if you want to be fluent, you should sleep with the dictionary

You know what… writing a blog right now is tricky business. I want to save all of the best stories to tell in person so I can see you laugh at my ridiculous Spanish blunders. For example, ask me sometime about the night we searched for the missing gateman at 4am. The takeaway: Spanish should be a core subject in public school, starting at a very young age. And there should also be a class about cultural awareness. It’s a big world.

Any type of travel forces perspective on your life back home, but this is some next level stuff. I’m learning about tippy taps to decrease vomiting and diarrhea. I’m constantly considering the freedom that is available through good health. I’m learning about self-proclaimed nuns and witnessing an elderly man trust my hands to hold his whole body weight while his head hangs over a 2 meter drop-off.

I mean, it’s just not every day that a pig starts digging through the floor during a financial consultation. I decided that she was just trying to find some cooler soil to make herself more comfortable. Math makes her anxious. I understand.

Most of all, I’m enjoying the novelty of living in a polychronic culture. Drinking in the expanse of nothingness above the volcanoes and trees. The sky here is a massive, porous air filter. Quite a nice change of pace after a few years in a city.

I haven’t forgotten about my friends back in the US. Stay lifted this week. I wish I could march with you.

But I can’t, so here’s some poems. (:

It takes a while to realize you’re laughing in a different language

that the smiles you share haven’t been translated

I didn’t have a camera

the best moments never have one near

they can only be shared with words

these flimsy little words

that fail and break and slip from my brain

so I’ll just tell you
 

of the days I rose with the sun

and shielded Rose from pictures because no le gusta su ropa

and twirled Melanie on my hip in a tango

until her madre asked if I had children of my own

and Yilda talked a mile a minute and pulled me into her home

where I stuttered and smiled and ate an orange

I don’t know how I’ll tell you of the kindness I’ve felt

when I stare in confusion

forgetting the Spanish alphabet and spelling everyone’s name wrong

until tears of embarrassment spill down my cheeks

so I sneak into the kitchen late at night to practice with Myriam

porque ella tiene mucho paciencia

and sometimes we flip pancakes until even the stars are sleepy
 

How can I tell you of the magic of sitting in a Mayan sauna

while a shaman sprinkles plants and herbs on volcanic rocks

and recent strangers turned friends belt out songs

and after, with the rare occurrence of clean hair

drifting to sleep whilst laughing with warm, intelligent roommates


My heart is waking up

witnessing la fuerza de las mujeres

who have been beaten down until their babies are lost

but their faith stands strong

growing crops with organic bio-fertilizer

demonstrating that the less you have, the more you share

“I was born poor, and I’ll die poor, so I want to help others in between.”

Radical Softness

the anti-venom to life
 

once you’ve kissed enough cheeks

and hugged enough children

and botched enough words

you realize that it doesn’t matter who sits in an oblong office

because change is sustainable

and persistent as grassroots

impossible to weed because its seeds travel with the wind

becoming more and more diverse

on using a translator

Look in her eyes!

She is trying to tell you of her life and work

you’re melting toward the dirt floor with the prehistoric, squirmy bugs

dripping with guilt, tightly clutching your privilege

stand tall, darling

speak with your hands

make her smile

the sun has eroded trails in her skin

to tell the stories of decade-long laughter

look in her eyes

you’ll learn more when you let her see you

you’re missing it!

it’s happening ahorita

 

on being a translator

tranquila

you’re here for a reason

this isn’t a dream—it’s hers

and the ears around the circle need you to breathe

think of Manuel tattooing your arm & slipping his tiny hand into your grasp

or Doña Lola’s husband saying, “You’re crazy, and when they put you in jail, I won’t come get you.”

while she protested for her home, her former prison

it’s not broken Spanish—it’s under construction

brainwaves jammed

all circuits firing

HOW DO YOU SAY MACADAMIA NUT

sin verguenza

like the canopy bathed in a hazy mist

do it for the frijoles

charge forward like a scorpion who has stumbled into a bedroom

relajate

I like the way she speaks of him

as a bullet point rather than a natural disaster

not just surviving, but thriving

she mentions his crime

and then her aspirations to surpass his professional success

for herself

I like the way she speaks of sex

joking that there’s not much else to do

taking her own pleasure as seriously as the sea of oppressive men…

            If you stand still long enough as the tide rushes in

            you’ll carve out footholds

            millions of tiny grains of sand turning to cement

            til you become a pillar

erect & unmovable

all because she speaks of him, not covering her pain

/