So, as one might imagine, there’s been many a first time for things since I’ve been here:
-my first time driving a quatrimoto (an ATV or 4-wheeler)
-my first time to a Latin American indigenous culture site
-my first time gambling in Mexico
-my first time ice-skating in at least 15 years, and the second time I’ve ever done it
-my first time washing my laundry by hand—jeans are the worst
-my first time driving a motorcycle on my own. (I think I’m addicted now)
-my first time kissing a beautiful woman in Mexico. (I think I'm addicted now)
-my first time experiencing Dia de los Muertos in Mexico
Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is truly a beautiful celebration in Mexico. I’d seen pictures of the event and read about it previously, but it is a completely different experience once you’re in Mexico. It harkens back to a pre-Columbian tradition of the native peoples, that has changed and adapted with religion, culture, and other forces that mold traditions as they do. There are so many colors present in the flowers and decorations of the art and figurines, and it is such a compelling mixture of images of death and beauty, art, and culture, that I was very much taken aback by it all.
In a circular formation, there were about 6 or 7 skeletons arranged in front of the ancient church, each with different garments and accessories. They were cartoon-ish type skeleton figurines draped in robes of purple, black, white, red, and yellow, and are called “Katrinas.” These Katrinas weren’t the horror-movie type either, but rather, smiling cartoon-like depictions, enjoying themselves on their holiday. Surrounding all of this were flowers and the pistils and stamens of flowers for coloring—weaving around in paths and forming artistic patterns of their own. (I regret not having pictures of any this for you…I’ll try and get pictures of some things up on here soon!)
As I stood there at night, taking in all of the culture, history, and reality behind the event, I stumbled across this opinion: any event which is a celebration of human life is a beautiful tradition. Now, let me explain. In front of the church, on the stairs leading up to the building, were pictures of deceased people, surrounded by food, sweets, and flowers, all blending into create the holiday’s esthetic. As I looked at the faces of these dead, I was reminded how short life is, and how incredibly fortunate enough we are to be things which recognize their own existence, the breaths they take, and thoughts they have. And in a glimpse, the entire life of a person is swallowed by Time, which envelops everything that surrounds us, and surpasses it all. For we only have but a short little window of existence to acknowledge and enjoy before its gone, and we’re remembered on days like Dia de los Muertos. So as I took it all in, and thought these thoughts, I said to myself, “this is a beautiful tradition, a celebration of life and a longing for those who we miss who are no longer among us…I’m fortunate to be here.”
So, this is an encouragement to all who read this (all 13): if you haven’t yet had the experience of Dia de los Muertos in Mexico, you definitely should have it. Come on down next year and soak in the holiday. You won’t be disappointed.
So right now I am in the process or learning one language, and teaching a separate one. First: some signs I know I’m learning another language:
1) I’m having increasing difficulty finding the words I want to say in English—only Spanish comes to mind
2) example: it took me a while to write that last sentence, and I’m still not sure it’s right.
3) People are frequently laughing when I talk not because I said something wrong, but because I said something right. And it was funny!
4) People are frequently staring at me with a searching expression, utterly without a clue as to what I’m attempting to communicate.
5) I wish there was a Thumbelina-sized translator I could have stuffed in my pocket at all times.
Overall, my Spanish is improving bit-by-bit, but I still have a long way to go. I’ve got a couple of dictionaries for both languages, as well as grammar and usage books, but it’s just a matter of time: studying and practice. Hah I get practice every day whether I want to or not, it’s the studying that’s hard to find time for.
Teaching a different language has got my gears all mixed up in my brain, but on the whole, I’m learning a lot. My job requires an in-depth knowledge of the English language, not just simply the ability to speak it. For example, I’ve had to learn what gerunds, past participles, and infinitive clauses are, and the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs. But ironically I still can’t tell you why you should say “lie” instead of “lay” or vice versa. Back to the books…
I’ll try and get some pictures up on here soon…I gotta prove to you that I’m actually down here, ya know? Take care all! Until next time…