Immersion: A Man's Adventure By jAKE sWARTZ

Photo Courtesy of Malkam Hawkins

Traveling to another country means a different culture. This past June, Malkam Hawkins, a 16 year old living in Charlotte NC, decided to combine his hunger for service, and love for the Spanish language/culture, when he journeyed to the nation of Argentina for a two and a half week adventure.

Hawkins tastes the moment of landing in Buenos Aires, where he eagerly searches for his host family. The host family that Malkam stayed with was made up of a single mom and her son, who was in his twenties. Hawkins also bunked with a fellow classmate named Nick. “My roommate and I had to speak Spanish most of the time when we wanted to communicate with the host mom.” Just like his house in the US, Hawkins’s host family had a shower, toilets, sinks, a kitchen, etc. As Hawkins explores the house, he sees something extra in one of the bathrooms, tinkering with curiosity, Hawkins later finds out that it is a bidet. When I asked him about his experience with the bidet.....he said he stayed with toilet paper. As Hawkin’s walks into for dinner, he takes a breath as his eyes hug the unique assortment of Argentina's cuisine. Hawkins says the Argentinians, “eat the same food as we eat just different types.” An example would be milanesa, a dish that involves breaded beef. There is also bread at every meal, and dinner is the largest meal of the day.

Left: Photo Courtesy of Ben Stanfield Top Right: Photo Courtesy of Malkam Hawkins, Bottom Right: Photo Courtesy of Ben Tavener

Hawkins absorbs the opportunity to learning Spanish in a Spanish speaking country. He learned about the culture of Argentina, and what Spanish phrases are unique to Argentina. Most of his time in the classroom was spent learning Spanish, or Argentina’s culture.

His thirst for improving other lives can be demonstrated when he goes to schools in Buenos Aires, and helps out with the underprivileged kids that attend those schools. Hawkins humbly recites, “We would work with the kids in these communities to bring light to their lives and brighten their days.” A dedication of service to even the most remote parts of the world is something that Hawkins strives to live up to. In order to be connected to the community one must know about the History and Culture of a certain place. Hawkins knows this, he is able to attend many museums from History, Science, and Art to better his knowledge of the community he walks among.

Photo Courtesy of Laura Mecias

During his trip Hawkins also went to see Iguazu falls on Argentina’s northern border. As Hawkins laid his eyes on the falls, he was engulfed by his love of learning. “We went to a city by the shore of the Rio de la Plata, a city colonized by the Spanish and Portuguese. It was nice to see the cultural influences of this area.” At this point an already impressed Hawkins got even more impressed by the the amount of culture squeezed into. This adds to the hunger Hawkins has for engulfing adventure and learning.

Photo Courtesy of Malkam Hawkins

Hawkins got to experience some of Argentina’s culture. He recalls, walking down the street and having to greet somebody “by kissing them on both cheeks (air-kisses allowed).” For Hawkins a man of personal space this was a challenge to accept, but he powered through due to his love of learning. He recalls thinking, “This is really weird, but I understand the beauty of another culture. “Buenos Aires has a large Korean population, and most of the people were of Italian descent. When it came to African descent I really felt like I was the only one, that always was in my mind.”

Hawkins also took a risk when it came to security. When going to another country, safety is a concern. “There wasn’t a large police presence, but we had to keep our stuff with us and be aware of our surroundings.” Hawkins also talked about how “professional pickpockets” roam the streets looking for victims, and especially American of European tourists.

Hawkins was able to share how he grew as a person during this trip allowed himself to be a step above who he was before. He says,“Being able to expand my vocabulary in Spanish was truly enjoyable. I also enjoyed getting to immerse myself in a different culture, and serve others through service learning. With this I was able to compare the similarities and differences of the culture and way of life in Argentina and in the US.”

Photo Courtesy of Malkam Hawkins

Hawkins really has a passion for getting involved with other parts of the globe, and using his passion to learn and better the world.

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