» Posted by | 0 comments

Defects or Virtues

 The First Day

I stopped unpacking for a minute to take a look at what would be my home for the next two and a half months. With only two suitcases and a backpack full of books, I was taken out of my precious island for the first time and placed allá afuera in New Jersey to work as an Intern for a large communications company.

“These are the best dorms on campus,” said our resident assistant shortly after we arrived. “Students usually fight to live in this building.”

As soon as she gave me the card keys to room 713, I rushed to the elevator to find out why.  After opening the door, I was greeted by an enormous, white living room ahead of me. This room alone was at least half the size of my entire old apartment. It didn’t take me long to realize why those were considered the best dorms on campus. It had card activated electronic locks, a private gym on the first floor, a game room with ping-pong and pool tables on the sixth, and automated washing and drying machines that you could pay for through the Internet. Everything made me feel incredibly welcome, definitely, like none I’ve seen around the university campus back home.

However, amongst all this luxury, there was not a single familiar face in sight. I was to share the apartment with two other interns whom I knew nothing about. Loneliness didn’t take long to kick in. All the accommodations I could ask for weren’t ever going to be enough to replace the joy of spending time with family and old friends. Two and half months without mofongo or arroz con habichuelas was going to be hard to get used to. My native tongue was suddenly snatched away when I realized I could not express emotions in Spanish and hope to be understood — coño or ea rayo would no longer have any meaning.  As I thought about this, one thing provided me with a sweet and warm comfort after I finished unpacking the books I brought. When I walked back to the kitchen to meet my new housemates, I rejoiced as I noticed one of them had hung a large Puerto Rican flag on a living room wall.

 A Week Later

I’m well aware of the stereotypes that represent us as Puerto Ricans, that we’re loud, that we’re lazy. I’m very ashamed of them. I’ve always had a problem especially with the one about being loud.  I am not loud — just very talkative. But I didn’t realize how much until my first week of work.

The building I worked in was overpopulated; there were no office spaces available. So they placed me in a room that looked like it was used at some point to store computer servers. Now they had turned it into extra offices.  It had only one window with a spectacular, exotic view of the parking lot. It had seven desks, of which only one had a computer.  There was one chair. Obviously, I was going to work alone in that place.

My team was composed of thirty engineers and computer scientists from all over  the world.  There were people from Russia, Mexico, The United States, India, Ukraine and Philippines. Most of them had been working together for years. And yet, they all seemed like strangers to one another.  I was incredibly disappointed. Everything was so impersonal.  At lunch, people ate in their cubicles.  For a building housing a thousand employees, the cafeteria seemed very empty at lunchtime.  It made me miss the company I used to work for in Mayagüez even more.  I desperately needed someone to talk to; otherwise I would explode.  To me, eating alone is depressing.

 A Month Later

Buen provecho! So, it’s like saying ‘I hope the food you eat does you well,’ or ‘I hope you digest your food well.’ There’s no literal translation for it in English. We say it every time we eat,” I explained to my six other teammates in my office.

Uh-en Prohvecho” repeated Yoon, a computer programmer from South Korea as he eyed the Indian recipe Rajesh had brought to share with us for lunch.

“It doesn’t have any eggs, it’s all vegetarian,” explained Rajesh. It was very delicious.  It tasted just like a regular cupcake.

While we ate I hear a knock on the door. “What’s going on here? Is this a party or something?” Joked our Executive Manager as he walked in. “You’re all supposed to be working!”

It did have a certain degree of truth what he said though. We had all been sort of slacking off for almost an hour. It wasn’t until then that I realized that my “office” was full of people —yet again — talking about our times in college, how we said things in our native languages, the latest computer breakthrough or some other random subject.  The people around me looked for excuses for getting out of their cubicles and not work. The room kept becoming smaller by the day.  I never thought being loud and lazy would actually come in handy.

At that moment, I was glad I was Puerto Rican. We all laughed at the manager’s comment and assured him we would get back to work soon.







Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>