Sunday, October 31, 2010

Day 13

The headache had mostly passed by the time I posted my last entry. I could hardly use a computer the night of the 29th because I was so light sensitive. Sundays are always fun around here. I think I told you last week that we have some seminarians who come up the hill with the priest at the seminary and conduct our Sunday service. Additionally, there are some other guys from the Don Bosco school who come and spend the day as well. I have to say, it's sort of nice having some people my age around, but there is also that awkwardness that has plagued us since first grade when the girls had to use one bathroom and the boys had to use the other since the group that comes is all guys. I'm never entirely sure if they're hitting on me or if they're just curious about the United States...or if they just think I look really lonely and need a friend. Admittedly, I don't spend a lot of time hanging out with the guys since I'm somewhat naturally shy; so maybe I do look lonely. But in all honesty, I am quite content.

When I was here last year, I got an invitation from one of the guys in the group--who I consider to be a friend--to visit him in El Salvador. I had actually planned to do this about a year from now to clear my passport; however, El Salvador won't clear my passport. Today, another one of the guys suggested I go with him to Nicaragua with him in December. I really don't NEED to clear it then, but the catch is that Nicaragua wouldn't clear it either.
"Guatemala is party to the Central America Border Control Agreement (CA-4). Under the terms of this agreement, tourists may travel within any of the CA-4 countries (Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala) for a period of up to 90 days, without completing entry and exit formalities at border immigration checkpoints. This period begins at the first point of entry in to any of the CA-4 countries."
Simply put, I need a map. No, in all seriousness, I still have Mexico to the north and Belize to the northeast. However, the guidebook I was looking at said 90 and 90. But the website I just found (to check exactly which the CA-4 countries were) says 90 and 30. So, I wrote a note to INGUAT (or am in the process as I'm trying to write it in both English and Spanish) to ask them what exactly I needed to extend my visa and how long the extension is for. If it is 90 and 30, that's a lot of hassle at INGUAT for just 30 more days. Sadly, this is one of those things I thought I had all figured out before I left the United States. Someone asked me last Sunday why I don't just get Guatemalan citizenship, and the fact of the matter is that if I got Guatemalan citizenship, I believe I would lose my American citizenship and it's just a lot harder for a Guatemalan to get into the US than it is for an American to get into Guatemala.
At any rate, what I really need is for the Argentinian or the Brazilian to ask me to visit them. Believe me, there is nothing romantic about this (or if there is, I know nothing about it). My friend in El Salvador even has a girlfriend. However, I just feel safer either traveling with or traveling to visit someone I know, and "with" is preferable to "to." I have a friend in Mexico who I could go to visit, but it's that first trip out of the country by land which is the scariest. (And yes, she expects me to come visit her sometime.) mind is wandering. I seriously started this post at 7 pm and it is now 8:30. Today after church, I made a deal with Otoniel (the Nicaraguan) that if he gives me the lyrics for the songs we are singing the next Sunday, I will sing at church. But I have a hard time hearing, translating, processing, translating back, and the same speed as everyone else. I'm sure that in time, I won't need to do the translation thing, that the words in Spanish will have a meaning much as my English words have a meaning which doesn't really need defining or explaining to myself. "A cat? What's a cat? It's that furry thing...well, usually furry, at least. Some cats aren't furry. That usually furry thing that meows and naturally uses its claws to hold onto things better." That. I don't usually go through all that when I'm processing English. It's just there in my head. I can recognize a cat as a cat. Right now, I recognize a gato as a cat. (Yes, "gato" is the word for "cat" in Spanish.) Once I can recognize a gato as a gato (and an arbol as an arbol, and a camioneta as a camioneta), I won't have the trouble I do right now. Currently, I do have a few words which I don't ever need to define to myself, but those are words which, in context, don't have much of an American equivalent. For example, "hogar" and "frijoles." Now, quite literally, those two words mean "home" and "black beans" in English; however, the context in which they are commonly used here in Guatemala just don't have much of an American equivalent. That's one reason why it is difficult to tell people in the USA what Hogar Miguel Magone is...and why people often call it an "orphanage" (which it is not, really). And I suppose people eat frijoles in the United States; in fact, I'm sure they do in plenty of places, but the reason why I don't need to translate that word is because I DON'T LIKE BLACK BEANS! I really hate the texture of beans (except green beans); so frijoles don't have an American context for me. Similarly, guisquil is a vegetable which isn't found in Michigan where I am from. They have it in parts of California, and in Mexico, it is called chayote, but for me, guisquil is an image in my mind that I don't need to define to myself.
I think that might be part of the problem with how we learn language in the US. So much of it is "this word in this language is this word in this other language." By relating one word to another and that second word to an image, we slow down the processing. I do have a Spanish-English dictionary here, but I don't use it very often (only when writing e-mail to INGUAT). I also have a bilingual Bible which I read only in Spanish unless I come across an entire verse that I don't understand a single word of. I think I told you of Deivi and David, the littlest boys who are still learning basic Spanish. I'm also teaching them English, but because they don't know either "nose" or "nariz," the two words I am teaching them are for that thing in the middle of their face that all the boogers come out of which are good for mid-day snacks! It would be like if I used "dollars," "bucks," or "bills" in the United States...they all just mean the same thing.
The difficult part with the little ones will be sorting out their words into the proper languages when they are older, but by then I should be fluent enough (hopefully) to only use one language at a time with them. With the older boys, I often speak in "Spanglish" a fair amount of the time. This works well for them because they have a fairly secure Spanish vocabulary and, additionally, they know the difference between a Spanish word and an English word (they sound different!); so when I throw an American word into a fairly Spanish sentence, they figure out the word from context. Whether they have to translate the word to Spanish or not, I don't know, but I'm just not sure how else to teach them unless we're sitting down in a classroom setting where I can minimize any and all contact with Spanish.

I guess that brings me back to today. We had a group of gringos come in from Pennsylvania today. (Yes, they made it just fine to those who are reading from their church and community!) They're going to be taking over the hogar for two weeks while the teachers and other staff go on vacation. As I put it to them earlier, they're going to cook my food and wash my clothes. :) For the most part, I say this in jest, but since I eat with the boys and they'll be cooking for the boys, they will cook for me as well...just another mouth to feed. Anyway, I hope to help them out as much as possible whether it is just with names, unlocking doors, or taking pictures.

I'm really not paying attention to this post. I'm distracted by the sunburn I got today while playing "football" (soccer, for you Americans) and what I should get done before moving to my new room TOMORROW! Yes, that's right. I get my new room tomorrow. Sadly, I get it because Karen wants to appropriate the beds in the volunteer room and not because it was promised to me, but I guess I won't split hairs about it.

At times, the Spanish comes easily to me, but that's just when I'm going to say something, not when I have to understand something and spit something back out.

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