learning curves

Even after four months of classes in Mexico, I still haven’t learned to just BE LATE.

Drawing III starts at 5. I need t minus 12 minutes to walk to the bus stop, plus another 20 for the ride to the art building way up in the hills surrounding the center of Guanajuato. I arrive to the stop at 4:20, not bad. Bus shows up four minutes later, but the kid who takes the fares waves away prospective passengers, standing on the steps of the bus and screeching, “¡El siguiente!”

Okay, fine! I’ll take the next one! Thirty seconds later another bus appears, even more crowded than the first. Everybody piles on anyway, paying the 3.50 peso fare – about 20 cents USD. There aren’t any seats left, so we stand in the aisle, most of us trying not to bash the foreheads of seated passengers with our backpacks. A guy from my drawing class gets on at the same stop as I do, and asks if I’ve got the cotton paper needed for class today. I wave the rolled-up white tube in my hand as evidence. He doesn’t have his yet, and when the bus stops in the center of town he jumps off and dashes towards the art store. It’s got to be 4:45 already.

It’s five past when the bus reaches the art building, but there are maybe five students, of the 20-some person class, waiting in the studio when I arrive.

Of course, there’s no rush. One student has a message from the professor that we’re to start without her, as she’ll be late. My friend who stopped for paper strolls in, practically whistling a tune he’s so at ease, before we sit down to draw the model at 5:20. The professor arrives a smooth twenty minutes later.

Academics here function… differently than the system I’m used to in the U.S. For one thing, students here receive free education at public universities. I don’t know how the whole application process works, but Mexican college students are not so die-hard about the whole thing as I’m used to seeing. I suppose when you don’t have the imminent threat of thousands of dollars in student debt staring you in the face, school isn’t so stressful.

Then again, that attitude varies completely by person. While the students in my art class are a bit more easygoing about coming to class, or doing their assignments, or just buying basic art supplies, there are definitely some with their noses to the grindstone. My host brother for example, a med student, has a pile of textbooks on his desk that would cheerfully crush a small child given the chance and he routinely spends entire weekends at the dining room table with his notes gradually taking over the entire surface.

I still appreciate the art students’ perspective. The reasoning expressed to me has been, “If I don’t want to be there and I’m not going to do good work, what’s the point of going?” Fair enough, although…

In my case, I want to be in class!


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