Letters to Tariq

Denver, October 14th, 2016

Dear Tariq,

First of all, let me tell you that I hope that you and your family are in good health and that you are enjoying your life in Amman.  It has been quite a long time since the last time we talked and since that day, many things have changed.  Of course, as is normal in life, some changes were expected, others not so much.  Let me give you some of the highlights: to begin with, we added a new baby girl to our family of three (making us a family of four); also, our little boy started going to preschool and he is learning to read, which is very exciting in its own right.  We also, and here comes the real shocker, moved to a new place.  I know… you didn’t see that one coming…  After having spent eight years in the very flat geographical center of the United States, our family decided that we would move to Denver, the capital city of Colorado.

Let me tell you, my friend, it was not an easy decision.  We left behind many good friends, the comfort of our old house, a routine that had been in place for quite a while and that made life easier, our jobs and colleagues, our students…  but here we are now, starting anew!  To tell you the truth, I love this city and I am happy we made the move.  There is something about the light in Denver that makes me feel at home although I have only been here for less than 10 months.  I also love the view of the mountains when I am riding the Light Rail to go to work, and the sun, and the coolness in the air in the morning.  The people are also really nice.  It is not uncommon to see people wearing orange colored clothes on the days when the city’s football team, the Denver Broncos, play a game.  There is a great culture of outdoors activities and people seem pretty happy and fit.  It may be me, but I get the impression that people in Denver like to walk more than in other places in this nation.  It is also a city that is growing at an incredible rate and that it is very diverse, which we appreciate a lot.  Many cities try to market themselves as vibrant to attract business, but I think that Denver is the real deal: the downtown area is full of cool places, the parks are packed with people spending time together, the cultural offering is outstanding and the locals complain about the traffic, an undisputed sign of vibrancy in the modern world.

Of course, I also have a new job, new students, new colleagues, and some new friends.  I started working in the First Year Success program at MSU Denver as a professor of Spanish.  It is an interesting job.  Apart from teaching my regular classes, I also have to support first-year students (what they call “freshmen” in the US), and to help them to be successful in their academic endeavors.  I think it is a great thing that an academic institution offers this type of service for the students.  I still remember when we met as young university students in Scotland; you were studying law, I was studying literature.  I remember how lost we were about a million things and how we had to rely on each other to find out about a million things about university life.  I remember how we became friends, and the long conversations at Richmond Place, smoking cigarettes under the umbrellas and commenting on the international news that came from your country and from mine.  Well, here I feel that I can be of help to students just like we were, and hopefully to some who might be lost in some of the same ways we were.  And that is something that motivates me (and my colleagues, I get the impression) every day.

Well, Tariq, it is time that I start wrapping this letter up.  I just looked at the clock and realized that I need to start getting ready for my next class.  We have been working on a short story by Elena Garro, a Mexican writer.  The short story we are reading is titled La factura (“The Bill”), and deals with the hardships and problems of being a foreigner with not a lot of money in a foreign country.  Ring a bell?

Best regards to you and your family from your friend in luminous Denver,



Manuel Urrutia Zarzo, First Year Success Faculty


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