Learning To Live With Others

 

It’s been sixteen days so far–two weeks–and just yesterday I’ve already pissed off one of my flatmates. Twice.

Here’s how it went:

There wasn’t anything incriminating in the photos. But I understood (now more than ever before) how photographs are personal property, and are extremely private. We have since made up and things were cool between us. For a few days.

The second incident happened a few days later at the university.

Hobgoblin font by David Kherkoff (hanodedfonts.com).

On both instances I had crossed an invisible line, one that many people can see, and which I, for some reason, am at times, painfully blind to. On both instances, I had invaded Masha’s right to privacy. First, by looking through her photos, and second, by looking through her bag. She was right to be pissed off at me.

I’ve made it up to her since then (a story for another day), but the two incidents made me think about how my notions regarding privacy and boundaries are not only woefully inadequate, not to mention very different from others, but also how growing up, the right to privacy was not something that was fiercely upheld in my home. It’s no secret among my friends back home that I tend to disregard other people’s property, especially when it comes to food.

In the Spanish Apartment–as I’ve taken to calling our flat–it’s more than just ownership. It’s about trust. And it is essential if we are to survive the next nine months. There are no locks on any of the doors for one thing. Not even the bathrooms. But this doesn’t seem to concern any of my flatmates, who have clear notions about privacy. I actually made signs for the bathroom doors–but for the most part, we haven’t really needed them.

My cardboard bed came in handy
Yes, I made them in Spanish, but believe me, my Spanish sucks.

As reality TV has so gleefully proven, bringing complete strangers under one roof for an extended period of time oftentimes results in conflict. In my case, not only am I living with four other people whom I’ve never met before, they are from different cultures and backgrounds as well.

For this reason, I thought it would be good to write down some guidelines on Living With Others (Harmoniously).

Go to page 2 to continue reading.

Back to School

Education is what remains after the schools and teachers are done with you. It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.

source

Regardless of where you are in life, the first day of anything is always a nerve-wracking experience. As I first stepped through the gates of the Universitat Internacional de Catalunya the day after I had arrived in Barcelona, I felt the nervousness that everyone feels on that first day of school. Add to the fact that I had yet to unpack, was still adjusting to the six-hour time difference, and had spent my first night sleeping on a piece of cardboard.

P1070153
Slept like a baby.

It helped that I was with my three flatmates who were my schoolmates as well. At least I could get to the university without getting lost. They all had 3G on their phones so could easily use Google Maps or City Mapper (I highly recommend this app) to easily get from point A to point B without getting hopelessly lost, as I frequently do.

After officially enrolling, the other students and I were greeted by Dr. Consuela Dobrescu, the academic coordinator of the program. Each of us was handed a folder containing a planner, highlighters, a folder, a pencil, and a calendar from the university. She then toured us around the campus which was composed of two buildings, one with five floors and another with six. UIC was so much smaller in area than the universities back home. It was not tiny by any standards, and in addition to my course, a Masters in Arts and Cultural Management, they also have graduate and doctorate courses in Business, Education, Architecture, Humanities, and more. Another stark difference is how few personnel they require. There are perhaps two people in charge of security, a few more for custodial and food services, and the rest are academic and administrative staff. At the DLS-CSB School of Design & Arts where I taught illustration, the building is thirteen stories and they employ a small army of security guards, custodial personnel, drivers, and non-teaching staff. Of course, they have over 4,000 students, but in the Philippines, labor is cheap.

School was never a place for learning for me, I feel. I had spent nearly 50% of my life to date in educational institutions, with four years resulting in a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies (a course especially designed for those who do not know what they want to do when they grow up—which is an accurate description for who I was in college and even after), and a year in the University of the Philippines taking up the Certificate for Professional Educators Program in order to teach.

But here I am now, paying a significant amount of money out of my own pocket, traveling more than halfway across the world to sit in a classroom and to listen to lectures. At thirty-five, I am the oldest in my class and two years older than the academic director of my program. My brain stopped creating new connections over ten years ago, and millions of my neurons have ceased to fire by now, so my ability to acquire new knowledge isn’t all it used to be.

So why am I going back to school? And why all the way in Spain?

Go to page 2 to find out.