Dispatches from Georgetown, August 2013

Hi guys!!

I hope you guys are enjoying what remains of your summer!

Too much has happened since I last wrote. In the first part I will cover the last week of the summer program. The second part is about my Virginia adventures. Lastly, I will include my first week of the fall semester.

During the last week of the Community Scholars Program I got to lay out a four year plan with my super chill dean. Although I am still undeclared I am on the Linguistics track (allow me to digress: I grew up bilingual and I remember when my English caught up to my Spanish. I began to think primarily in English. When I had extreme emotions I would switch between the languages; it’s amazing how Spanish and English offered me two worlds of expression. I was inspired to begin this little book where I would collect all the new words I had learned in other languages. There’s more to my fascination with language (i.e. feminism) but let’s move on). During the closing ceremony I was given “The Soul of Georgetown” award. I am still processing this. I feel that I have a good understanding of the school values such as caring for the whole person and being a woman for others. I just hope I can continually live it out in a refreshing and contagious ways. The last night of the program I received lots of packages with neat stuff such as bras, shorts, swim suit and goggles from a generous sponsor back home. That blew my mind (I am grinning even now as I am typing this). Thank you for uplifting me with your letters, check-up and periodic “hello’s.” Anyways, after the program ended I was picked up at school by a lovely German couple.

They were the sweetest!! They adopted me as their grand-daughter and they became the grandparents I never had (correction: I have grandparents in Mexico, but it’s a complicated family matter). While I was with them I made a list of all my firsts (it’s lengthy…this whole email is lengthy!):

  1. Ate duck eggs for breakfast
  2. Ate Keylime pie
  3. Helped make a blackberry pie
  4. Helped make Thai food
  5. I drove a gator
  6. Went fishing
  7. Had my own room and bathroom
  8. Slept in a king size bed
  9. Picked peaches
  10. Saw a butterfly bush
  11. Used a dishwasher
  12. Had a 7/11 slurpy
  13. Went to a church where the whole service was given from a screen
  14. Played toilet tag (it’s not what it sounds like)
  15. Took German lessons from a German speaker
  16. I did 10 cartwheels in a row
  17. 3 dogs licked my face at once
  18. Held a baby quail (it pooped on me)
  19. Walked along a highway
  20. Ate three different kinds of German mustards (my favorite is a sweet kind of mustard)
  21. Worshipped in sign language
  22. Ate grilled peaches (you will never be the same)
  23. Paid for a shopping cart (a system that forces people to return the carts)
  24. Made/drank quark
  25. Saw a groundhog
  26. I read my first German book, “Die Kleine Raupe Nimmersatt”
  27. Had stevia
  28. Watched Monk
  29. watched clogging
  30. Picked apples and fed them to horses from my dress
  31. I was nudged by a horse (it means he liked me)
  32. I filled a shopping cart all for myself
  33. I whipped cream
  34. Read an Al Qaeda manuscript
  35. Ate grass like a country kid
  36. Made spätzle
  37. Made German cheesecake
  38. Had a German meal
  39. Made coffee filtered flowers
  40. Saw a woodchuck
  41. New bike
  42. Held a salamander
  43. Went to a global market
  44. Used a cooking roller to knead masa
  45. Ate a rice cake
  46. Swam in the potomac river
  47. Became an honorary Kastle Kid (it means I have a home in Connecticut)
  48. Interacted with a guiding dog
  49. Watched Duck Dynasty
  50. Have an honorary uncle who is literally a dog named Toby.

I absolutely love them and their family. Poppa (the adopted grandfather) gave me a lot of life advice, such as “don’t forget where you came from,” etc. Poppa is a very high profile translator with a transcending passion for language. When he gets to talking about language, or anything really, there’s a fire in his eyes that gives me goose bumps. He makes me yearn for my own fire; I want to be crazy like that. He has made skills, yo! Nana (the adoptive grandmother) is a sweetheart! She would work out with me and give me German lessons every day. The three of us shared our immigrant stories; Nana and I bonded over the mixed feelings we had experienced being who we were, she a German and I an undocumented immigrant. I also enjoyed bonding with their children’s families. I can’t wait to go back and visit.

I got to move in early because I was part of the convocation choir. Embarrassing moment: during a practice rehearsal, as we were singing the alma mater, I sang the wrong words. The convocation was cool. We got to wear our graduation robes and we were bonded to Georgetown for life. We were told that we were now going to partake in the longest Jesuit tradition. It felt like that moment in A Walk in the Clouds where the father gives Paul a piece of the root from the family tree and tells him that he is bound to the land and an orphan no longer. As a kid, I wanted something like this. My parents had left most everything back in Mexico, including their traditions. Nothing really seemed consistent. Sure, I participated in some traditional events but we didn’t make a tradition or routine out of anything (i.e. celebrating birthdays). I liked going to my friends’ homes to partake in their Easter tradition and the community center to sit at a Thanksgiving table. I recalled that feeling I had when my siblings and I became orphans. I allowed it to steal my breath, swell my chest, roll under my skin and out through my hairs. Yep, I got teary.

I was moved even more by the beautiful spectacle in front of me. The choir got to sit perpendicular to the stage, so we got to see the rows of doctors close up. That was the biggest assembly of doctors that I have ever seen; they were so beautiful in their multicolored gowns. They were fun to watch; sometimes they would be turning red as they were trying to suppress a giggle, other times they were falling asleep, and other times they were whispering to each other. After the convocation I went up to one of the doctors and I told him about an idea I had. I explained to him how I felt that college was a dream come true and that being a doctor is really far for me to imagine. Maybe if I could see myself in the robe, I would be able to dream it and that would be my first step. He let me put on his bumblebee robe and we took a picture. Yeah, I can see it now: Dr. Gilda Gallardo.

Of other news, my new roommate is awesome!!! She is my partner in crime. We are going to be hosting a monthly Mexican night on our floor. We will be cooking authentic Mexican food. And I can cook, regardless of what my mamá says. Just ask my Nana and Poppa. Clara, I don’t want to describe her because I feel that my words won’t do justice to her awesomeness. But I will say this: she inspires me to be a better version of myself. We are both passionate about immigration reform and education. I think I have found a sister in her. Although she doesn’t say it back, I tell her “I love you” every night. One night I even told her that I have a secret identity as the Georgetown Cuddler (the Georgetown Cuddler is real. He sneaks into your room and cuddles you in bed. That is a true story).

Moving on, I am glad new student orientation is over. Now we are having carnivals and festivities left and right. Now, I have been having more organic conversations with students. I felt so relaxed that I went around campus giving away flowers. I punked them the stage that had been adorned for a mass- don’t worry, I was given permission to do this. Anyways, those were the best two hours I have had here. I enjoyed seeing smiles grow big as I handed a beautiful flower to a passerby. I loved hearing the Salvadorian workers exclaim, “esto es para mi señora” (this is for my lady). I smiled as people told me of the loved ones whom they would be passing their flowers onto. I giggled when I saw someone give his flower to his boss. I also realized that my favorite flowers are orange gerber daisies. Anyways, people have remembered me because of that. My friends have also turned my name into a verb: gildafied. It means that they are becoming more welcoming to conversation. I like that.

I also like my class schedule. I am taking Rock history (as in Rock n Roll), theater, intro to linguistics, writing on ethnic humor and German. The best part is that I don’t have classes on Tuesdays and Fridays. I have crazy good fortune. The most uncomfortable thing that has happened to me occurred last night. I was in my towel and brushing my teeth when suddenly a male was washing his hands next to me. Lesson learned.

Besides school, I am practicing with the breakdance group. Right now I am trying to get my hang-glide into a baby freeze so that I can work my way into a shoulder spin. I am excited to work with DC schools. It’s a program that allows us to go into the rougher neighborhoods and help students who are learning English. This is where my heart is at because I have been there. College kids helped me perfect my English. I am also excited to join the Hoyas for Immigrant Rights. Those are the two main things I really want to invest my time in.

This message is ridiculously long. Sorry. Anyways, that’s what’s up. Thanks for checking in. Stay tuned for the September edition.


Gilda Gallardo is a former Elite student who participated in the Elite Community Scholars program at Kidworks in Santa Ana, California. She was an Elite Student of the Year in 2013 and was accepted to Georgetown University, where she's currently studying. We asked Gilda to share some of her experiences from college, which have been pretty remarkable so far.