Saturday, June 26, 2010

the grab bag

The latest story I have heard about the mysterious closure of the cyber café in town is that the key has been lost. Not sure I believe it but whatever the case, there has been no internet in my town for over a month now. Really convenient for keeping in touch! Anyway the result is you get a weirdish blog entry today full of bits and pieces of things I’ve been collecting.

So there is a problem with learning a new language. Learning a language is frustrating in itself, but then once you think you’re starting to get the hang of it you discover that the same thing has five different names. The homemade popsicle-in-a-bag everyone eats here is a posicle, a bolsita, or, if you’re up here living practically in Honduras, a charamusca. The same goes with names: your friend will introduce himself as Ramón, but no one will call him that: he goes by Moncho or Monchito, which is apparently a common nickname. I guess it is the same way in English... the eternal battle between soda vs. pop vs. soda pop vs. coke vs. who knows what else rages on. (It’s soda, by the way.)

Then of course if you want to make life really exciting, throw in a twist like one of your new friends being mute. That always complicates things fabulously. And add on top of that the fact that everyone you hang out with speaks campo Spanish, which seems to mostly involve cutting the end syllables (especially “s”s) off of words. “¡Qué barbara!” does not actually mean “What a Barbara!” but the popular saying “Qué barbaridad!”, campo-style. “This is the way everyone here speaks,” my language tutor keeps telling me, giving me an example of some construction or other. “This is wrong. Do not say this. Here is what you should actually say when you talk to anyone, or everyone will think you are a total hick.”

You can mostly forget the vocab you learned in Spanish class back home, too. According to your textbook “helado” means ice cream... here “helado” means cold, and “eskimo” means ice cream, since that’s the most popular brand of ice cream here. It’s pretty good ice cream, actually; I particularly recommend the coffee flavor, which has actual bits of coffee bean in it.

Here is something I am becoming very weary of already: meetings set up and then indefinitely postponed at the last minute for unknown reasons. Here is something I am even more tired of: meetings no one but you shows up for. Charlas scheduled in classrooms on days no one has school. It’s almost enough to make me miss the solidity of filing and data entry... almost.

People here continue to be completely bemused by the fact that we grow corn in my home state and yet never make tortillas (what else would you do with corn?), and are amused when I say I want to learn how to make them. I keep trying to get people to teach me, but it is sort of like asking people to describe how they breathe. It just is. I think I am closing in on the process mostly by watching someone make them: it seems to involving boiling the corn with “cal” (I have yet to figure out what that is) until it is mushy and submissive, and then rubbing the skins off and grinding it up to make the masa (the dough, that is).

Anyway, that´s all I have for today... I hear we have another tropical storm headed our way, so I´m expecting another solid week or so of rain... at least we had a few weeks of sun to dry out beforehand!

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