ENG 315 Journal 3

Last summer I decided to take a huge step out of my comfort zone. I studied abroad in Costa Rica for a month, until then, I had never flown, been out of the country, and had never been away from home for longer than six days. I didn’t know anyone else going on the trip, and my professors were natives to Costa Rica, so it was difficult to follow lectures. Despite these difficulties, I wanted to explore a world different from my own conventional life, away from family and friends, away from high speed internet and cell phone reception, and away from shopping malls and commercial buildings. I did just that. However, while there, I found myself in a personal maze. The library is universally known as a symbol of knowledge. In today’s society, knowledge is readily available in all forms, making it very accessible for people to acquire it. Ironically, in “The Name of the Rose” this way of thinking is reversed. Truth and knowledge is withheld from the layman, for fear of self-formulated ideas against the Catholic Church. In a conversation between Adso and Brother William, Adso conveys his concern on the issue, “And is a library, then, an instrument not for distributing the truth but for delaying its appearance?” (pp. 286). The labyrinth in the library is used to keep knowledge from the “unworthy”, to defend the knowledge held within it in an attempt to preserve the church’s control over Western civilization. It was built with the idea of restricting people from entering. The strange mirrors placed in positions which distorts anyone who looks into it, the incense which invokes visions upon smelling, and of course the intricate maze. Brother William and Adso find themselves lost in this labyrinth several times. I found myself in a similar situation during my stay in Costa Rica. Overwhelmed with the foreign country, new people, different classes, and away from the comfort of my family, I walked myself right into an emotional labyrinth. The labyrinth in the library, and the labyrinth in my mind, though distinctly different in structure, both prevented something; independence. Denying people truth and knowledge, denies them the freedom of thinking for themselves, though I never lost the entitlement of thinking for myself, I lost the ability to think clearly, free from distractions and anxieties. Anxiety was something I struggled with for a couple of weeks, until an unexpected experience led me to find the way out of my emotional state. One day I decided to venture into town to find an internet café to Skype with my mom and sisters. Having never been to the town before, I was forced to use my Spanish speaking skills to locate the café in a short amount of time, because class was to start in promptly 30 minutes. Walking alone in the streets of this foreign country, with my laptop on my back, in the pouring rain, being chased by dogs in the streets, and yelled at by policemen, I looked like a complete foreigner and I found myself at the very heart of my mental labyrinth. All control had been stripped away, leaving me feeling defenseless, and I eventually broke down in a quiet cry at the corner of a street. Earlier, I noticed a group of men leaned up on the side of a bar watching me in my panicked frenzy. While I was crying I failed to recognize one of them had walked up to me, asking me my name, and telling me to talk to him. There was a moment of realization, after I had seen the man, and before I said anything, when I finally understood that control is not something I can have at all the times, there comes a point in time when you have to simply let go. So I decided to let go, to open up, to take a leap and trust a strange man smoking a cigarette on the side of a shady bar in the heart of Costa Rica. Obviously, because I am sitting here writing this paper, the man was not a serial killer; he was a legitimate kind man, who helped me find the café. Mentally, I was set free from my anxieties through this experience, and it was in doing so, I found my way out of the maze.

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10 Responses to ENG 315 Journal 3

  1. Angela Dancik says:

    This story made me so sad! Like I just told you, I teared up! I can’t believe you went off to a shady bar [let alone in the pouring rain..] by yourself! I completely understand why you had your emotional breakdown on the street corner though, I feel like I would’ve done the same thing. Studying abroad is the longest I’ve been away from home, and the issues we face with communicating with family back home definitely puts a damper on the days where you get the pangs of homesick-ness. When we were saying our goodbyes at Walsh the morning we left, I was so excited to venture off, but found myself crying as I said goodbye to my best friend and family, even my poor dog! It helps, though, when you have the tight group that we do and are able to form a ‘family away from families’ kind of friendship. And we would definitely not let you venture off anywhere on your own, rain or shine, to a shady bar with creepy men smoking cigarettes outside!

    I also liked your description of the labyrinth of the maze. I agree, it seems like it was designed that way (by whom, we wonder..) to invoke some kind of mystery, and that the power to withhold information would lie with the librarian. Coming from the standpoint of an English major, I find that anyone that inhibits or withholds information that could lead to the progression of knowledge is just silly. Everyone should be entitled to learn, even if it’s just to benefit their own mental capacity. I liked your quote “Denying people truth and knowledge, denies them the freedom of thinking for themselves” because increasing someone’s knowledge does enhance the right to think for themselves. In their own way, everyone should receive and have the privilege to learn as much as their heart’s content, whether that is through the portal of a library or real-life experiences like your adventure in Costa Rica. I really liked your story, thank you for sharing it! : )

  2. alysonsliman says:

    “Denying people truth and knowledge, denies them the freedom of thinking for themselves” . i really liked how you used this quote, when people are denied the basic right of truth and knowledge they are being stripped of their own freedom to be able to think and have their own opinion and knowledge about things. I believe you are right, that this is what happened in the labryinth, some of the monks were withholding information to anyone outside of the library and because of that, they were inhibiting the ability for anyone to have a different apporach or way of thinking to that specific information.

    Listening to your story about the cafe retold makes me just as anxious and nervous as it did the first time you told it last summer. I don’t know how you went through such a scary and anxiety filled situation, putting yourself in a position in which you were so open and vulnerable for anything to happen. You were left with a lot of unknowns, you did not have the knowledge of the way around town, you were unfamiliar with speaking fluently to the natives, and you were completely alone. You were stripped of your ability to be comfortable and speak and know where you were going, and you were left with a decision, do you trust an unknown sketchy man who is offering his help, or do you walk away-leaving yourself in the same position as you started, lost and soaking in an unknown town.

    Your leap of faith led you to the cafe and led you to a short skype session with all of us back home. You were able to have a little bit of piece of mind, seeing familiar faces and hearing voices that were recognizable and speaking English! You were able to break down that mental maze and grow from the experience, making you a very wise and street smart woman that is able to navigate yourself around any town or city.

    Great journal Alyson!

  3. sarahsliman says:

    “Denying people truth and knowledge, denies them the freedom of thinking for themselves” . i really liked how you used this quote, when people are denied the basic right of truth and knowledge they are being stripped of their own freedom to be able to think and have their own opinion and knowledge about things. I believe you are right, that this is what happened in the labryinth, some of the monks were withholding information to anyone outside of the library and because of that, they were inhibiting the ability for anyone to have a different apporach or way of thinking to that specific information.

    Listening to your story about the cafe retold makes me just as anxious and nervous as it did the first time you told it last summer. I don’t know how you went through such a scary and anxiety filled situation, putting yourself in a position in which you were so open and vulnerable for anything to happen. You were left with a lot of unknowns, you did not have the knowledge of the way around town, you were unfamiliar with speaking fluently to the natives, and you were completely alone. You were stripped of your ability to be comfortable and speak and know where you were going, and you were left with a decision, do you trust an unknown sketchy man who is offering his help, or do you walk away-leaving yourself in the same position as you started, lost and soaking in an unknown town.

    Your leap of faith led you to the cafe and led you to a short skype session with all of us back home. You were able to have a little bit of piece of mind, seeing familiar faces and hearing voices that were recognizable and speaking English! You were able to break down that mental maze and grow from the experience, making you a very wise and street smart woman that is able to navigate yourself around any town or city.

    Great journal Alyson!

  4. Oh my goodness Alyson, I’m so glad that you’re alright! That must have been such a scary experience, I couldn’t even imagine!
    I’m really happy that the man was able to help you out (and that he wasn’t a serial killer). I can see what you mean about the library and your mind both being labyrinths in the way that they both hinder independence. I wonder if Adso and Brother William would have been able to escape the library if they had not had each other. Certainly, they would have succumbed to anxiety; I couldn’t imagine that it would be possible to be in such a situation without extreme panicking.

  5. Alyson, I really liked this journal, and I appreciate you sharing such a vulnerable moment in your life with everyone! First of all, thanks God that you were okay and that the man was nice and not a gross and weird creep. Honestly, I’m not sure if it’s a trust issue or just a girl thing, but when I was reading I really thought that man was going to a psycho. I’m so glad that instead he was nice and helped you find the cafe!

    There are two things in your journal that really stood out to me. Firstly, I can identify with how you felt homesick being away for a month from your family and friends. This is my first time away from home and many days I think about my family, how much they would enjoy Italy, and how great it would be if they were all in Europe with me. I consider myself an independent person, I don’t like to rely on others for any sort of help, but while I’ve been here, I have had to rely on others often. However, I’m learning that just because you ask people for help, it doesn’t mean that you are weak. In a way, it almost makes you more independent and strong because you are one, being brave enough to acknowledge when you need help, and two, taking the steps on your own to acquire that help. Maybe that was another revelation that hit you when you were lost in Costa Rica? God knew you needed help, and you were courageous and strong enough to accept this help from a complete stranger.

    Secondly, I admire how you were brave enough to venture out on your own in an environment where you knew very little and felt uncertain about. You also do this in Rome, and I that takes a great deal of courage. Great journal Alyson, Thanks for sharing!

  6. dwiddler says:

    Wow! You were incredibly brave for going to Costa Rico pretty much by yourself. I know you had the support of the group you travelled with, but that takes a lot of kahunas for your first trip outside the country. I cannot imagine the anxiety you endured from the overwhelming amount of new things. Italy has to be a piece of cake compared to Costa Rico. Things get pretty crazy here but if I had to guess I would put Costa Rico in the Third World category, which is a completely different story. I do see the connection between the labyrinth in The Name of the Rose and your trip, but I see that going to Costa Rico in the first place, basically emotionally alone, as independence. You had it from the beginning.

  7. sslopek says:

    It sounds like you had a very stressful experience. I’m glad you were able to resolve your emotional distress and enjoy the trip. I can only imagine how much worse you would have felt if you didn’t know Spanish. Being able to skype with family makes that kind of trip much easier. It sounds like a completely world than going from the U.S. to Italy. You were probably a lot more mentally prepared for Italy than the students that haven’t left their home country before. If you only had 30 minutes to find the café, skype, and get back, were you late for class?

  8. pizzaguy656 says:

    Alyson, I give you a lot of credit for going to Costa Rica, to study abroad in all those tough circumstances being thrown at you. I believe that God tests all of us in mysterious ways when you least expect it. The ambition you had to carry out laptop in the pouring rain and trying to find the café to skype your family in a tight time restriction is nuts. When being in a foreign country with nothing to communicate with must have been tough. Opening up, and not being in control I’m sure was not the easiest thing to do but taking risks is part of life. William at times in the library did not have control of tricks and traps set up. He had to think on the spot and believe in himself to get out safe. Great story and Journal!

  9. Beautiful, compelling way of connecting these two texts, Alyson.

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