with a grain of rye
The Journey of Becoming Bilingual
“Hola, Bienvenidos,” were the first words of greeting as I stepped off the plane for my three week study as an exchange student in Costa Rica—my heart raced. Not only would I open my eyes to a new culture, but I would also get the chance to put my two years of Spanish into use. The realization of how important a second language can be became eminently apparent, as I was given the opportunity to teach elementary students in their English language classes. Although they saw me as an English- speaking Rock Star, I was totally amazed at their English-speaking abilities. Our ability to communicate, both in Spanish and English, overcame boundaries and forged understanding and friendships we would never have otherwise experienced.
While attending Colegio de La Salle during the summer, I was able to take educational courses with other students and then explore the beautiful scenery of Costa Rica with my host family during the weekends. The students at La Salle also had the opportunity of visiting the United States during their summer vacation, which is our winter break. The boys are sent to Christian Brothers High School to stay with host families, while the girls attended St. Agnes Academy. As a member of both the foreign exchange abroad and the cultural exchange back in Memphis, I have completed the full experience of the cultural immersion.
Reflecting on the trip itself also gave me insight into the Hispanic culture, because the experience I had at Colegio de La Salle, opened my eyes to the differences in the educational systems in other schools as compared to my own. One of the many differences I saw in the culture was the way food was preserved in the stores. One example of a cultural difference is that milk is kept on the shelf in a box as compared to the
refrigerator and in a gallon sized jug at many local shops or neighborhood grocery stores. One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to the outdoor food markets, which are opened in the streets, because many locals buy raw vegetables straight from farmers there and the whole process is overwhelmingly beautiful as I learned many different types of new fruits and vegetables. I was also given the experience to drink from a coconut down the street, as many people were drinking from them, and it was so delicious and fresh. Another highlight of the culture was that there are knife-throwers on the corners of the streets juggling huge knives, which at first was terrifying, but soon grew into a unique admiration for the skill needed to juggle such perilous tools. Besides the knife-throwers, motorcycles, called “motos” as a nickname there, occupied the streets in large quantities and seemed to be the fastest form of transportation. All of these unique street attributes gave me the overall wonderful experience of the Costa Rican cultural and furthered my insight into the Hispanic culture of Central America.
While in Costa Rica, I acquired newfound friends or pen-pals that have taught me new things that I could not learn in the classroom such as, “tico”—a slang word to call someone from Costa Rica, and “Pura Vida”—a slang phrase that can be used to answer about any question in Costa Rica because of its translation to a “pure life.” Through this mind opening and life changing event, I became actively involved in the Spanish Club at St. Agnes Academy, as Spanish Club President and ambassador for this exciting cultural immersion to take place back in Memphis.
From hosting International Fiestas, where students bring in different Spanish dishes from Gallo Pinto to Tres Leche, to organizing salsa dancing lessons, I can truly bear witness that the Spanish cultural and influence has left an impression on me I wish to share with others. My impact on the school community
expanded when I became the student leader of the Cultural Exchange Committee at St. Agnes for the Costa Rican exchange to Memphis. By assisting in the Spanish Luncheons and helping with the organization of the specialized field trips of this exchange program, I felt again united with a different part of the world. Not only was I able to get the school community more aware of the Spanish culture, but I have also been able to offer opportunities for immersion to students who cannot afford or make the trip as an exchange student to Costa Rica.
Not only did my four years of Spanish language instruction aid me, but my on-the- job experience of learning from co- workers, who only speak Spanish, at Stevi B’s Pizzeria in Bartlett armed me with new slang such as "Qué honda?" and nicknames for friends, such as "Chanmacho." The new words and phrases learned, along with the ability to use my Spanish once again out of the classroom, further invigorated my desire and passion to continue learning and embracing other cultures and languages in the world. The importance of learning languages other than our own inspired me to soak up the Costa Rican language and culture.From Spanish dishes and salsa dancing to the trip to Costa Rica, I have been able to discover my passion for foreign languages and different cultures, but I have also been able encourage those around me to become more involved. By embracing this cultural experience, my mind has not only become more open to new possibilities but I hope it can also demonstrate how there is a world full off different people and cultures, making the world even bigger than imagined. Learning Spanish has completely altered my life for the better, and has helped me reach fluency goals I never thought I would be able to accomplish with just the few short years of Spanish classes I have taken. Spanish culture and language has found a way to seep into all aspects of
my life. Not only does Spanish culture and language ignite a fiery desire within me to reach the goal of fluency, but it also has sparked a passion I never knew I had before. My passion for encouraging those to learn a foreign language and become more aware of other countries does not only open doors and opportunities for new insight into a new culture and a different language, but also encompasses the majority of the aspects needed to immerse oneself in another culture. My character has forever been changed because of my cultural immersion experience in Costa Rica because I have been able to not only discover my individuality and speak a second language, but I have also been able to help those around me discover their own sense of self.
High School Emerging Writer's Selection Opportunity with 4Memphis Magazine
The Free Child
In a modern society structured with rules and regulations, a parent can easily feel obligated to conform to the standards of child rearing activities from their own personal childhood, and/or from those parents in close proximity to them (ei: neighbors, family, and friends). The true experience of childhood relies heavily on the parents and the type of parental influence they invoke upon their child; therefore, the ideal childhood would be centered on the ideal parenting style and influence the child should receive.
Throughout history, as clearly defined through the literary text examined, the ideal childhood can take many forms depending on society’s view on children, the time period for which the child has been born, and the racial and social class the child has been born into. Contrary to the childhoods represented in the literary text, there is a new childhood arising in the modern century that has not been explored, of which I feel the ideal childhood would stem from: the Free Child. Children are constantly being pressured and forced to abide by nonessential rules that would not benefit their true character or personality. For example, many children, especially young boys, are restless during their primitive learning years at primary learning institutions; however, instead of allowing these children to express their built up energy or boredom, many teachers suggest the children receive a type of ADD or ADHD medication when not necessarily needed. Some children do need this medication; however, in recent years, there have been many cases reported of students who did not need such medication (D’Agostino). To counteract the typical school system, monastery schools were developed to allow children for more flexibility to the their learning. I feel the ideal childhood would be learning in such a flexible environment allowing for the child imagination to be unleashed from the confinements of authority and able to be explored freely during a school day. The reason for this freedom for the child is that many children are discouraged from a young age in schools from various subjects, and potentially school all together. As parents play an enormous role in the childhood of their children, teachers play an enormous role in the continuing education of their students, and perhaps a larger role than parents depending on each child’s home life; however, in this ideal childhood centered on the child being a free individual, the child could do whatever the parent allows. The child would be “free,” yet still confined to the rules implemented by the parents; therefore, I feel the question is not what children are allowed to do or not to do, but more so what are the parents allowing their children to do and not do and what are their parenting styles. The ideal parenting style for the free child would be centered on love, acceptance, and emotional ties resulting in the best parent-child relationships. The parent would be less concerned with structure, and more focused on the experiences their child will have. Today, many children travel and are exposed to new cultures, food, and diversity than decades past; which I feel has played a role leading to more equality. It would be logical to assume that children exposed to more of the world are more open to ideas and compromises, resulting in bettering political and economic conflicts in the future, as children become the world’s leaders.
To compare the free child to any of type of child within the text, it appears that the types of children in the text were simply being children, yet the view of society shifted because of the parents and authoritative figures that were raising such children. The idea of the free child has become a possibility in the modern century because there are new additions within society that help raise a child such as daycares, schools, and easy access to materials from shopping centers. The view society has on children has been changed from years past, and in the ideal childhood of a free child, he or she would not be belittled, and instead would be given the freedom to actually be a child.
The Foundation of Our Society: Denying the Truth or Accepting the Lies?
Society—the overhead tree limb that is dangling by a splintered piece of bark—is the result of conformity of the individualist in a modern world. Yet, in a world of individuality, it seems that we cannot find ourselves. We are deceived by society, we are deceived by ourselves. We want to be accepted and welcomed by others; thus, we pretend, impersonate, and revise ourselves to the point where we deter our true character. Why then are we still striving for individuality if all we want is to be accepted? Society has instilled in us the overall propagandized perspective: Individuality is pointless unless others accept and appreciate our true disposition.
Reality--the true destroyer of dreams, hopes, and joys--causes us to look at the world with tear-stained eyes and hardened hearts. To avoid further altercations within the reality of the world, society accepts deceptions and lies because we feel we are left with no other option. There is no safe haven if we cannot sleep beside the truth. Because sleep is the utmost serenity we can receive, our peace and security have been violated with the desensitizing lies that are seeping into our dreams. The lies are fabricated to look beautifully radiant, while the truth is cast down into the shadows underneath our beds. Why is it that the lies are easier to accept than the truth? The lies, which have been created by society, are like malnourished daffodils that are just slowly withering from the corruption of the soil from which they have been sowed. Why then are we still striving for the truth if all we want is the comfort of the lies? Because our society still holds onto hope, even if entangled with falsehoods and misconceptions, it allows for a second chance for denial. Reality is real. It is the truth our eyes have been blinded from, so open your eyes and see the reality we are facing. Reach out your hand and feel it. Hold your breath, for reality is the truth and it is only a matter of time before the corollaries of reality will own you.
Isolation—the unvarnished definition of society—is the symbol for the individual in his or her natural inhabitance. Being an individual is more than being a part of society; instead, it is about learning when to isolate yourself. The noise, which surrounds your every day life, is vying for your attention; thus, you cannot make sound decisions without blocking out this unnecessary clamor. If you subside your initial intuition, you release your natural instincts to become nothing more than a leaf drifting through the wind. Stop the conformity and take a step back into your own imaginative world. See that there are more opportunities and more possibilities your life has to offer than the fixed goals and dreams society has ingrained into your mind. If isolation from the world can make you realize that the life you are living is more than materialistic desires, then go isolate yourself. We need to reclaim the genuine importance of life, which involves simplicity of the mind and spirit. Go out, pick up your rusty shovel, and dig yourself a grave because the old life you have been living is dead. Now is the time for your forgotten soul to reawaken and liberate the remains of your corrupt apparatus with the truth.
Everyone seems to be on this race in life to finish first. Everyone strives for success, which is beneficial to maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle, but sometimes rushing and driving yourself crazy to get this success is unhealthy. Most students are pushed through school, not so they will grasp the material, but so they can move onto the next level. Level after level, students are then pushed into the work force and then they begin the hustle and bustle of trying to build their careers. If it isn't a career or school pushing someone, social factors also push you. From magazine covers to social media networks, everyone forces you to believe you have to be that perfect person, the most beautiful, the skinniest or most fit, the smartest, or that you need a relationship to be this perfect "you." They are wrong. The perfect "you" can only be accomplished through your own perception and beliefs about yourself. Many times I wonder what the rush is for. We are all rushing to finish the race, but what is at the end? Once you cross the finish line, will you have what you have always desired? Or are you running the race for nothing? The stress and battle to be perfect person or most successful person is completely contradictory to who you are, because no one is perfect, even though it seems cliché. So take a step back, and re-evaluate what you are running your race for. Are you running it just because your parents, teachers, co-workers, family or friends are pushing you to? Life is not meant to be this stressful, so try to find the joy in the simple things and start living your life, not for the social pressures, but because you want to take control of your happiness. "Well done is better than well said," by Benjamin Franklin, further emphasizes how we need to take our lives and dreams into action, not just through thinking and saying we will. Do not just float through life, running races and fighting battles that are not essential to your happiness or the bigger picture, but try to find a healthy balance between your personal success and goals.
I feel there are two words in my life, as well as everyone else's, that seem to define this ongoing battle we are in that help define our longing for the pursuit of happiness: lost and searching.
Lost--the time in your life when you lose your sense of direction and become weary of your journey--is the feeling and state of being, in which you seem to find yourself again, no matter the circumstances. It is ironic how the people who are lost, are actually so close to finding themselves once again. Maybe this is because they have plummeted to the bottom based on their ideal level of where they should be or maybe because they have already experienced an extreme identity crisis, but it seems that when you hit rock bottom you can only create a new you from your shattered pieces. In retrospect, we are all lost, especially because of the contradictory beliefs each of us hold because of the world around us. Therefore, we are all on a continual journey to find ourselves, sometimes we are just distracted from the path and need to refocus.
Searching--the effort we put into the journey of finding ourselves--is the fulfillment of the desires we possess. We strive for success and happiness everyday, which is just as important as actually accomplishing the goals we set because we are making consistent effort to to better our lives. Searching for ourselves and our true happiness is the part of our lives in which we turn a new leaf and start achieving our goals and desires. This search seems to reawaken our discarded day dreams and bring them back to life through the exploration of creativity. Therefore, this could be why the lost you is the real you because once you put aside the idealistic expectations and standards forced upon you, you can truly liberate yourself and discover who you really are. So maybe we should all get lost, and start the search all over again.
Many times, our expectations get in the way of our ability to enjoy the moments and events going on around us because we are so focused on what could have been or what should be. Expectations are the ultimate joy killers or overwhelming possibilities that run through your head before you experience anything. Expectations lead you to believe one thing or one perspective before you can even feel, see, or sense the actuality of the situation. I feel my expectations personally get the best of me. I am an optimistic person and therefore, I always look on the bright side of things, but possibly the impossible is what I am actually speculating. Most people spend a large amount of their time day-dreaming during the day, not because they are lost or clueless, but because they live their life in a dream to protect themselves from outer influences, which tend to cause multiple problems. It is not that they are living their life in a fantasy, but more of an always positive outlook, even to the most negative things. However, my expectations, along with many others', tend to lead us to our downfall when it comes to the normal day-to-day routines and encounters. Most people experience a let down of expectations in relationships with others or through what they expect an event or social gathering to be like. In relationships, expectations can cause many negative consequences because the one who expects the most receives the least. Typically, people have a tendency to pledge their allegiance and loyalty to people who don't even deserve it. This is one of the faults of having high expectations because usually when someone gives, they expect to receive. What hurts the most with high expectations is the rejection and let down because you honestly thought that person would do the same things for you, but they didn't. Having your expectations shattered is like having your heart torn open from a past relationship as they ended the relationship because you weren't good enough or they claim they have found someone else. This is where loyalty and high expectations get the best of you. However, having low expectations can be both a negative and positive result as well. Most people with low expectations are overjoyed by the subtlest extra bonuses received. However, low expectations can also lead to low standards. When you begin to lower your expectations you begin to lower your standards as well, resulting in the not so ideal friendships and relationships. These can eventually result in catastrophe. Whether you have high expectations or low expectations, you need to evaluate whether or not you are hurting your perception of the world around you or others because of your influence. Make sure you give off a positive influence in your life. If your expectations cause you to live in an unrealistic dream, it is time to say goodbye and start over because your new life is starting today. You have the ability to change your perception. Don't let unrealistic expectations control your happiness.
Recently, I was talking with a friend and we came upon the topic of the often-talked-about or overlooked topic of the purpose of life. Some may find it profound, others may think cliché, but there is a thought that "we are all born dying." Contrary to this general statement, I feel we are not solely born dying, but we are born dying to learn how to live. So, how do we live? In a controversial world, many messages are thrown at us, hoping that we latch onto these mainstream ideas and just "go with the crowd." Today, more than ever, new opinions, thoughts, ideas, and perspectives are proposed about the real meaning of life or even life in general. Many people claim they live their life centered around one main constant source of happiness or strong hold in their life. For myself, my strong hold is my family. I know if anything happens, my family will be there for me and I can, in return, offer my support and help as well. For others, their strong hold may be a person, a passion, their faith, or beliefs. In order to fully experience the fulfillment of life, one must distinguish his or her "stronghold" or "constant." Once you find this constant in your life, you can easily establish other goals and values to uphold. An example of this is when you volunteer your time and service to others and the earth. Through giving of yourself to others, you actually gain a better you. Once you have a general idea of your values and beliefs, you can easily maneuver your way through what you like and/or dislike. This whole struggle and battle of self-discovery is at the core of our source of happiness and desire to know the purpose of our existence and life. I feel my purpose of life is to make others happy and to spread joy and love through simple acts of kindness. (Yes, it seems like I have taken this idea out of some chick flick, but no.) In actuality, this mentality provides many rewarding benefits not only to others, but to yourself as well.
Yesterday, I was driving through Downtown Memphis and saw a homeless man on the street corner. This is not an unusual sight, mostly because this man has made this street corner of Sam Cooper Blvd and East Pkwy., his soliciting spot. But as I pulled up to the corner, I was able to pull together two dollar in coins to offer this man. The amount of gratitude and happiness that spread over his face, simply because of my tiny offering, offered me an opportunity to humble myself and realize all the blessings I have been given. It's amazing all the little miracles and wonders tiny acts of kindness can do for others. Opening the door for others, smiling with a bright face, talking with the stranger next to you, and developing a sense of community is what the human soul is longing for--community. None of us truly want to be alone. We all want gratification, acknowledgment, self-worth, and other positive uplifting emotions and compliments from others. This is not because we are vain or shallow, but because we are all wanting acceptance and signs of a community and love, so that we can truly express ourselves and be free in who we are. As a society, we must embrace each other's differences and try to use these to diversify ourselves and gain a sense of individuality. Individuality is the core at our desire and struggle for happiness and fulfillment. Sometimes being "different" or not abiding by normal standards and traditions is seen as weird or unconventional; therefore, society turns a blind-eye to such people and things, when in reality, our society needs to embrace and accept these differences. This is a call, better yet a demand, that we start changing our society by changing ourselves. Start accepting others, embracing differences, becoming more open to possibilities, walking hand-in-hand with our fellow brother, and to start spreading kindness through our words and actions. There is a saying: "Actions speak louder than word," and this is true. Be the person to hold the door for the old woman walking slowly behind you, to help the mother with screaming children carry her groceries, to go sit with the old man who sits by himself at the same restaurant everyday, to smile at the strangers, and to give hugs to your friends and family when they need support. Be this kind of person, who isn't afraid to be courageous through menial deeds in order to spread joy to a crippling world. As hackneyed as it may sound, this idea of spreading joy through your words and actions maybe the whole purpose of life. Mahatma Gandhi further emphasizes this by saying, "you must be the change you wish to see in the world." We can be this change, it just begins with the first step: you.
Have you ever felt restricted or trapped by something in your life? I feel as a teenager most of us most trapped either because we are too young to do things the law does not prohibit or we are under the control of our parents, school, and teachers. Because of all the rules and regulations, we are thirsting for freedom. As high school comes to an end, and more stress gets put on finding a college and getting a good grade on the ACT/SAT, most of us are spinning out of control from the stress and anxiety put on us to make major life changing decisions. Not only does this school pressure weigh on us, but also family responsibilities, financial situations, and friend drama and the whole realm of social media. With such pressures, I feel I am unable to take control of my life and be as successful as I desire. I feel my expectations are being let down because of my choices and things that keep holding me back. I want to be able to have the best of both worlds, living in a life where I don't have to give up my comforts for the unknown, but that is unrealistic. Sometimes we have to let go of something wonderful, to receive something better in the end. Growing up, we never want our childhood to end. Yet as I am approaching 18 years, I realize that mine is already long gone and over. Yes, there were wonderful moments, but I have to let go of the past in order to have a future. People come into our lives completely change them, more often than we realize. As many people have walked into my life, I feel I try to hold onto them because they hold such an important place in my heart, yet if I hold on to these people, then their lessons and point in my life will change because the message they taught me would be useless, especially if I can't fend for myself. Each person you meet prepares you for the day to go into the world-- alone, scared, and nervous-- so that you will know how to handle and conduct yourself for success.
I have a hard time understanding this concept because as my time in high school comes to an end, I am desperately trying to hold onto my strong holds, and people I cherish most. However, I am constantly reminded of a saying, "If you love something, set it free." I know in order for my friends to succeed and for myself as well, I have to let go of my childish and unrealistic wants and prepare myself for the future. As the time comes to make a final decision for college, I am torn between staying in the same town for the people I love or to embrace my opportunities and travel somewhere new and exciting. I want to have a companion and a friend with me throughout my journey because I would feel safer and more comfortable, but whats the point of going out into the rain if you do not desire to feel the drops on your skin? In life, especially in high school, I have been faced with many decisions that are not easy. Typically, the choice is you have to chose to leave behind something in order to have something else. Growing up, we are taught compromise, but life does not aid by that standard; it does not please everyone. I am being faced with leaving behind something close to my heart, to leave behind forever, in exchange for great opportunities and the freedom and life I have always wanted, or to sacrifice my own dreams and goals to have something I love most. "No body said it'd be easy, but no one said it would be this hard," a lyric from one of my favorite bands, Coldplay, describes many feelings of those people facing a hard or difficult situation. For myself, and other students my age, I feel we are all facing decisions like this everyday. It may not be college, but each challenge we are faced with makes us stronger to be the person we were destined to be. We are all preparing and getting ready for the future, in order that we can be who we desire to be one day, and that day can be now or tomorrow or a month or a year from now. What matters most when facing decisions like this is: Can you live with the loss from your decision, the pain, heartache, and the struggle? and Is it in your best interest and the interest of those around you? Because you don't want to wake up one day and regret the choices you made, wishing you could see your life as something different.
When it comes to the everyday struggle of just simply existing in the world around you, you may seem to get lost or confused. If you are like me, I am pretty much lost and confused the majority of the time; however, have you ever put much thought into the reality of your beliefs and actions? The underlying messages around you are either truths or lies, and you have the power to decide which you will believe. So which would you prefer, to live in the comforts of a lie or to break free from this socially accepted mentality and embrace the truth you have been seeking?
After contemplating how I spend my time and what I spend my time on, I have decided to re-evalutate the current lifestyle I have been living. Although it may seem like just another mainstream fad, I am seriously dedicating myself to living a more pure life. Because of this new change, I have been starting off my mornings with various teas, such as Tazo and Honest. Honest Tea, unlike other tea companies, include an inspirational quote inside the bottle cap, which I feel add to the overall uniqueness of the product. After reading the quote from the inside of the cap today, I feel more empowered to continue on my journey to a pure life. The quote, by Gandhi, is: "The earth provides enough to satisfy every man's needs, but not every man's greed." This quote further emphasizes the importance of living a pure and "honest" life. Everyday society and the media sell you pointless and over-exaggerated information for their own personal gain. In a society where the truth is becoming harder and harder to find, living a truly pure life of mind, body, spirit, and soul is the only refuge we can find shelter in. So, take a step back and try to decipher the truth surrounding you: are you living a pure life or are you filling yourself with toxic chemicals and lies? We are all seeking the truth, so in this pursuit, let us realize the benefits of appreciating the world around us, and fill our bodies with the purest nutrients. ¡Pura Vida!
I am Gabe Rye, from Memphis, TN. I started writing journal entries because I was inspired at a young age to pursue writing to share my thoughts and feelings on the changing world around us. Attitude is everything, and changing your attitude and mentality is a journey I have been taking since the start of my writing. I desire to become a better contributing member of society, as to also better my faith journey through this social platform.