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The 6:27 train

Marisa Iati | Monday, November 19, 2012

TOLEDO, Spain – Europeans walk very slowly compared to Americans. It drives me nuts.

I grew up in the shadow of New York City, where keeping it moving is basically a cardinal rule.
Northeasterners rarely stop and smell the roses.

Spaniards, however, do. Takeout food is, quite literally, a foreign concept. People eat meals in a leisurely
manner and usually with family or friends. Many shops close for la siesta, which originated as a time for sleep
but has turned into a chance for employees to eat la comida (lunch) with their families. If you order coffee in
a café, the employee assumes you want to drink it there unless you specify otherwise, which will also cause
you to mark yourself as a foreigner. It is an entirely different way of living.

Americans often fall into the trap of thinking our way is the right way to do everything, but it’s possible our
perspective about the ideal pace of life is flawed. Maybe it’s not how slowly they walk here, but how quickly
we walk at home, that should actually be driving me crazy.

I’ve had many exciting experiences while abroad, but many of the moments that stand out are times when I
paused and took a deep breath.

One of my favorite parts of the semester so far was stopping to listen to una violinista (violinist) play “Ave
Maria” outside the Cathedral of Barcelona. Another was sitting on a ledge, looking outward from Toledo as
the sun illuminated the surrounding neighborhoods.

During my fall break in Rome, I climbed the Scala Sancta (Holy Steps, in Italian). According to Christian
tradition, Jesus climbed these stairs to receive judgment from Pontius Pilate, and St. Helena brought them to
Rome in the fourth century. Pilgrims come from all over the world to climb the Scala Sancta on their knees,
the only way permitted.

When I took my turn on the 28 stairs, I had to pause my running around the city. It was just me and my
prayers for an hour. As I climbed, my knees began to hurt. The stairs are painful, and at some point, climbing
turned into crawling. It was a humbling reminder of my humanity. If I hadn’t slowed down that day in Rome, I
would have missed that feeling completely.

We are always on a deadline. We have to make the 6:15 a.m. train. The meeting is in 10 minutes. Our project
is due in a week. Some of these deadlines are important. If I don’t submit my project on time, I might fail the
assignment. But if I miss the 6:15 a.m. train, can I not take the 6:27 a.m. train instead?

If our sole objective is to get from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible, we might miss the small moments
that make daily life worthwhile.

Maybe I should train myself to walk more like Europeans do.

There is always the 6:27 a.m. train.

Contact Marisa Iati at miati@nd.edu