13 May 2008. 2:15pm.
I sit in the dilapidated hallway of the ramshackle building the Facultat de Lletres is stuck in. The once white walls are graying, cracked and webbed with the lines of age, plaster crinkled and breaking off into tiny chunks that haunt the corners. The outline of a garbage can is etched into the wall in front of me, almost like the flash shadow of a bomb. The can itself is on the floor, tipped sideways, spilling crumpled papers in a blast patter like a splattered pumpkin.
Down the hall a couple of meters is a large bucket collecting the rainwater as it puddles through the damp, weather-worn ceiling, each drop eliciting a loud drip in the 20 centimeters or so of water already waiting in the bottom. Not all of the water makes it in the bucket, however, and a slick patch as emerged on the tile floor, slowly seeping through the seems on its merry, destructive way.
While this building and I have developed a certain rapport, and while I'll surely have fond memories of it, it's a hole. It's an embarrassment that the flagship of their Humanities department is in such a state. But hey - go to the chemistry building. It's brand new, air-conditioned, bright, antiseptic, filled with the most modern equipment money can buy. Or the nursing building - also new, also shiny and beautiful.
Of course, it's not like this is new. At Weber, where is the foreign language department currently residing? Oh yes, in the old, abandoned dorm. Teachers whose offices are musty bedrooms, classrooms in stairway foyers.
This is what happens to Humanities departments.
I might as well get used to it. I'm the idiot who wants to spend the rest of his life in this environment, my department being downtrodden, my area of study belittled by those who 'study the true sciences'.
But I'll take all that with a smile, because I understand the intrinsic importance of the Humanities. It's the moral backbone of academia. Other areas - the 'true sciences' - might make life livable through their advances and such, but the Humanities make life worth living.
It's a subtle difference, but one I appreciate all the same.
So I'll grin as I enjoy my yellowed books in my own musty office someday, just as I can't help but smile at the plastered, graying walls here at Universitat Rovira i Virgili.