Adriana Duarte is one of those people who has been traveling for her entire life. The child of immigrants from Mexico, she grew up in the U.S. state of West Virginia and spent two semesters and one…
Coming back from the Netherlands, I was on my way out of the terminal at the Copenhagen airport. I was in a mad rush to catch the train, trying to make my journey back home to my homestay in Gevninge as short as possible. A woman in a black flared mini skirt and a loose blue sweater looked absolutely lost and distraught, stuck in front of the no reentrance sign that lies in front of baggage claim.
Her eyes were outlined with blurred mascara and she just kept saying, “Baggage? Baggage?”
No one stopped to help her.
“Do you need help?” I asked her.
“Need help. Don’t I look like I need help? I need lots of help. I am so lost. This airport is so big and stupid and I can’t find my bag.”
“Okay, well baggage claim is through these doors. I can take you there.”
She felt bad that I was taking my time for her but it didn’t matter because I would have to walk through baggage claim to get out of the terminal anyway.
She was apparently so worried because she was coming to Copenhagen to win back her boyfriend and according to her she “looked like shit” and she didn’t know where her bag was.
She was beyond grateful that I showed her where to go and waited with her until her bags came, which I didn’t really understand since it felt like I wasn’t doing much.
She held my hand and said, “You help me now and then someday you will be lost and someone will help you. That is my religion. I believe in that. My name is Maria. What is yours?”
For the first time in a long time I introduced myself as Adriana, my full name.
“Well, Adriana, I release you. Thank you. You can go.”
I walked out of the terminal into the crowds of people awaiting loved ones in the grand and sleek lobby outside. Like always there were families waving the Danish flag. A man stood holding a single red rose which if I’m not mistaken was for Maria.
I first became interested in the study of Sociology at the age of 11, before I even understood what Sociology meant. During a summer in Boulder, Colorado, we frequented the locally famous Boulder Bookstore, where my mother and I would spend hours exploring the shelves, acquainting ourselves with new reads, and unbeknownst to the both of us, developing new interests entirely.
I became engrossed with a collection of books which discussed modern-day issues, such as runaway capitalism, race relations in America, and food systems in America. Among my first “Sociological” reads were books like Don’t Eat This Book by film maker Morgan Spurlock, and Nickle and Dimed by journalist Barbara Ehrenreich. I was in love. The books I read about fast food made me rethink entirely the choices I made around food and awakened me to the reality that for some families, fast food is one of if not the only options to feed their families. I enjoyed reading books by authors who were active participants in exploring unjust social realities, who championed social reform through the spread of awareness of the problems they perceived around them. I wanted to follow. This is why I chose to study Sociology.
I am still glad I studied Sociology, but leading up to graduation, Sociology in the academic context had begun to feel like the wrong path for me. In undergrad I began feeling like I wasn’t writing papers and putting together projects out of passion, but rather obligation. The spark I originally had for social reform was not sustained.
Sensing that I needed to re-ignite this desire to learn more about the world and its people, I took a different approach, and took a year abroad in Germany and Denmark. I am so glad I did this. My German improved tremendously. I worked on a farm in the Black Forest and learned about sustainability in a class about Green Business practices. I talked to more strangers than I ever thought I’d speak to in the course of my entire life. Most importantly I soaked up the stories of the locals both from direct conversation and eavesdropping. I’m convinced those stories have shaped me and will continue to shape me.
While I prepare to make goals and plans for the next few years of my life, I hope to take the lessons I’ve learned both in my studies in Sociology and my experiences abroad and use them to enrich other people’s lives somehow. While the manner in which I will achieve this is still partially unclear, I hope at the very least to be a resource to people, and to be a listening ear to the stories of others.
❤ Color Me Adri
The weather is slowly getting chillier.
This is my first full experience of “real” fall weather since high school. Naturally it’s causing me to become quite nostalgic, conjuring up good memories and bad. I’m revisiting photos and feel myself looking at a stranger. How I want to be that naive girl from the past and how I am also glad that I have grown up and moved past those rocky formative years.
I miss being so thin and feeling so fast and strong. I miss running through the mud and the creeks and sprinting hard up the last and final hill. I miss long slow runs with a chilly breeze while the leaves turn yellow. I wish I wouldn’t have demanded so much of myself back then. Sometimes the voice in my head was so cruel when I ran (or really when I did most anything), so demanding of improvement. Sometimes I wanted to quit back then all together, but I long now to be running down a West Virginia country lane with good friends and shoes caked with mud.
I don’t really understand why I miss these times so much. Perhaps its as simple as being reminded for the first time in a while that there is such a thing as seasons, which makes me think back to earlier times when I experienced seasonal differences every year and wasn’t surprised by them.
I don’t know why I’m having all the nostalgia for high school and West Virginia right now. Perhaps the early onset of fall this year is reminding me that the sun is slowly setting, not just on the shorter and shorter days but on my time in Europe. I worry that this year will be some sort of peak in my life and that I will not readjust to my old life. I also don’t want to readjust to the life I left behind because it was filled with unhappiness, anxiety and depression.
I truly am so happy here and I am terrified to lose this upon my return, but I guess I just have to remember that my stay in Copenhagen really has just begun.
Seeing signs of fall reminds me how easy memory can be triggered and how richly one can remember. I can feel old anguish all over again. At the same time I can also can feel old happiness, like the faint autumn sun streaking over my face on an early morning run: flashes of yellow, red, orange, brown, blending together. I want to hold on to this memory, this feeing forever.
I went on the first run I’ve been on in over a year today. It was pleasant and easy unlike many runs I’ve been on before. It’s been years since I’ve ran competitively or participated in any competitive sport for that matter. It used to compose such a huge part of my identity, but I don’t look back at it as an entirely positive experience.
Today when I ran I did it for myself. I was feeling lethargic and unsettled and needed simply to move. Before I was much more critical. I started out running cross country with my coaches thinking I had a lot of promise, so I tried my best, sometimes not listening to my body for when it was time to stop.
My first two years I was on varsity. By my sophomore year I became quite anemic, needing to take naps during the day and crying when I woke up from them because it was 8 o’clock I had hours of homework to do and I felt more tired than when I went to sleep. I didn’t realize there was an issue till the end of sophomore year. It’s quite common for young women who run and also young women in general to develop an iron deficiency, so if you are a young female runner I highly recommend getting tested for serum ferritin, your stores of iron. By senior year my iron levels were a lot better and I was ready to take on my last season, but midway through I had to stop due to a hip injury.
I tried on and off during college to run but it always ended up being an activity that I was too critical on myself for. I’d go out wanting to run times I had achieved while actually training competitively and judged myself for my body not looking the way it used to when I was in shape. In college I battled with depression. When I was depressed I often sat for hours not moving at all. There was no one I wanted to see, nothing I wanted to do. I was doing my work for school but little else. I spent more time hiding how unhappy I was than I spent actually trying to heal.
Last semester in Freiburg I got into better shape simply because of the amount of walking it took to get most places there. Working at a farm also helped with gaining a little more muscle. People working at the Lebensgarten were very, very in shape, but not because they wanted to show everyone how muscular they were or beat someone in a competition. They just love to be out in the sun, farming and they know when their bodies are tired. They know when it’s time to sit out and drink coffee and when it’s time to call “Feierabend”.
So here I am with a new fit body that for once was gained almost purely by accident in an attempt to achieve something good for the earth, as opposed to getting it by being hard on myself and pushing limits that weren’t meant to be pushed. I hope to approach life in a similar way. I want to stop being so critical, overanalyzing every perceived flaw that I have in order to finally give myself over to something greater, to be in tune with the world around me, to finally love myself the way I show love to the world around me.
After three weeks of travel between abroad programs with my family, I am finally in Copenhagen this week. My host mom is the sweetest. Though I am far from town, I am not alone because 4 other girls live in the same small town. We seem to all be getting along very well.
I thought the transition would be seamless, I’d go from Germany to Denmark, two neighboring countries with fairly similar cultures, and while I am having a wonderful time here, it is not a seamless transition.
I miss my good friends I made last semester. I miss the Lebensgarten and all the people I met there at work. My beautiful black forest and majestic cobble-stoned streets are replaced with rolling planes and flat concrete bike lanes. I am having a great time here and making friends, but I worry I am annoying them by mentioning every little thing that reminds me of Freiburg. I’m sure in a week or so I’ll be more adjusted. I just have to remember that I will learn just as much this semester as I did the last. It’s a different journey but I’m just as excited to take it.
❤ Color Me Adri