Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mi hogar

I got back around 1:00 AM this morning and went to sleep sometime around 3:30. It wasn't jet lag, it wasn't was "difference." Funny how what we call home can change with such ease. In short time this will become home again, I know. But I think for a while I will still listen for the roosters, try to guess what the trucks are selling based on the cries through microphones, and wonder if there is any agua de jimaica to drink downstairs.

It was an experiencce I can not adequately describe and for which I will long be thankful.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Into Being

I always believed in the power of language...but now, after this experience of a month in Mexico, it is far less about the power-potential of language than it is about the sacredness, the preciousness, the tenderness, the life-capacity of language... I understand in a different way the Genesis story. It is no trouble at all for me to believe that God spoke and things came in to being. I saw friendship born in my midst that way these last weeks. I saw love dancing and hearts singing, work happening, and stories being shared. Not perfectly, not even grammatically closeto perfection sometimes, but with the motivation of love and care, the words were clear. Graceful, grace full stuff.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Up on the Roof

Around 8:00 this morning, on the roof with coffee and thoughts. I am realizing only now that the direction I face each morning--toward the cerros (hills)--is in fact toward the East. How instinctive and appropriate. The sun is usually not yet up when I am here. Anotrher thing I notice this morning is that even though the sun is up and casting shadows on the page as I write, there are still lights on in the homes on the cerros. It makes sense that the houses here would see the sun before the houses up there-but nonetheless, I think it is interesting. It is all a matter of angles and physics. The other thing I notice too is that there is still a full moon in the west.


Listening now to Teresa Parodi, an Argentinian folksinger with a lovely, slightly gravelly, alto voice. I wrote an article for the international website yesterday with someone else in the house...a most interesting undertaking. We both wrote ahead of meeting together and upon talking realized our mutual frustration with what we had written! We had both done descriptions...not what actually happened at the meeting. Also, neither one of us wanted two separate articles--one in English, one in Spanish--because that is not how the meeting was. There was a constant rubbing together of the two languages and the cultures they represented, in all of their diversity. We wanted the article to represent that too so we wrote it in pairs of paragraphs, English next to Spanish next to English, etc...

One of the things I noticed was that even though we were expressing the same idea, there remained things ¨que no se sueñen¨ in either English or Spanish. Sometimes my writing partner would change the phrasing of the Spanish and I´d be left speechless by this new image or angle or ray of beauty that suddenly appeared that could not be reproduced in English. This AMAZES me. Words do not have equivelents in other languages! Each word in each language is its own statement, of sorts. You can convey a concept or idea in different languages, but not because the words are the same...only because (if) the concept or idea is comprehensible. A word in English and a word in Spanish is not one word...or even one concept... it is two words and multiple concepts. The vocabulary available for using, describing, painting, poet-ing, just increased exponentially...not because anything changed, save that I gained understanding.

I am in awe at moments like this.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

¡Al Zoológico! Y un poquito mas

I just returned from the Zoo...not something I enjoy so much because the animals all look so very sad to me...but it was a group field trip for about 150 kids. I feel sooo grimy and dusty in almost every place imaginable... The kids had a good time, though. Nearly everything we saw was paired with a kid asking...Y como se dice....en inglés? And how do you English? All of the animals. One of my favorites to say in Spanish is hipopótamo just because it feels so bubbly in my mouth and sounds fun, too.

One of the tricky things is wondering how to reconcile the presence of a fairly decent zoo in the midst of SUCH poverty. One of the mothers who was with my group mentioned how incredibly expensive a ride on the train that takes you all around is. It is the equivelent of a dollar. Many of the people in this colonia are not on a sewer or water system of any kind, but the bathrooms at the zoo were spotless. Probably so as to not offend those who come from the first world face of Leon and not the third world face.

I went up to the roof again this morning after waking up thinking about chess and a conversation I was a part of the other day with a Brazilian who described her understanding of the word ¨conquer.¨ For her, ¨conquer¨ has no connection to power but instead has a relational meaning...a circling, a drawing in, a seduction, until both are assumed into the other. This was in relation to a question in a movie we saw the other night--is it better to satisfy a thousand desires or conquer only one? Satisfy goes only one way whereas conquer goes both ways, for her. It is a lovely understanding, I must confess. And chess seems a great sort of metaphor for it. My subconscious must have thought so too.

On the roof with a cup of coffee, I turned to look again at the surrounding hills and noticed a completely white rabbit hopping across the neighbor´s roof. Between that and the chess\conquer thoughts so early in the morning, it felt like beginning the day in the midst of magic realism. A little different, but not all together unpleasant.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I lift my Eyes to the Hills

Good morning...I just returned from being on the roof of the house with morning coffee and looking up to the hills that surround the colonia where I have been staying. I couldn´t help but think about a song we sing at the parish I attend in NYC...I lift my eyes to the hills...Jerusalem, my destiny...though I can not see the end for me, I cannot turn away...this journey is my one walks alone...the journey makes us one.

The day looks to dawn clear and sunny...a good sign. The bishop is coming to the house for a visit today so we will return from the camp where we teach, do a quick change of clothes, and be prepared to receive him in the living room for a half hour. Should be another sort of adventure, that.

Some of us spent the day in Guanajuato the other day...a city about an hour from here, very colonial, in the mountains, beautiful beautiful beautiful...fresh air, colorful, was a mining town for gold and silver both. We walked around a lot, had popsicles, got something to eat, laughed a lot amongst the group of us who were together. It was fun.

I have been able to eat... carefully but without issue lately...especially since discovering creamy peanut butter in the pantry! Peanut butter on a flour tortilla, food of the gods, I am telling body was in need of protien!

I helped do the grocery shopping two days ago and had a funny thing happen. I was asked to go pick out half a dozen mangoes and I realized, I have no idea what a ready to eat mango looks like! I had to ask what color it should be. The other thing was papaya. I thought, wow, who would have thought fruit would be a point of cultural learning?

Also, thanks to some of the boys I am teaching, I can now throw a top and have it spin! It was ridiculously satisfying when I finally got it. That continues to go well...we have been working with them on the idea of civic responsibility, the rights and coincident obligations of children ( a right to be clothed and the obligation to care for their clothes, pick them up, etc), and the traits of a community that works together.

The translation thing is tiring...being one in the house who understands nearly everything in both languages. I can understand it for myself without problem, but when it comes to having to think about how to explain it to someone, tricky. I find that much of the time I understand the Spanish without intentionally translating it in my head, which is significant growth to me, but in a strange way that I can not completely explain, it also makes it more difficult to translate. I have to intentionally think about how to say what I just understood clearly in Spanish, in English, because I wasn´t thinking about it in English! I hope there is some sense to be found in there somewhere. Going the other direction is tricky too... I have to really think...almost consciously convert my mind into the necessary language...because I spend a lot of time in the land of mental linguistic my mind has become either a neutral mix of Spanish and English that floats here or there or it is simply still and quiet, nearly without language, and it adjusts depending on what it hears. But know how you can hear yourself think? Sometimes I hear myself thinking in English and Spanish at the same time...certain words in English, certain in Spanish. Mental Spanglish, I suppose. It is all rather interesting...because I am at the same time weary and grateful for the gift of being able to straddle languages.

Hoping all is well with everyone...this brings a smile and the glory of the rainbow that I saw from the roof yesterday morning while I was drinking my coffee.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Further Adventures of my time in Leon, Mexico

Some of you have heard bits of this, but I wanted to put it all together... Yesterday brought an adventure of a new sort... we went to mass at the Zoo! Yes, Mass... Zoo... add in Rain... and some INTENSE mud...and a walk of about 3/4 mile in said mud to get to the entrance to the zoo... and you have the makings of an adventure. The mud was unlike anything I have ever encountered. THICK THICK and STICKY STICKY and, judging by the fetid water of the puddles, filled with things I chose not to think too much about as I schlucked my way. I kept thinking, I have no cuts on my feet, water will rinse it off...I have no cuts on my feet, water will rinse it off... Mass was in one of the theaters you´d use for an animal showing. It was to celebrate women who had completed a course of study in a program sponsored by the church for well-being, child care, basic education, problem resolution, etc. It was a big deal... dancing demonstrations followed... even with a light rain. The walk home was by a different route--this time about two miles around a lake. Much less mud...but many more fire ants. Easier to avoid those than the mud.

I was playing a lot at recess today... working with kids on eye-hand coordination. I paired up kids, each with a ball, throwing and catching one to the other at the same time. The game was to see how many exchanges you could do before one or the other dropped the ball. 16 was the highest. Fun stuff. We have one kid in our group who has some significant learning issues... he will go from more or less cooperative to snapping out with his teeth like he will bite fingers to sitting in a corner all by himself, saying nothing and rocking slightly. The others do not know to leave him be which agitates him further. I can´t help but wonder what will happen to him in an environment of such poverty and deprivation.

Now that we have been here for a while, the area knows us and always calls out to us when we walk by... there is a regular refrain of ¨Maestra! Maestra!¨ Teacher! Teacher! as we make our way to school. Alejandro walked with me this morning and was full of details about sticking himself with a needle during a workshop yesterday afternoon. He´s about ten, maybe eleven. Cute.

I am going to the workshop on painting this afternoon. There are thirty some odd kids in that one...all under 8 years old. Two more hands and one more mouth will be welcome.

Hoping all are well... this brings with it a smile, a hug, and the crow of a rooster...a constant here.