Espanol or No Espanol? That is the question.

With my English group broken up and everyone going different directions, Vanessa to a little town to the East of Taxco, Sarah and Lili to a little town in a westerly direction, I have been immersed in Spanish “en todo.”

I don’t care what the language courses say about learning a language the way children do — by hearing it spoken; it does not work well for me that way. (Aren’t there studies that show that a child’s gift for learning language via the spoken word tends to disappear about age 5  when they begin to learn to read? ) I need to see the words, not just hear them.

BB learns Spanish

For me, learning a language is very difficult when there is no one to give me an explanation  of the word, even something as simple as “This is that.”  You can use visual clues for animate objects (table, chair, door, etc.) but what about things you can’t touch (feelings or ideas)?  How do you explain or understand the rules of the language (“I…” verbs end in o, or the difference between feminine and masculine articles  – an important concept in Spanish that makes no sense to an American who only uses a, an, or the.)

Adult language is filled with concepts and ideas, the untouchables of the world, and it can be very frustrating not being able to truly communicate. Do you think this is why 2-year-olds tend to throw temper tantrums?  I remember talking with Ezrah about that age, and having trouble understanding her pronunciation. She just kept saying the same thing louder and louder. Finally I said, “Saying it louder does not help me to understand, try saying it slower.” She did and I understood, and her frustration melted away.

Exhibition sign

Can you read this?

I am learning more each day. Everyone tells me I know “much Spanish” and congratulates me. But what I know is words; what I do not know, at least not yet, is how to put them together to truly communicate. I am like a 3-year-old, “I want this” or “I go there.”  Or, I ask one word questions. Sometimes I manage to make myself understood, like when I asked for two sided copies at the copy shop, but any pride I might feel that I made myself understood disappears in a cloud of disappointment (and yes, frustration) when the next encounter I am not understood at all.

Perhaps I am doing OK speaking my “baby talk” however listening  and understanding is another thing altogether. I might get the gist of the conversation or it might just be a tangle of words, speeding by like a freight train, with no comprehension on my part. My brain hurts so I have decided I need a little English break. I am making plans to visit several different towns (Cuernavaca, San Miguel de Allende, and Puebla) in the next few weeks where, in each, I will enjoy not only a change of scenery but also an oasis of English speaking hosts that will benefit me spiritually as well as emotionally and intellectually.

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Stay tuned for the travelogue. Then it will be back to Spanish for the duration. Working on my power verbs!

Fuegos Artificiales

Fireworks, Taxco, MexicoYouth counts down until midnight to celebrate the arrival of a new year. Maturity counts down until midnight to celebrate the time that they can finally get to bed. –Andrew Peloquin

If you are one of the mature ones reading this you know how true those words are.  The traditions for welcoming in the new year are not that different in Mexico than in the States, except they are a little more random, unregulated, and engaged in by crazy drunks with firearms and no designated drivers.

Being in the center of town, I was treated to quite a sight at midnight as fireworks filled the night sky. And when I say filled, I mean filled.

From the Christo statue at the very tippy-top of town, to the Guadalupe church a little lower, to the small church near the center of Taxco, to the other side of the mountain at the Mission, to the top again at Hotel Montetaxco, fireworks exploded in a 360 degree arc from my balcony.   In addition, people in the streets shot off fireworks and bottle rockets of their own which whistled, popped, and lit up the sky with at least a few strayed dangerously toward neighbors houses into the wee hours of the morning.

Of course, all this activity had the dogs howling and at least one car alarm going off. It was quite a cacophony that has this “mature one” seeking a good night’s sleep!

Sweet dreams everyone.

Gatos y Perros (Cats and Dogs)

I have been told “It never rains in December,” or January or February, for that matter. And yet there I was with a family way up on the mountain and the tin roof started to ping, ping ping. The daughter rushed outside and brought clothes in from the line just as the ping, ping, pinging turned into a steady roar, so loud and furious that we could not hear each other speak. So after a few minutes of arranging a few buckets, they opened the window so I could see the rain coming down in sheets, shrouding the next mountain in a hazy aqua mist. It really was quite beautiful to watch even if we could not talk over the roar.  (Imagine what it might be like living under a waterfall.) I had been considering buying an umbrella for the sun, but after this downpour, I think there is no doubt that an umbrella is on my list of must-haves right up there with a sturdier pair of sandals for navigating the cobblestones.

I am in Mexico a full 6 weeks earlier than last year and I’ve noticed that it is cooler and cloudier; the latter greatly affecting the former, you see. In my previous visit, I marveled at how nearly every day was the same. The sun rose from behind the mountains with only a rosy glow, no clouds to reflect its glory. It traveled across a deep azure blue yet cloudless sky, until it set without much fanfare; only rarely a few clouds provided a canvass for the setting rays to wash with color. This year however, I have seen clouds over the mountains in the morning glowing in hues of pale pink to fuchsia to purple and at night deep tangy reds accenting steely blue cumulus puffs. Of course those clouds are where that sudden downpour came from. Ah the glory of creation!

Dog on stairsThen there are the other kinds of cats and dogs. I am not sure why most Mexican’s buy dogs. Oh there are house dogs (usually Chihuahua or small poodle mix) as pampered as any US pet but most are just mutts that pace the rooftops barking at every noise, person, or vehicle that goes by (and there are many). There is one on a roof not far away that seems to bark incessantly — you’d think it’d grow hoarse, but no, “Bark, bark, bark, bark, breathe; bark, bark, bark, bark,” all day and late into the night.  Dog in street, Taxco, MexicoI am sure dogs deter would be thieves, and perhaps, along with the cats, keep any non-human creatures at bay, but they are not pets here, they are just dogs, not to be paid any mind. Many run wild and wander the streets, stealing garbage, and leaving messy reminders that they have traveled that way. When you walk the streets you definitely have to look up for low hanging building extensions (lights, plant shelves, window guards, even roof tops), ahead and to the sides for traffic (here it is pedestrians beware), and down to watch where you step. It can be exciting some days.

Dogs @ zocolo

Start doing things right

A Canadian I met in Florida sent this wish “for a brand new year to start doing things just right because this closing year has provided you with all the experience necessary to do so. Not?”

That really got me thinking. How often do we punish ourselves thinking about  when we made mistakes — “if only” we had done this differently or we “should have” done that instead? Why do we humans have the tendency to look backwards and beat ourselves up over all the little (and big) things we could have done differently? The past is past, and as Alwyn so astutely pointed out, it gives us the experience to make the future “just right.”

So be like Goldilocks, put the big mistakes behind you, forget about the shoulds that weren’t, and look forward, concentrating instead on what is best for you here and now that will make your life “just right.”

Oh, and don’t let the turkeys get you down!

Blue Bear & Turkey pinata