Capstone students were challenged to unplug, take a walk and report on “experiencing the experience.” It proved to be harder than it seemed.

Silent Memories

By Alejandra Chamorro

It was 80 degrees outside, the sky was clear and I was mentally preparing myself to walk 20 minutes under the blazing sun. The typical college student would usually drive to Walgreens, but I do not have that luxury. Unlike them, my form of transportation is either Uber or my own two legs. This time, I chose the latter.

When I exited Parkview Hall on MMC campus, the heat was unbearable so I tied my long, brown hair into a high ponytail. As I looked towards the horizon, the reflection of the sun on the white concrete sidewalk made my eyes squint. In that moment, I wished I had listened to my mom when she said, “People with light eyes, should always wear sunglasses outside.”

Luckily, the path got darker when I walked under the trees in front of Panther Hall. Looking at that housing building brought a lot of freshman memories. I reminisced about the first night I spent there. I remembered hugging my dad goodbye and walking into an empty dorm room. It was a lonely night because my roommates had not yet moved in. Little did I know a Peruvian, a Dominican and a girl from Ohio would become like sisters to me.

As I stared at my old home, I recalled the many “first times” that happened there. The first time I did laundry, the first time I got ready for a fraternity party and the first time I brought a guy over were all experienced at Panther Hall. Every time I walk next to that building, I can’t help but feel happy and grateful for it all.

While I was going down memory lane, I witnessed three natural beauties back-to-back. The first one was the reflection of a rainbow in a man-made waterfall between Panther Hall and Everglades Hall. The second one was a duck and her ducklings walking into the waterfall. Although their path was interrupted by a can of Bud Light, it was still a nice view. Lastly, I saw a golden retriever stick its head out of a car window, waving its tongue uncontrollably, without a care in the world.

Normally, I wouldn’t have noticed those random events. Yet, it was the first time I was walking around campus without any technological distractions. It was just my surroundings, my thoughts and myself.

Once I passed the housing quad and looked at the School of Music and the Frost Museum, I began to think about my future. I questioned where my graduation photos were going to be and how I was going to decorate my graduation cap. I had it all thought out. My graduation cap would be covered with four special symbols that represent my undergraduate career. It would have the flag of my home country of Puerto Rico; the Greek letters of my sorority; words spelling out my major; and a ‘thank you’ message to my mom and dad. I saw myself taking pictures with that symbolic cap all over campus.

After planning my graduation memorabilia, all I could think about was, “Wow, after four years of living here, I’m moving.” Instead of feeling sad, I was actually excited to see what my life was going to look like outside of the Modesto A. Maidique Campus.

All those feelings of excitement and enthusiasm came to a halt when I took the shortcut through the outside parking lot next to Blue garage. All of a sudden, my mom’s memory came to mind. While I was getting all hyped up for graduation, I remembered she wouldn’t be there to see me get my diploma.

The memory of how my mom passed away about a year ago began to overpower my happy thoughts. All the hard work she put into getting her four children into college was unbelievable, and I wanted to thank her. I pictured what I would say to her if I could see her. In my mind I said, “Thank you, Mamá, for pushing me to overcome my fears and believe in myself.”

Before I got all teary-eyed, my phone started vibrating. I ignored it for two reasons: It was going to ruin a touching moment, and I was about to cross the street from campus to the Walgreens plaza.

I hit the button at the street poll and, as I waited for the light to turn red, I remembered how a car in this intersection hit one of my friends. She had been walking with her earphones on, listening to music, when a car hit her on her side. Luckily, all she had was a small bump on her head and did not suffer any long-term damages.

When it was safe for me to walk, I had to wait for one car to pass that clearly did not get the memo it was my turn to walk. In that moment, I thought, “Maybe if I was plugged into my iPhone, I would have also gotten hit.” Chills covered my body, as I walked through that long intersection, hoping I wouldn’t encounter the same fate as my friend.

Finally, many deep thoughts and sweat drops later, I got to Walgreens. Without getting distracted by the Christmas decorations and makeup samples, I walked to the medicine aisle. I planned to get rid of my nasal congestion and headache once and for all, even if it meant walking 20 minutes under the blazing sun, taking a trip down memory lane, and conversing with my late mother.

Experiencing the Experience

By Natasha Rodriguez

Technology has become a huge part of our lives. Especially now, we have our cell phones right in the palm of our hands. We spend hours of our day looking at a screen often times forgetting what is around us.  We have lost what it feels like to get away from social media, emails, group chats and phone notifications and just live in the moment. We constantly feel the need to share what is going on in our lives. What happened to just enjoying the moment?

I have seen a few college campuses throughout Florida and Florida International University’s BBC campus is one of the prettiest–yet students seem to often miss what it offers. I have seen this campus with a different lens than most. For five years, FIU has not only been my choice for education, but also my workplace and my home away from home. Every now and then I go for walks around campus as a way to get away from everything.

There is a spot that overlooks Biscayne Bay where I always go to find peace. I always take the same path from my classroom to the water. But I recently decided to take a different route. I have gotten so use to keeping up on social media that I automatically reached for my phone to Snapchat my walking experience and share it with others. I put my phone in my back pocket but kept pulling it out as I walked. I kept this cycle going for 30 minutes. I was disappointed in myself that I was unable to go for a simple, quiet walk without being glued to my cell phone. Finally, I put the phone in my bag and left it there.

I walked through a bush that was covered with vivid hot pink flowers. Why had I never seen this bush before, it is almost impossible to miss? It is so aesthetically pleasing! As I was walking through the bush, I stopped to get a whiff of the flowers. Reaching the end of the pathway, I spotted something bright green that stood out in the hedge of hot pink. As I got a closer look, I realized it was a baby iguana. I personally hate lizards or any animal related to lizards. At first, the iguana frightened me, but I could not get over how his lime green skin managed to shine in the pink bushes. In just those five minutes of putting my phone away, I was able to see things differently. I continued to walk.

When I walk to the bay,  I usually sit on a nearby bench.  This time was different. I sat on a giant rock that was covered with shade from the palm fronds above me and slightly moist from the lapping water. I sat on the rock facing the water with my back towards the campus, which also was different than the way I typically sit there. While perched on the rock, the one sound I heard was the water hitting the rocks again and again. It was so peaceful to hear.

I got up from the rock and decided to change my position and lay on the grass instead. While I was itchy and bugs crawled on me, the sensation of the grass touching my skin felt refreshing. I lay on the grass looking up at the sun beaming down. It was a warm,  sunny Miami day, and  I could feel the sweat dripping down my back. Who wears dark colors on a hot day? Only me. After cooking in the sun, I decided to get up and head back inside.

I have always joked that I am an “animal whisperer.” While walking, my phone still of out of reach, I was able to have an animal encounter. A squirrel on an oak tree had an acorn in its mouth. The squirrel seemed to be protecting the acorn as if I was going to take it away. I slowly approached it just to see what it would do. The squirrel started growling. I didn’t even know squirrels were capable of growling! I always considered them cute, little animals. I guess not.

This walk that I have taken many times before felt different. I/we have become so obsessed with recording our lives– to relive later and receive “likes” and “followers”– that we do not really live in the present anymore. Our phones are robbing everyday experiences. While I was on this walk, time slowed down. And it was just me minus digital distractions. My mind was at ease. I was able to listen to nature talking to me. If we could all just put our phones down and experience our experience, we would have a real story to share. I am going to miss this campus and my walks.

Unfamiliar path and memories erase

By Morgan Benoit

I have walked this walk before, but this time it somehow seems like I have taken a different route. Completely focused, I am in a different zone. My senses are alive and breathing.

The sun is barely peeking through the clouds. The cotton candy-like hues are mesmerizing, resembling a paint-stroked canvas.

The sound of honking horns and revving car engines or machin, as my grandmother would call it, overtake the neighborhood. A young boy, possibly 10-years-old, rushes across the street to beat oncoming traffic with a corner store bag in hand.  His over-sized green shirt barely fits him, almost twice his size.

Locals stand on the sidewalks in a group waiting for the Jitney, a small local bus. I stop at NE 54 St. and Miami Ave. I remember traveling up this street with my father, anticipating fresh paté, traditional Haitian patties, and the refreshing taste of akasan, a milkshake, from Lakay Tropical Ice Cream. The aroma of fresh bread overtakes the air. The traditional shops alongside the road have changed so much.

This street was the home of my favorite Haitian restaurant, Chez Le Bebe, now permanently closed. The neighborhood is rich, not in finances and resources, but in culture and history. Murals cover the walls of the businesses, all portraying the beauty and unity of Haiti. The vibrant blue, orange, and red reinforce the Caribbean-like atmosphere. In front of the teal-colored botanica is an elder seated in a faded wooden antique chair. I can see statues of angels, warriors and saints through the storefront glass.

Down the avenue, there are familiar homes and apartments. My mind is filled with memories of my childhood. On the corner of 44th street is a peach duplex. The replay button in my mind plays a scene. I envision myself as a child with my grandfather, who has now passed. We would collect avocados from our backyard tree to give away. Outside of this duplex sat the same group of Haitian men that played dominoes. We would interrupt them to bring crates filled with the olive green fruit. The space is now empty.

The farther I walk, some properties appear repaired and renovated. A light-blue home seems to be a victim of the developer’s schemes. An additional wood structure surrounds the home, stripping away any character that was left. Gentrification has crept into the community and is like an invasive species, multiplying and bringing destruction. Rustic homes have been transformed with crisp gray paint, white trimming and bold red doors. With every new expansion, it feels like they are bulldozing what is left of my childhood. The empty gated lots are surrounded by tarp, indicating that the land has already been seized.

There is a divide between the two worlds. Miami Avenue acts as the line of demarcation. What lies on the other side is worth millions of dollars. This space was vacant and now there’s heavy foot traffic. Making my way into the Design District feels like walking through a portal into another dimension. I’m greeted by a large parking garage with decorated walls. Silver and gold car-like figures cover a portion of the surface. The entrance is guarded by massive statues that resemble Egyptian Gods like Ra and Horus.

Nearby, a couple driving an SUV Nissan stop to admire the structures and art. Their faces are bright with excitement as their eager fingers snap several photos. I stand unmoved, taking pictures too, but my angle is different. I don’t see beauty or artistic creativity; I am before a modern monstrosity. I don’t belong here. Outside of my element and confused, I am bombarded with flashy cars and designer stores. They’re sitting at the doorstep of the true natives, an unimaginable wealth they don’t have access to.

My weekly visit home never struck me the way it does now. Finally, conscious of my surroundings, I am enraged with the rapid changes and creation of a new face for Little Haiti. How can I feel unwelcome in my own home?


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