Eso es alcanzar lo más alto,

lo que tal vez nos dará el Cielo:

no admiraciones ni victorias

sino sencillamente ser admitidos

como parte de una Realidad innegable,

como las piedras y los árboles.

Jorge Luis Borges

Fervor de Buenos Aires (1923)

This is the best that can happen,

What heaven perhaps will grant us:

Not to be wondered at or required

To succeed

But simply to be let in

As part of an undeniable Reality,

Like stones of the road, like trees.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Ups and downs of language immersion

I was talking with a friend yesterday who had moved to Canada 15 years ago and began learning English from scratch while living there.  She mentioned that her language learning was filled with inclines where she could learn new material, and plateaus where her brain couldn't absorb anything else and she was forced just to use and integrate the language she already had, regardless of how painful it could be.  This was good to hear because at school I keep cramming more grammar structures into my brain, and am currently working on the subjunctive which is very common in Spanish.  It's something like when we say in English "I wish I knew".  But it seems like the more I try to cram into my brain, the more falls out.  And so at this point I'm stuck just trying to use what I know, regardless of how frustrating it can be.  Take for example the verbs "ser" and "estar" which both mean "to be" but are not interchangeable.  Each one has two forms in the past tense (preterito and imperfecto) which also are not interchangeable, so when I want to say "I was..." I am stuck trying to remember which one of the four verbs (fui? era? estuve? estaba?) I should use.  My mac has that little spiral spinning thing that lets me know when it's overloaded and can't process any more.  I'm pretty sure my glazed-over eyes give the same signal to people when I just don't understand or can't communicate what I'm trying to say.

The other thing is that I have days where I can have interesting conversations in Spanish (for example friday evening with a guatemalteco who's a friend of mine here) for hours at a time, and then it's like my brain is completely used up and I can't remember how to say, "good morning" at the breakfast table the next day.

Other little things also get on my nerves.  Like when another gringo who has lived in central america for 5 years says something in Spanish that is obviously more fluent than mine and everyone here is so impressed with how intelligent this person is, I feel like beating their heads together.  But I think that might go against the MCC mission of peace.  So instead I smile and meekly agree.

On the other hand, I feel completely free of malaria or whatever it was that left me a feverish mess for four weeks.  I know I lost a lot of motivation during that time but that's another story.  I'm trying to think of a nice uplifting wrap up to this post but I can't really.  Just waiting and looking forward to the next bunch of changes that will be happening in about 2 weeks.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Happy Birthday to me

Thanks everyone for all the email and facebook happy birthday messages today!
So this year for my birthday I seem to have gotten a special present... malaria.  Remember when I was sick as a dog for about two weeks and went to a doctor who told me it was an intestinal infection gone bad and gave me antibiotics but the antibiotics weren't fighting it?  Well I went to a specialist (internal medicine) at the best hospital in Guatemala at the end of last week when I had finished the antibiotics and wasn't any better and he is convinced that I have malaria.  It can show up quite a bit later after the mosquito bite so I'm pretty sure I got it in El Salvador over Christmas.  The problem is that I don't have a positive blood test because apparently the malaria bugs are only detectable in the blood when there is a fever, and even though I had 2 blood tests done, I didn't have a fever either time because the fever is unpredictable and comes and goes at strange times.  So now I am just sweating a lot at night and pretty tired during the day.  The family I live with is really nice and they repeatedly tell me that if I ever wake up in the middle of the night from a fever I am supposed to wake them up so we can drive down to the emergency room and get my blood test.  So now I am just waiting for the fever to come back so that I can get the blood test because apparently you can't get the malaria meds without one.  What a fiasco.
I am partly frustrated because I missed some classes over the last two weeks and even when I was at school I didn't have the energy to do much so I feel like I've been at a standstill in my Spanish learning.  On the bright side I like where I am living, the family owns a restaurant out of their home so there are lots of different people in and out which is giving me opportunities to practice speaking in Spanish with lots of different people.  And my host mom is a great cook and she was asking me what my favourite foods are yesterday (I said lasagna or mexican food and chocolate cake) so we'll see what's in store for me this evening!
And I've had some other friends here in Guatemala talk about getting together this week so I think that will be fun.