Part One: Tell us about an experience, project, extra curricular activity, or personal challenge that you have confronted or participated in. How does/did this influence your path today?
The disk paused for a moment and then turned over in the cassette player, again blasting the same fiery songs we had heard for the last six hours. The truck player pointed to it roughly and resolutely exclaimed “turkey” responding to our nods with a satisfied grin. The Turkish flag dangled over the dashboard, and the stained carpet I sat cross legged upon in the sleeper cabin of the truck added to the ambiance.
“Turkey” was the only lucid English word the driver spoke. I spoke neither Turkish nor French which the driver grudgingly accepted while continuing to call me “Mademoiselle”. I had hoped my years studying Spanish would provide that much needed link, but it was not the case. In desperation my brother pulled out his rusty high school German skills, and though we drove through Germany beyond his recognition of “guten Tag” they fell flat. Regardless of the impasse we had reached I know this; Turkish beer is the best there is, Turkish music is unbeatable, and when it comes to Turkish soccer nothing compares. His name was Ahmed, and his two daughters and wife saw him only every three months as his job was to transport cargo throughout Europe. We relied on our innovation to communicate and when stick figures on the side of a rusty truck taught us all we could know we relied on lessons words couldn’t speak.
My brother and I had spent significant time hitch-hiking in several countries throughout Europe when we met him. The generosity of our various hosts was sometimes overwhelming and more than occasionally embarrassing. Ahmed reached new heights and it was a personal struggle not to reject his hospitality. My prideful spirit resisted his continuous benevolence, yet I found there are lessons beyond the scope of self reliance.
After crudely asking if we were hungry our driver pulled the truck into a petrol station and we unloaded expecting to grab the fruit snacks and packages of nuts out of our backpacks. Instead he pulled down the storage bin of his truck revealing a full kitchen, complete with propane stove which he pulled down and insisted I, as the woman, use as a stool. Feta cheese was sliced into thick portions and loaded along with tomato slices onto pungent bread. Every serving was followed by the insistence of another and our stomachs swelled with appreciation. We were given a thick spicy beer to wash everything down and the pint sized bottles were replaced before reloading into the truck.
Our next meal was provided as well and consisted of eggs scrambled into a tomato paste he mashed upon his make shift cutting board. Bread was dipped into the self spiced mixture to create a filling and surprisingly delicious fare. As night had obscured all he unscrewed reflectors from the bottom of the truck which revealed a tiny light ideal for the illumination of his tiny kitchen. Every element of his habitat, though it was merely an outdated semi-truck, was perfectly honed and orchestrated for efficiency.
That night I slept in his sleeper cabin while my brother and our host struggled to gain comfort in the rigid front seats. I stayed awake for some time unsettled by the selflessness such a stranger had shown two kids hitch-hiking off of the autobahn. By the time we parted I had begun to deeply question my own programmed view of the world where each human takes care of himself first and foremost. Without intending to gain anything but transportation between the Netherlands and Berlin I had experienced enough to devastate a lifetime of comfortable thought.
We stepped down from his truck just outside the town of Magdeburg and finally retrieving our phrasebook from our backpacks made a feeble attempt at pronouncing “tepekkiir” to which he laughed, waved, and drove away. Through our brief interaction I realized my inadequacy at accepting others into my life beyond a superficial level. Though I had experienced previously the challenges and rewards of communicating across a language barrier the day I spent with Ahmed gave me a new understanding of the interconnectedness of human beings. Such a small glimpse into his life has lead down a path focused on artfully constructing an existence for myself in harmony with my environment and with the human race.
Part Two: Please describe a literary work, current issue, piece of music, or work of art that has made a significant impression on you. How has it influenced and impacted your worldview and how you live today?
Arundhati Roy entered my life during a period of cultural draught. My high school had much to be desired when it came to diversity or varying perspectives. I had attended Seventh Day Adventist private schools since preschool and knew very little outside the scope of the fundamentalist outlook. Seeped in an institution run by white males, prohibiting any unorthodox behavior or thinking such as homosexuality, and raiding students of music and books not approved by the administration I was overdue for my initiation into the real world. Arundhati Roy’s book “The God of Small Things” was a meaningful element in my integration.
The book “The God of Small Things” depicted the childhood of two twins growing up in the south Indian state of Kerala. Though it beautifully describes internal horrors they grow up with I was primarily struck by the beauty in their world and in each individual. Throughout my childhood I was bombarded with images of non Christians as riddled in sin, incapable of the moral and ethical fiber that was afforded only by the grace of God. Although I never believed fully in their orthodoxy I admit I was struck every time I found such clear and irrefutable evidence of merit outside of the context of Christianity. Moreover I was struck by the bitter taint of humanity I viewed within the religion.
What began as a fascinating novel left me reeling and with an intense desire to understand humanity. I began with a goal to break down the mystery behind non-Christian religions and soon owned a copy of the Koran, the Baghdad Gita, several Buddhist texts and a score of novels relating to religions and spirituality. What I unfailingly found in each book was an accumulation of wisdom. I found, along with small differentiating details and rare particulars with which I disagreed that each had merit, value and relevance to my life.
Three years later I am far from finishing my search but have expanded it to encompass more than religion. I believe each human has positive and negative attributes and no polarized vision of the world can see the beauty inherent in every element of an individual. In the book “The God of Small Things” societal bigotry against the “untouchables” prohibited love and tore the lives of the characters apart. In my own life I have seen such intolerance have lasting results.
YOUR PLANS: What excites you about CEP? How does CEP fit into your educational plans, personal values, and/or ambitions? What will you bring to the CEP program and how may the community benefit from your presence? Feel free to include possible double majors, minors, areas of academic focus, internships, field experiences, and/or study abroad plans.
YOUR FUTURE: Describe some of your current plans for the future. How will the academic program of CEP, i.e. core seminars, service activities, and governance, help enable you to achieve these goals? This is a vision essay. Please communicate to us your vision for yourself in the world.
I have read in passing many Astrological descriptions of the Gemini, and a recurrent theme is the inability to make decisions since they never stick with the one they originally choose. If ever there were to be a case made for the accuracy of astrology my college career would be an irrefutable support since I am indeed a Gemini. I began as a determined communications major and soon moved on to psychology. By the time I had discarded both political science and philosophy I knew little more than I had at the onset of college. I knew I wanted to travel, to understand the world, and to speak as many languages as possible. I also wanted to make a contribution, a need which has ultimately defined my vision for myself in the world.
What I did gain through my experience with various fields was that education has value disconnected entirely from the degree it leaves you with. The process of learning is a process of growth that cannot be measured by grades or by transcripts. I believe that CEP understands that process on a level I have not previously seen in a major and I am excited at the opportunity to enter a community with such values. Yet it is more than the intrinsic value of education that draws me to the CEP program.