My Visa arrived today for my Fulbright semester at the University of Porto, so it seemed to be the right time to begin this blog and write the first post. But first, a disclaimer: This site/blog is not an official Fulbright Program site. The views expressed on this site are entirely those of me–Mary Beth Rauktis– and do not represent the views of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations.
I’ve given a lot of thought to what I hope to accomplish in writing a blog. Of course I will share photos of the great food and the city, and let my friends and students know what I’m up to . However, the Intent of the Fulbright Program is to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. Mutual understanding can only happen through listening and judging by daily events in the world, that seems to be a lost art. I am guilty of not listening and only listening so that I can speak. When I’m engaged usually I’m thinking of what I will say or write.
Learning the Portuguese language forced me to really, REALLY listen. For most of the semester sitting in class, I imagined it was what dogs hear when we talk to them…..whawhawha FOOD whawhawha WALK whawhawha GOOD BOY. I would hear a few words and could string together a rough understanding of what she was saying but I could not always understand most of the words. So I was forced to “listen” with all of my senses–eyes and ears–watching her face, her hands, her body language, observing my classmates (and praying that she wouldn’t call on me). After an hour I was exhausted with the effort of listening but it helped me to think of how I will need to practice listening when I am in Porto. I am not just referring now to the language (I have improved–now I am at pre-schooler level). So, that was the reason for the name of this blog, and I promise that in the next few months that you will read about my efforts.