at the international socials, meeting some of my closest friends and realized that the best way to spend the most time with my favorite people on campus is to live with them.
Amy is from Scotland; she’s earned the nickname “Shrek” in our apartment. Out of the the three girls, I have the most trouble understanding her English. We are quickly filling a book of all of the different words, phrases and expressions she uses (plasters are BandAids, gutted means devastated and uni refers to everything from class to homework to campus). She’s coming home with me for Christmas.
Nicole is my Bolivian roommate. I actually met her last year as an exchange student, but she made her transfer here, and now we live together. We watch Spanish rom coms and speak very fluently in Spanglish when we are together. I am celebrating New Years with her (and Amy) in hometown, Sucre.
Disco Carina is the Danish remix of the Macarena, but it is also what we call my Danish roommate, Carina. She made ratatouille her first week here and will find a way to put anything on an Excel spreadsheet – but let me tell you, Disco Carina is a suitable name. I’m pretty sure SIMS language is just Danish, but we all greet each other with “Hej smukke,” which means “Hi, beautiful.”
Then there’s me. I buy in bulk, embrace capitalism and enjoy French fries with ice cream. I am the only one in the apartment who has never used the kettle (just put a glass in the microwave, duh).
But we embrace – and laugh at – our differences. Knowing by the end of the year we will all be in different countries lingers in the back of our minds, but I wouldn’t trade living with these girls for the world.
But the dance kind of salsa.
The OU Latin Dance Club hosted the annual Havana Nights Salsa Ball, and it was a blast. The night started with an informal dance lesson to teach the amateurs the basic steps of salsa and bachata. After the hour of step-by-step instructions, the ballroom floor opened for anyone brave enough to show off their moves.
Naturally, the Latinos took over the floor. And it was pretty intimidating. But I had a couple dance partners throughout the night that kept a moderate pace…and now we’re pretty good pals. Aron from Spain admitted it was his first night dancing salsa, but a little confidence goes a long way. He started taking more lessons and promised we’d dance again.
Of course, there were the Colombians who dance salsa and bachata in their sleep. Sebastian and Daniel were a blast to dance with. They knew the fancy moves and could twirl you around and dip you back at the end of a song.
The dancing shows a lot about the Latin American culture. It is intimate, and you make yourself vulnerable to your partner. The man leads, the woman follows, and it works out smoothly (almost) every time. Focusing on your hips and your turns takes your mind off the rest of the world for a bit, and brings you into the songs length amount of time you have with your partner.
The University of Oklahoma Foreign Film Club (FFC) is proof that all you need is Netflix and some good buddies (the pizza is a bonus) to open your eyes to the wonders of ~international films~
Other countries are pretty explicit about their current states, whether it shines a negative or positive light on their home. We Americans like to romanticize the heck outta our issues.
Kite Runner was brutally raw. It was hard to watch; it made me sick. But it showed the reality of some of the major issues in Afghanistan.
The FFC is a group of folks who, after watching a movie like Kite Runner, wants to discuss the film and its influence.
An American film tends to be pretty different. We like to focus on romance, portraying an unrealistic image of what love should be. We mock the important issues, “comedicize” what needs to be taken seriously and expect a happy ending. Not to say that there isn’t something artistic about the common American film, but they typically cannot be taken seriously.
The unoppressed emotion, the raw truth, and the blunt actualities are brought forth in foreign films. Other countries use film as a way to depict what is unspoken within a society, be it negative or positive.
Slate.com gives American news like Americans give international news, and boy, do we look ridiculous.
“Why Retreats for Moms Are a Terrible Idea” was an article that was intriguing, and the portrayal of American mothers is brutally accurate.
To be a mom here is to be put in exclusive parenting isolation. Moms only talk to moms and discuss motherhood. They get no escape, even the mommy retreats are bringing mothers into further isolation with one another. And why are American parents so unhappy?
There is further criticism on the structure surrounding mothers, especially pregnant women, and the systematic discrimination against them. Because of this lack of accommodation, women often feel marginalized into being their own, mommy community.
Other countries give more liberty to mothers, extending maternity leave and affordable childcare. Mothers shouldn’t feel the need to resort to their own community as their sole source of support because all are equally stress and overwhelmed at different times.
The way this article describes this issue sounds almost satirical, like The Onion articles share fictional news. This news, however, is real. This means that either our country is more outlandish than we thought, or that we portray other nations in a demeaning manner.
The Colombian Student Association put on an End of the Year Latin Party. Now, let me tell you about my history with Latin dancing.
In high school, I took a few classes through my Spanish program on salsa. In a room of gringos, I wasn’t all that bad.
When I went to a party with a group of Latinos a few weeks ago, the music was pumpin and dancing was mandatory. I suppose I overestimated my abilities. “You’re using too much of your legs!” “Keep your core firm!” “Just make a figure eight with your hips!” After that night, I stood in front of the mirror for hours over the next couple weeks practicing just moving my hips the right way.
So here I am, at the Fiesta Latina, and everyone was dancing. Not the stiff “grinding” you see at the American parties, but these fluid and cohesive movements, it was intimate and passionate in a sense. Ha, there was no way I could do that.
But I didn’t have a choice. Alexander, a friend that I met at the salsa class earlier in the year, had taken my hand and twirling me around and laughing at my stiffness at the same time. But I was getting the hip thing down, let me tell ya.
Events like this make me fall in love with the Latino culture even more. Dancing involves emotion, you can feel it. It is a part of the culture everyone knows. You can go to anyone and know they will be able to salsa, merengue, etc. Here, we are stuck with the line dancing and the awkward swaying.