Have you ever played that game where one person will say a word or phrase and you have to say the first word that comes to your head? Like if you said David Bowie, I'd say glitter, and if you said Miami Vice, I'd say tan suit. Dirt would be my response if you said Socorro, New Mexico. As a born coastal North Carolinian, I'm no stranger to sand and dried sea salt covering me and my belongings after a day out on the water, but here in the dusty land of infinite tumbleweeds, the dirt is an entirely different beast. Shoes, backpacks, shorts, and even contact lenses became slightly more brown every day, and it became increasingly difficult to distinguish between a dirt line and a tan line after each hour of hiking or field training.
While the New Mexican devil-dust that somehow knew how to find it's way up my nose was a whole new business, I think I managed to take what I'd learned the hard way from many windy days on the beach and twist it into a number of relevant solutions for dealing with the dirt. I remembered to not eat my apples facing the wind and to apply sunscreen early so it wouldn't be sticky when I went outside. The American Southwest is one of my favorite regions in the world, and while it presents me with a number of new elements that I wouldn't usually encounter at home, I wouldn't have it any other way. The dirt here in Socorro wasn't worse than east coast beach sand, it wasn't harder to deal with, and it wasn't any more uncomfortable (once I took my contacts out). It was just different, and amongst the sun-bleached cow skulls and twisty desert trees with knots that could make Nicki Minaj jealous, I learned to adapt.
Obviously, I can't just talk all about dirt here. Let me bring out the metaphor so things make a little more sense, but first, some context: I am a math and computer science double major at North Carolina State University. I understand basic earth processes, and I learned a lot about basalt and vesicular rocks in Geology 101. My geophysical knowledge is limited, but I know how to handle coding, modeling, and the other things that I do. In the same way the dirt in Socorro caught me off-guard, the material taught here required some rapid adjustment in order to work my way up the learning curve as quickly as possible, but I've really enjoyed drawing connections from what I know best to a completely new subject. I have a great California summer ahead of me to master all the challenges presented this week in Socorro, but I have my feet on the ground and my Terminal open and ready to rock. I'm ready to handle whatever the high-altitude winds blow my way, as long as it's not dirt onto my sandwich again.
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