All the World’s a Playground: Finding the Fun in LifeGranada, Spring 2011
“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” While I agree with Shakespeare that in many ways a stage is an apt metaphor for life, I think a playground is more accurate analogy for mine. A stage implies constructing something lifelike for an audience, whereas a playground suggests a real-world enjoyment for its own sake that I believe is more representative of life as I want to live it. A playground, while generally a place of fun and learning, also acknowledges the reality of scraped knees, bullies, rain, and other metaphoric similarities to life’s more somber and challenging moments. Creative play can be just as artful as As You Like It, and it connotes an appreciation of others that reflects the importance of social relationships in human life. I believe we should all be pirates on a daily treasure hunt for the pleasure and purpose in each moment, anchored in a reality that we navigate on a ship of dreams. We can work hard, but if we are not finding meaning and joy, I don’t believe that we can ever reach our potential as happy people. If a playground is analogous to life, then setting is a key factor in our existence. Place, though perhaps not paramount, is important: where we are physically, mentally, and emotionally significantly affects our quality of life. Recognizing the influence of physical space, I wanted to study abroad to submerge myself in a new environment with the hope that my internal landscape would correspondingly evolve. My experiences thus far in Granada have confirmed and deepened my appreciation for the role of place in human experience. Every day in Granada we breathe the air perfumed with cigarettes, florists’ wares, vespa exhaust, buttery confections, and mountain chill; I feel aromatic Andalucian culture settling into my lungs and heart. Apart from day-to-day sensory experiences, our academic program has brilliantly broadened our scholastic experience beyond classrooms to make Granada’s heritage sites and contemporary spaces learning sites. We are encouraged to experiment in, learn from, and play among all of the things this city has to offer, and we are all diving enthusiastically into this four-month-long fieldtrip. Grade school curriculum is smart to include many on-site visits for students, because they encourage a connection between theory and application that is essential for people of all ages; I’m glad IES Abroad uses a similar teaching strategy! I can’t enumerate all of the Spanish experiences that have profoundly touched me, but I will feel their effects for the rest of my life. My brain is already swollen with the powerful memories of my time here: the night I fell in love with sultry flamenco in Sevilla; the crash-course I took in clowning/payaso-ing with my red-rubber-nosed peers; my first visit to a mosque, winking blue and white on a hill across from the Alhambra palace. Yes, place is important, but even more important is how we move through places and with whom we explore them. It is the interaction of place, personal outlook, and people that is making my heart leap with joy. Thank you, Granada and friends, for inspiring me to strive to make life a state of perpetual play and fulfillment.
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