Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Cup of Sticks

There’s an enormous wild mint bush growing on our back patio. When I feel so inclined, I boil some of the branches and enjoy a cup of rather feral tasting tea while thinking over my most recent lessons, how many articles from the local paper are about exceedingly distant parts of the world due to the lack of existing actual local news, or why the man with an insufferable perm is so intent upon sabotaging the romance between the muscular archeologist and beautiful memory-loss-ravaged-orphan/circus-acrobat-runaway named “Cielo Magia” (“Heaven Magic”)in the novella I’m following for practice. This just so happens to be one such occasion, but as my stay here is drawing to a close, my cup of boiled-untamed-porch-leaves turns my thoughts to a my confusing emotional state half way between nostalgia and wanderlust- which, according to most reliable dictionaries, are near exact opposites.

I can’t decide if I’m growing to like turning points as their frequency of appearance in my life during recent years allows room for me to grow accustomed to them, or if I’m developing an increasing annoyance for them as they continually recur just as I’m settling in after my exhausting conquer of the last one. I have a feeling there’s a mix of the two in me- though more of the former than the latter. Regardless, I have only twelve more days left here, and that means twelve more days until the next relapse of “what now?” questions and the nagging sense of urgency that comes with them. In theory, I’m putting all these on hold for the time being so I can enjoy the relaxed lifestyle of the Latin world while I still have it, but I won’t say my dreams haven’t been becoming steadily more complicated and filled with characters from past decisions of which new direction to take. (Though I’ve also had a dream about a pet cockroach named Dorothy who wore pink curlers in her antennas and another about riding on swings made out of thick red ribbons tied to the feet of pelicans in the last few weeks.)

Now that I’m taking inventory of everything in my mind, it’s unbelievable how much I’ve learned here. I really feel like something just fell into place in my mind for the first time this week and I’ve been able to communicate with more fluidity than ever. Today I was sitting at the table reading the local news paper while my Mama Tica was making dinner and chatting away, as always. She asked me what I was reading, to which I answered, “Según este artículo, ha sido un epidemico de cólera en Zimbabwe hace casi dos años; yo pensaba que no la existía más en ningún parte del mundo.” Which is, “According to this article there’s been a cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe for almost two years; I thought it didn’t exist anymore in any part of the world”. I think one of these verbs were conjugated wrong if not more that I didn’t notice, but even still, I nearly spilled my plate of rice out of shock when I realized a few seconds later I was having a conversation about plagues in various regions COMPLETELY IN SPANISH after only a little over 2½ months of being here!
The human mind is such an incredible thing… and the force of wanting something as well…
I’m convinced that if I hadn’t wanted this as badly as I do I could easily have left here with no more understanding of the language than it takes to make some grammatical flashcards. But I feel like every part of me grows in proportion to the development of my understanding. As if I’m actually expanding from within to make room for this second world that now must be accommodated because I can never again simply stop knowing about how different history and existence looks here. I don’t know why I feel it to be such an improvement. In all honesty, I would try somewhere else if I decided to live in a Latin American country for an extended period of time. There are a lot of factors that come into play… the sort of lack of national identity I’ve yet to formally address here that causes every wisp of influence from the outside to be accepted with open arms and make things feel in many ways unsteady and unoriginal… the 73% divorce rate caused almost exclusively by infidelity which has created an enormous disenchantment with the idea of matrimony, virtually obliterated the thought of father figures entirely, and thereby resulted in generations of men who manage to be both domineering and dependent toward their women… the less important but nevertheless evident personal preference I have for styles of music/art/dress ect that are very different than those provided here… Don’t get me wrong, there are reasons to stay too. But I can’t help enjoying the idea that learning to understand other people-regardless of the location- changes you so significantly. I have a feeling I could continue expanding in this way through empathizing equally with people when I’m home again too, but when you’re busied with your every-day life nothing seems to prompt the need for such understanding- at least not to the same extent as in these cases. Anyway, the point is that I hope to maintain as much of the differences I’ve encountered in these few months after this is all over as possible- especially my Spanish. Though I suppose I never will learn what happens with that turbulent history behind all the fake curls and muscles and circuses in the end. I seriously doubt they have much of an audience in the states.

1 comment:

Alaina and (Patrick) said...

ashley, I love reading your posts I'm so proud of you. I'm sorry we keep missing your calls. From 6-8 the next two nights I'll leave the phone on in case you can call. there are some things i need to talk to you about. Love, your sister.