In approximately 10,000 hours, one can become an expert in a field or practice. Potentially, if someone could spend 24 hours a day practicing a gift they have or a field of study whether it be playing the violin, running, cooking, etc. for 416 days straight, or 1 year, 1 month, and 20 days, they would have acquired the amount of hours that it would take to become an expert.
In a long trip returning from one of the praxis communities, Barrio Argüello, to our home, I had a conversation with Martin, CASA’s praxis coordinator. I was experiencing a moment of panic (as people my age tend to do). I wondered aloud, what I should do next, after this year as a community coordinator. The questions: What am I going to do with my life? Should I stay abroad for another year? Should I go to graduate school? were continually filling my thoughts. At the time, I thought I had found a perfect graduate school program in San Francisco, and I was almost ready to begin the application process. But Martin’s only answer for me after my many questions was that I should absolutely NOT go to grad school at this moment. And he very matter-of-factly told me that I was still “learning how to learn”. I was stunned. I had little to no idea of what he meant. Have I not been learning to learn for the past 17 years? Have I not been absorbing information for my entire life? Shouldn’t I have the faintest idea of how to learn by now?
I began to ponder more and more what Martin meant. And obvious things came to mind. I’ve learned the quickest bus routes around the city, the names of the people at my praxis communities and new friends, the best places around our new home to buy empanadas, and some Argentine slang. But I began to ask myself: what is it that I have learned here and now that I had not learned at home in Palm Springs, in Los Angeles, in my travels, or ever before?
I realized that my life here in some ways drastically contrasts my life in California. My last year in Los Angeles consisted of balancing approximately 18 credits a semester, observation hours in elementary schools, two jobs, living in a community, service at Dolores Mission and Homeboy Industries, an Ignacio Companion trip to Chile, weekends in Tijuana with De Colores, and a social life. I was enamored with how my days were filled, but I was running on a lot of caffeine and a little sleep. In Los Angeles, I could be found usually with coffee in hand and a meal in my backpack walking to the next thing on my schedule. I have never learned to slow down in the same way that I have my last three months here in Córdoba. I now know that if you attempt to run any errand during siesta (approximately 1:30pm to 6pm), then you will encounter closed shop after closed shop. I have experienced that although a majority of stores and businesses will close during siestas, nothing truly compares to the amount of shops that will be closed every Sunday. To do anything besides drink mate with friends and family, maybe have an occasional asado, or a trip to the sierras is viewed practically as sacrilege. The slowness of Sundays and siestas are sacred. I have witnessed the Salesian nuns in Barrio Argüello, one of our praxis communities, exude the most calming presence and steadfast love. While leaving apoyo escolar, Hermana Sabrina and Hermana Andrea will without a doubt be at the door of the capilla giving besos to every single student. It is not enough to say a word of goodbye and have the students go on their way. What is the rush? I have learned
that three year old twins in Nuestro Hogar III have a knack of lovingly climbing into my lap just to be as close to me as they can. Over and over, every Wednesday, they will ask me what are on my wrists. Pulseras,bracelets, I tell them. By now, they absolutely know the word for bracelets. But their question is continually asked not because they forget what a bracelet is, but rather it becomes an excuse to sit together even for just a moment longer. Again, what is the rush?
I realize that I will never become an expert on Córdoba. I will never fully understand all of the ins and outs of its history, politics, economics, and culture. In the prayer, A Future Not Our Own, written in memory for Archbishop Oscar Romero, it says: “We cannot do everything and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for God’s grace to enter and do the rest.” Words cannot fully express my gratitude as I see CASA’s praxis communities become my classrooms filled with lessons from children, men selling magazines, nuns, seños, and friends who have become our teachers. I may no longer be learning in University Hall at Loyola Marymount University, but Córdoba, Argentina has become my favorite classroom.
Amanda Montez is a Community Coordinator with Casa de la Mateada program who looks forward to welcoming students to the city that has already taught her so much.