Saturday, April 4, 2009

It's come a long way since Guatemala

First a joke: Me fui por Guatemala, pero llegue en Guatepeor. If you're studying Spanish I won't explain the joke, I'll let you figure it out (DISCLAIMER: I in no way hold these beliefs about Guatemala nor its citizens. I love Guatemala and would never say anything malicous about such a wonderful country, despite standing by my prior statement suggesting that you should violently shove old women in the bus stations there).

Last night was great, and it was great for many reasons, but for me one thing that stood out was that I was having conversations. No, I am not some recluse who has shut himself off from the world (which would make the fact that I had interpersonal conversations significant), but nonetheless it was significant.

Diego, our Spanish professor (and quickly becoming a close friend), and his wife Angela invited us to go to a party with them. We didn't know anyone who would be at said party, and there wasn't any real reason to go other than to meet a ton of new people in Spanish, and make new contacts in the city.

What was significant is that it was the first time I can remember when I was surrounded by tons of people speaking Spanish, tons of separate conversations, many which were lacking that oh so cherished companion, context, and yet I was still able to understand it. Maybe not all of it, but most of it. I understood jokes and funny stories, talked with doctoral students about their thesis, all the while marvelling at the fact that three months ago none of this would have been possible.

And then I thought back to that first day in Guatemala 20 months ago. When I opened my mouth to say something and nothing came out. Unaccostomed to such a peculiar phenomenon I tried again, only to make some bizzare gurgling noise and watch with detatchment as my body began to compliment those funny grunts and gurgles with bizzare hand gestures.

It feels good to have reached this point. It feels cozy. 20 months ago I was stuck talking with other backpackers on the travelers circuit. These days I feel like I could go just about anywhere, and talk with just about anyone. It's a good feeling. Though I'm sure anyday now I will find myself in one of those awkward situations in which I have a complete communication breakdown and my inflated self-confidence will burst. Until then I am going to enjoy pretending to speak Spanish


~ trail of ink ~ said...

wow!!! congratulations, august!!! it must be a truly liberating feeling to be able to finally connect with the locals on that deeper level. you're no longer just another "whitey" ;)

Heather said...

Congrats! What an amazing accomplishment. I'm jealous.