Day 151: When There’s Calamity, One Seeks Peace / by Sarah Kakusho

I’ve dubbed this week, the final week of my study abroad, as probably the bitch of all weeks. All my finals are/were this week.

There’s nothing more frustrating and upsetting than not being understood. My ability to communicate verbally was bad enough in English [better since the stutter went away] but to be able to do it in Castellano was something else. But I was able to get by conversationally and whatnot.

But man did I take a blow from my orals this week. Orals at la FUC work like this: you create a presentation on any topic that you choose and just explain it to the professor. Then afterwards, the professor asks you questions about your topic and other things that were covered in class. The whole process itself lasts around 15-30 minutes, depending on how much one talks. With this in mind, I prepared for my orals that week.

On Monday, after waiting 6 hours to take my final, I first freaked out because there were 2 professors evaluating me and I was saying a bunch of BS, so they let me look over my notes while another person went. While that went on, the other professor became available and so I ended up trying to take my oral with her. After a few sentences, the professor stopped me and told me that there was no way of evaluating me because what I was saying wasn’t pertinent to the topic that I had chosen… AND I was just not making any sense at all…

So, I failed that oral.

I was completely taken aback and I totally lost motivation to speak any lick of Spanish, fearing that no one would understand me. That night, I developed a horrible case of hives and my stomach was restless. I didn’t want to eat or drink anything at all. I also went to bed before midnight, which was something I hadn’t done since the first few weeks of my stay here.

I woke up itchy and still sick to my stomach. But, I knew I had to continue moving forward so I got out of bed, did gongyo, dropped off my laundry at the launders and came back to study for my next exam. The entire day went by and all I could think about was what the professor told me. It was still devastating. If my ideas weren’t understood by her, then who would understand? That was the mindset I had. I sought out answers that I never got, so I decided to chant a lil more to bring up my motivation to at least be productive.

Then my dad called.

I can count on family to help me out even in the deepest shit holes. So, he told me not to worry and to just establish my point and start with that first, rather than having to build up an argument before making the point. Well, with that in mind, I was able to focus more on what I was studying and what I was going to say. I was in the study mindset, but physically my body was still bearing down on me. But I ended up staying up all night studying.

I was sure that the teacher was wrong in failing me and that I was determined to prove it to her by passing my other two finals. That’s probably what drove me.

The next day, I only waited 5 hours to take my final. When they called out my name, it was a professor I had never seen before. I was slightly worried that she would be the one grading me. Turns out my worries had come to realization. I sat down and she first started up a casual conversation about Murakami Haruki and how it was a shame that we weren’t able to read him. So, after that I started my oral and everything flowed to perfection. I was able to say everything that I wanted to day.

When I finished my part of the oral, another professor came and sat down next to the professor who was evaluating me and she started asking me these questions. I was SHOCKED. I was unable to answer some of her questions because she was only a substitute for my teacher a couple of times. Well, in short, after I was done, the professor told me that she had a moral issue with grading me because of the language barrier. What completely blew me away was that she said that without being there for MY part of the oral.

So I left pissed and upset because I thought, yet again, that I had failed.

I got home and collapsed on my bed and when I woke up my face was hives-driven. I didn’t know what to do. I completely broke down. But in the midst of that, I was studying. The anger I had over that oral drove me to study for my final oral, the class that almost equals to grad level.

But, then I fell asleep and woke up at 8 this morning. I FREAKED. I messaged all my friends on skype who were on at the time, and they all told me the same thing: CHANT and STUDY. So, that’s what I did. After I showered and got ready, every moment I wasn’t studying I was chanting, and every moment I wasn’t chanting I was studying. I left the apartment brimming with confidence and courage. I picked up my grade sheet for my professor and found out that I had actually passed my second oral. This only gave me more courage to triumph over this last exam. I waited only 3 hours to take this exam and when I walked in, the teacher was very quiet, didn’t give me any weird looks, nada.

I was sure that I had passed when I got through my part of the oral. Then she dropped a question on a book that I hadn’t studied. For a moment I got discouraged, even a lil teary-eyed, but I didn’t let it get to me. I was honest and told her that I remembered nothing on the topic. I was ready to pick up my bag and leave when she sighed and asked me a different question. I was still unsure about how to answer, but I was able to say something. She continued asking me these questions, even asked me to interpret the original English title of one of the readings and it all ended with a “correcto” and “gracias.”

I was ecstatic. I was so happy I wanted to jump up and cheer. I don’t know whether I actually failed the last oral or not, and I probably won’t know till my transcript comes back, but today I laid my academic worries to rest. Today, justice was served.

Today, I was victorious. Total and absolute victory.