Dois anos

Two years

 “I learned more in 1 day than I could’ve read in 200 books.”  “He went to Africa to become rich”.  Phone numbers of my new friends.  Pingado, galão, café cheio.  Cultural events for the week of March 5th.  Map for an apartment rental.  Oxford school language classes.  Easy Jet. Edmundo, Mex.  Vício.

The first few pages of my notebook- 2007.  The journey had just begun.  Do you ever thumb through the random notes, not the diary stuff, but the little reminders and daily do-isms that kind of mark your activity-passivity-productivity map?  Pretty amazing how we travel through time and space.  Where we were then and where we are now.  What and who pass through our lives, what dissipates and what permeates.

I can’t even begin to summarize the journey.  No need for that.  But it’s always good to take a few moments for reflection.  Each day.  There’s always a slice of magic.  Sometimes we just don’t see it until we look back. 

Today in my ‘beginners’ class I was teaching colors.  When we got to ‘pink flowers’, my student, struggling to pronounce flowers, manages to say, “I love Pink Floyd”.  And his colleague immediately points to the label she had just stuck up and says, yeah, the “wall”.  It was fantastic. And when my advanced student earlier in the week was trying to say ‘sheets’ but her vowels sounded much more like ‘shits’ and I said ‘be careful, because someone might easily confuse that for something else.’  She knowingly smiled and another student chimed in and said, ‘yeah, but at least shit isn’t plural.’

People make the experience.  I’m fortunate to speak the language and hence participate in things on a different level than those who don’t.  I’m still learning and feel that now I really need to make a disciplined effort to make progress since my days are inundated with the English language.  Sometimes nothing seems to come out right.  Or I’m just tired and don’t want to bother.  And other days it just flows without second thought.  But in general, I’m content with my progress and can converse and sound mildly intelligent and on special occasions actually sound funny.  Well I’m sure I always sound funny.  After all, my friend’s daughter imitates my accent at the dinner table with her parents. But what I meant to say is that every now and then I manage to crack a joke.  No matter how adept you are at speaking another language, I feel like you’re really only 100% you in your native one.  I’m not as funny in Spanish or Portuguese, and considering that I’m not all that funny in English, it makes it even worse.  There are parts of me that will only be revealed in my own language.  So I feel like they really only get 3/4ths of me here.  I guess that’s the exchange rate service charge.    

Being somewhere else is also learning about the other places that surround that place.  Too many places?  Where else would you hear that second quote I listed above? It blew me away too when I heard it.  The first week I got here I heard some guy talking about Angola and all of the earning potential there.  I thought he must be crazy.  Two years later I’ve learned a lot more about Africa than I ever knew from IDS at UCLA.  Well, that’s not a fair comparison.  But try São Tomé and Príncipe, Cabo Verde, Guiné-Bissau, Angola, and Mozambique.  All of the ex-colonies that mark a part of this country’s identity, be it through the presence of immigrants, stories of war, the Creole I hear on the bus, food, labor. 

Each day I see or hear something that marvels me, for better or worse.  Try this one.  Today a friend was talking about naming a new baby that was born here.  There isn’t much name diversity because the ‘list’ to choose from is not that extensive.  List?  Yes, as in approved names the state allows you to use.  Is this a dictatorship?  I thought they abandoned that over 30 years ago.  When I hear little things like this that make my eye-brows rise it actually helps explain a lot.  Helps me understand why things are the way they are.    And now that I’ve just criticized their baby naming criteria, I guess I should ask…do we do that too?  Where’s the list?

And so.  Until the next. Reflection. 

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~ by maureenmoore on February 14, 2009.

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