Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Running Revelations

You know you are no longer in the throes of the tedium of coursework when the content of the communication from and between your schoolmates drastically shifts gears.

During the year, e-mails are circulated from compassionate classmates who are kind enough to provide advice for upcoming exams or hints at how to arrive at the solutions to finance cases. The standard e-mails include ideas as to what would be the best positioning for a new product concept in marketing or good websites in which to find information for upcoming research papers.  

And then, as suddenly as the first year of the MBA ended- the communication between the students shifted as well. I opened my inbox to find emails from the same familiar people with the same guiding tones, but the type of advice was significantly altered.

In the case of Friday’s e-mails, the advice being circulated was regarding the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. A large group of us decided to partake in the celebrations and were preparing for the yearly festival when the wise-worded reminders began popping up cautioning and advising…

 Should you have the misfortune to fall or trip up, stay down hugging the ground without moving except to cover your head with your hands. When the stampede has passed, someone will give up a tap on the shoulder to let you know you can get up in safety. Don't try to run behind the bulls. Don't attempt to touch the bulls. A lot of people seem to want to touch the bulls for some strange reason. They shouldn’t be touched even in the slightest way, as there is another potential risk in distracting their attention. Don't stand still during the run. When everyone starts running, you must run too.

If you want to be a spectator, stay on the other side of the fence. The only reason you cross over that fence is to run. Fan out when you run into the ring. Spread out when you get through the entrance to the ring and head for the barriers round the edge of the ring. Should you find yourself in the middle of the ring, you are in the path of the bulls who can move much faster than you, you are in a totally defenseless situation, as well as being a disturbance to the drovers in their work. Don't disturb the drovers and herders. These people are responsible for getting the bulls into the bullpen as quickly as possible. The quicker they do it, the less danger there is. Don't carry anything on you when you run. If you can’t find a safe place to leave your pack, video camera or whatever, then just forget about the idea of doing the run."

 And so on and so forth…

Gotta love friendly advice from classmates.

 I suppose kindness and concern can translate from class to the bullring after all.

Another major realization- and one of the saddest ones this year to date is that I have aged considerably. The words, “I think I’m getting too old for this stuff” actually came out of my mouth. I never thought they would- I never thought I would be one of those people who “gets too old” for things.

But at about four in the morning, stumbling around the city strewn with passed out partygoers and mounds of trash, noting the ubiquitous drunkards sprawled across any green patch of land they could find, covered in wine and bodily fluids, snoring and shivering- I realized I was not a part of it. I was wearing the typical white and red- I was drinking- I was being festive- I was happy to be there and I was dancing- but I wasn't really part of it.

Maybe I was too sober. Maybe I was too sane.

Or maybe, as I think I finally realized, I have just grown up too much to savor drunken stupors and citywide slumber parties. San Fermin- the running of the bulls, is no more a cultural festival than full moon parties at Koh Phangan in Thailand (another party I am not so sure I could ever take again). I don't think that the event, the encierro, is any longer like what Hemingway described in “The Sun Also Rises." It's more of a bunch of English speaking tourists (Americans, Brits, Australians)- and a few other cultures thrown in, even some Spaniards- who all made the pilgrimage to the region of Navarra (my pilgrimage being a 6 hour bus ride)- to get drunk and risk being gored by the horns of a mistreated bull. The beautiful and well-kempt city had become a dump- a literal dump.

At least there was uniformity in the clothing. And I did have fun. The fireworks were great. But I really am too old for this stuff- regardless of how much beer I consume before, during and after…I think I’ve crossed over the barrier from festival-goer to resort-guest. Or at least somewhere in between.

Nonetheless, I’m glad I went. Afterall, it was just another experience indicative of my short stint in Spain, getting to know- even better and on different levels- all the people that are sharing this MBA experience with me. Glad I did it. But glad it’s over.

I think that may be the end of festivals for me. To quote (in my own context of course) the man who made the Running of the Bulls famous,"You know it makes one feel rather good deciding not to be a bitch." 
-Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

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