Thursday, March 4, 2010

Aimless Reading: The G's, Part 2.1 (Geoffrey Gatza)

Gatza, Geoffrey
I wear a figleaf over my penis

Given to me by the author. Not inscribed.

I am still thinking about Ecuador. In yesterday's post, I mentioned the ride to work each morning. There was also the ride back in the evening, which had a very different feel to it. While the morning ride had a kind of silent, dreamy quality, given that everyone had just fallen out of bed, the evening ride felt almost jubilant, despite the fact that everyone had just been teaching for twelve hours. Part of this was due to the fact that we had all just finished a long, emotionally exhausting day of work, one which was conducted almost entirely in a foreign language.

Living in a foreign language, especially one your are trying to acquire, is exhausting in and of itself, sometimes physically so, as there are days when you find your lips and tongue and jaw muscles feeling sore from all of the unfamiliar contortions they've been forced to make throughout the day. And then there is the mental exhaustion - the strain the mind feels after grasping for the words it needs to communicate and finds or doesn't find them. And then there was the complication that our students were often learning Spanish as a second language, AFTER Quichua.

For me, the most exhausting thing was adjusting to the emotional changes that occurred due to the fact that I was living in another language. I discovered that all of my emotional defenses are linguistic, and they are all constructed out of English words. While living in Spanish, there were times I could feel myself reaching for my defenses -- for instance to keep from getting emotionally attached to a student, or to keep tears from flowing in the face of the poverty in which my students lived -- only to find that those defenses were no longer there.

Anyhow, all of this gave the bus ride home a more ebullient feel -- as if everyone had just been told the war was over and they were going home. People would open up bottles of beer, smoke cigarettes, stick their heads out the window for air. We'd talk a lot, too -- I think everyone was relieved to speak their native language for a couple of hours at the end of the day, if only to be able to act without having to think to hard or to grasp hopelessly after the words one needed to communicate.

Sometimes a couple of the Ecuadorian men and women who lived in Cotocollao would take the bus home with us. Most of the Ecuadorians really enjoyed having fun -- they were teasing and liked to tell jokes and occasionally Alonso, a lively guitar player would ride the bus with us and we'd sing a few songs.

I remember one night coming home we passed through one of the main parks in Quito at the same moment there was a confrontation between student protesters and riot police. I don't recall what the protest was about. They usually had something to do with oil prices. Anyhow, the police started firing tear gas. Our driver tried to get us through as quickly as he could, but we all started to feel the effects of it. I remember Alonso telling us to light up as many cigarettes as we could because the smoke would help counter the effect of the gas. Suddenly everyone was smoking, though I don't recall if it helped.

from I wear a fig leaf over my penis

Daphne Duck

I am a green tomato & gravel

You my taco shell, need silks

I'll run with you, fly over sand

To the steaming stone of love

And wish for southern travels

Pitching dreams, plums & clay.

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