Tuesday, May 27, 2008

va pues


The air is pregnant with waiting. Clouds loom and my spirit is weary, aching for the water to finally break through and calm the dust beneath my feet. Listlessness rumbles along the streets and we all watch expectantly. Lightening flashes and all hold their breath, hoping. Finally, finally, the pinging overhead begins. Slight and soft at first, then increasingly faster, forcing everything out of its path. As I sit on this little bench underneath the overhang, I breathe a sigh of relief. All day I have been waiting for this release, and as the water rushes by below my chacos, I am surprised by how much the environment here affects me. There is this silent dialogue passing between my being and the land I am inhabiting. It’s as if he knew I was heavy with this task before me, as he was weighted with the rain overhead. And in midst of the downpour, I found myself letting it rest awhile. By far the most refreshing rain I’ve experienced in a while.


There is an inexplicable sadness that comes with straddling two language spheres. I’ve never really experienced this before, as my times of immersion into a foreign tongue were temporary. Think about the past hour. How many times did you interact with someone? Maybe not in full sentences, or even with words, but there was this ability to communicate your intentions and be understood. When you are living in a language other than your own, the chances of you getting to experience this kind of interaction are slim to none. These kinds of interactions take few if any words, but that is because below the surface dwells an entire world of language, idioms and shared experiences that enable the absence of spoken word. Here there is inevitable lack of language and an inherent stiffness from living within this new garment. Then there is the distance of new relationships, only furthered by my inability to connect. On top of all this, there is the desperate clawing to hold firmly to this new language, only to find it as water, fluid and ever-changing. As I sat in my Spanish class today, I felt this sorrow rise up, a heart aching to connect on a deeper level than my new friendships in English and developing relationships in Spanish. When I speak my mother tongue, I feel like I’m cheating myself out of a chance to further my Spanish relationships, yet not finding the satisfaction that comes from conversations with old friends. When I speak my new language, I often feel small and unsure, aware of my limits and hungry for them to expand. People of course are patient and helpful towards me, but there is this invisibility that comes with learning a new language. I do not have the words to convey much of myself, nor can I fully understand and engage these new friends I am making. The hardest part of this is realizing that my ability to succeed here, to become a part of a community and gain relationships that give rise to development, depends on my ability to communicate. And this is a slow and winding road. Frost said he took the road less traveled, and that made all the difference. What he did not speak of was the fear and doubt that dwell in the shadows of that path, nor the weariness that accompanies a trip into the wild unknown. But it is this bigger “all the difference” that I came for and I knew that days like this would come. I decided a while ago to embrace all that came my way, the lovely and the foul, to be grateful for all that I was allowed to experience. So as I sit in this grey place of vacant language, I will remember the beautiful conversations I have had in the past and look forward to the days that my speech is colored brilliantly in Spanish.


When you don’t have much else, there remains the love within you can offer. I am searching for how to love in this new place. It looks different than I thought it might.


This is me, on a typical weekday night. Spanish music playing on my laptop. Numerous Peace Corps assigned books strewn across my lap and tabletop. Full calendar dictating my every move this week. Drying clothing hanging overhead waiting to be ironed. Chinelas on my feet. And yes, my green fleece sweatshirt. I must be adapting.


Annie Parsons said...

Are you wearing Umbros? You rule. :)

Also: beautiful words.

Sara said...

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,
along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;
I will turn the darkness into light before them
and make the rough places smooth.
These are the things I will do;
I will not forsake them.

Isaiah 42:16

Uncle Paul said...

Hi Sarah.

Thank you for your interesting and insightful words. I am struck with how your new environment is affecting you emotionally and how this is making you grow, change, and explore.

Your post also makes me think about living in LA. The neighbors to the south of Scott and I were from China. They had immigrated to the US some twenty years before, but they still spoke very little English.

Our kitchen windows were separated by only the width of our driveway and a walkway. So it was not uncommon to hear the manic sounds of knives chopping vegetables and smell all sorts of wonderful scents from their kitchen.

Woven amongst the smells and clatter of a busy kitchen was their rapid-fire chatter in Cantonese. I could not understand a single word of what they were saying. But I could always detect whether they were happy or mad by the inflections in their voices.

Soon the subtleties of non-verbal communication will seep into this new world of yours and help build the bridges and connectedness that are developing around you.

Love and hugs to you!