I am living in a place where they say “kabloom” instead of “kaboom.” Here in Argentina, when someone is telling a story and they arrive at the moment in which they must convey a crash or an explosion, their hands move in time with their onomatopoeic outburst, “KABLOOM!” I itch with intrigue. Why is there a “luh” [ /l/ ] sound? Do Argentinians crash differently? Why must they include their alveolar ridge in the ruinous noise? Or maybe, scuffles in the US are the ones ‘where the L is silent?’
As much as I delight in studying as I speak, I have felt maimed in my inability to communicate fully in Spanish. I am unable to be creative in the way I thank people, and I end up settling with “Muchas gracias.” Full of curiosity for a new friend, I am unable to ask or even think of questions beyond, “where are you from, tell me about your family, and why do you want to be an English teacher?” It is a loss of identity — I love words and in temporarily losing my knack for them, I have become needy. I am dependent on the patience and understanding of others. I rely on the listeners that track my mouth’s movements and piece together my stilted words and animated body language. It is a place of weakness.
My parents introduced me to the writing and devotions of Richard Rohr a while back, and during my time here in Rio Grande, he and Cynthia Bourgeault have been teaching more on “The Law of Three” which identifies three forces. Here are some of the examples they give of the Law of Three in Action.
seed/moist earth/sun = sprout
flour/water/fire = bread
plaintiff/defendant/judge = resolution
And this is the quote that turned my frustrating line of communication into a worth-my-while triangle:
“The single most liberating insight to come out of my work with the Law of Three was the realization that what appears to be the resisting or opposing force is never actually the problem to be overcome. Second force, or ‘holy denying,’ is a legitimate and essential component in every new arising.” (CB)
My vision changed. I began to admire and accept my neediness as a required force for newness. My dependency on others pushes me to extend myself in ways I rarely do in the US. I walk into a cafe to use wi-fi and see the waiter as an opportunity for friendship. I find that the needier I am, the more likely I am to connect with others. My neediness bends me more towards compassion—much more than my self-reliance in the US. One of my favorite examples of encountering a “third way” here occurred as I walked to my classes one evening…
Rio Grande is one of the windiest cities in Argentina and the Fueginos (people of the province of Tierra del Fuego) both bemoan and boast in this fact. The evening was particularly windy and as I walked along the sidewalk, a student opened his passenger door and stepped out of the car. He cleared his throat and hocked a loogey without thinking. The wind carried his spittle promptly to the entirety of my person. In immediate recognition, the guy turned and blanketed me with profuse apology. I grinned and demanded friendship as the only proper repayment. His name is Mario and he is studying to be a primary school teacher. I am thankful that the wind was not resistance, but a harbinger of newness.
Other things of note:
-I win all the points here when I disclose the truth that my mom is a 3rd grade public school teacher. She is a hero. I work with a trio of women that remind me of her in their commitment to excellent teaching for all. I work at IPES Paulo Freire and students here take four years of classes in one of the 8 “profesorados” before becoming a teacher in that field…and its FREE. Imagine that. IPES is proud that many of their students are first generation students. And the teaching doesn’t come without its own perceived resistance. The institution just moved into new space and furniture arrived a week after classes started…I attached the picture of the director of IPES, Alicia, teaching the first class with everyone sitting on the floor — a powerful symbol of their commitment to teaching.
-April 2nd is the day in which Argentina commemorates the Malvinas War. Rio Grande (one of the closest cities to the islands) hosts the largest vigil. I got to attend and learn a great deal. One of the most striking things is how present it is in the memories of this community. The soldiers were their fathers, their grandfathers, and their sons.
-The first weekend in Rio Grande, I was invited to a friend’s house to make pizzas. This crew of friends really won me when one guy offered a game of UNO and the group responded as if he had offered a free trip to Hawaii.
Me in the back of a folklore dance class. Learning the Chacarera.
I joined IPES in the "defile" for the April 2 Remembrance of the Malvinas War.
A picture of my everyday rhythm -- Mate and writing.
I've got an Estancia for any of you who want to come visit.
Fishing with my host family at a place called "Cabo Domingo." I run along the Atlantic Coast every morning!
Lucho casting a line..we were fishing with chicken innards
Fell into the right friend group at school -- these guys (Manu on the left and Leo on the right) took me to get ice cream in between classes.
Eugenia and Ana Paula, 2/3s of the heroine trio here in RG.
Home is in North Carolina. But, I take seriously Wendell Berry's imperative, "Be like the fox who makes more tracks than necessary, some in the wrong direction."