When Ruby Hernandez ’11 isn’t playing volleyball—and being named NESCAC Defensive Player of the Year for the second season in a row, she might be riding around the pyramids, bartering in different languages, or preparing to shoot her senior thesis film. Hernandez sat down with The Argus to discuss her globetrotting lifestyle and the joys of good falafel.
The Argus: You’ve been on the Wes volleyball team for four years, and you now have the Wesleyan record for number of digs at 1,933. What does that feel like?
Ruby Hernandez: It feels awesome, kind of surreal. Last year I broke the record for digs in a game and digs in a season. It feels great, but it wasn’t as big of a surprise. It’s an honor to hold that record and I feel like I’ve contributed something to the team in my four years here.
A: Do you think a lot of students have misperceptions about athletes on this campus?
RH: Yes, I do. Athletics aren’t very big here, which is fine, because you don’t come to Wesleyan solely for athletics– there should be other reasons you’re here as well. I think that, on the whole, the athletic community is pretty aware that most people aren’t particularly involved or interested in the sports here. But I don’t think that diminishes how much we care about our sports or how much we try and support other athletes. In my four years here, it’s been difficult being an athlete and a double major and going abroad.
A: You mentioned going abroad. Word on the street is that you were in Cairo–what was the craziest thing that happened to you there?
RH: I got really good at bargaining. There were some times when I was abroad that I felt I didn’t fit in. I struggled a lot with Egyptian Arabic because it is so different from what I had learned here. What you are taught in the States is the written language and nobody speaks it, so wherever you go, you have to learn that dialect. I was struggling to communicate. At the end of the semester I went to buy a backgammon board for my mother at the market, Khan el-Khalili, in the middle of Cairo. I was somewhere deep inside this market and the guy wanted to charge me 25 dollars, which I guess is reasonable. But you don’t buy something without arguing in Cairo. So I started bargaining with him and he recognized that I was American and he was like ‘No, no, you’ll pay this amount or leave.’ So I started screaming at him in Arabic, ‘I’m not a foreigner. This is why you should give it to me.’ He laughed and started joking so by the end of the conversation I had knocked off 5 or 10 dollars.
A: Did you ever ride a camel?
RH: Yeah, kind of. I only got on a camel for a photo-op because they are really smelly and really mean. But we did do horseback rides around the pyramids, which was crazy– they’re really as cool as you think. We were on our way, and we turned around a bend and then all of sudden, bam, there are the pyramids, just hanging out in the middle of the city. It was incredible.
A: You’re double majoring in history and film. Are you doing a film thesis?
RH: Yes, I’m doing a digital film thesis. It’s about two older people who meet outside of a ballet performance and end up talking and in the course of the conversation you find out that they had known each other about 40 years before. They had been lovers and she left without an explanation– you find out why and where they go from there.
A: Sounds scandalous…
RH: A little scandalous, a little risky. I’m working with a Screen Actors Guild actress from central Massachusetts, and I’m working on getting my second actor.
A: I heard you interned on the Migrant Farmworker Justice Project. Tell me about that.
RH: I was in Mexico this summer filming a documentary for them. My boss wanted an expose on H-2A workers. H-2A is the visa they give to foreign workers to work in agriculture. A lot of people think that all the farm workers are illegal immigrants, but, in fact, a good number of them come on visas. There are pros and cons to coming on a visa and coming illegally. Now, at my office, what we do is sue farms that basically enslave the men with visas. When you come to the States they often take your passport and visa, which means you can’t leave and you can’t switch to another farm. There are a lot of wage issues, scams, worker’s comp, and pesticide abuse issues. I interviewed a family this summer, in Florida, whose son was born without arms or legs because the mom worked in the fields until she was eight months pregnant. So I was filming farm workers with their families outside of the context of farm work to see what they did the other six or eight months when they weren’t in the States and how they survive.
A: You’ve traveled a lot. Best food you’ve had – where was it and what was it?
RH: The best and most unexpected food is either Egyptian or Lebanese falafel. They are different kinds of falafel and you don’t have to make it with chickpeas. You can make it with fava beans like the Egyptians. Both types are amazingly good after you get over the fact that the person making it isn’t wearing gloves and probably scratched their butt 20 minutes ago.
A: Can you go back to Mamoun’s here on campus?
RH: I still love Mamoun’s. I think it’s great and it’s parked outside my back door.
A: Now for the last question: If you could be any kind of fruit what kind of fruit would you be and why?
RH: I think about this all the time.
RH: Yeah, I’m always telling my housemates, if I was a fruit, I’d either be a pomegranate or a blackberry because they are both seasonal so therefore in demand and special and really distinctive flavors and blackberry jam is hands down the best jam you could ever get. I could be like an Odwalla, I guess.