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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Like a Big Rock in a Stream




The other night, I sat in our living room and listened to the families on the other side of the wall coming to fetch their students home for Spring Break. The language I heard the families speaking out in the foyer and on the sidewalk was nearly exclusively Spanish, and I've just come to take this for granted.

I hear Spanish all the time, not just in our hallways between students, but out in town, in the super market, at the library, out at the park. Spanish is a gentle thriving current that pulses through every part of Los Angeles, diving and resurfacing in public places.

When we first moved to LA, I loved hearing different languages spoken at nearly every corner. Just the other day at the park a man barked out a middle eastern dialect to his kids as they chased after a frisbee. Every Monday I sit in the house of my Albanian friend and listen to her croon pet names to her husband and children in the oldest language in the world.

The sound of a different language permeating every crevice of my life here in LA was an exciting reminder that I lived in a vibrant city full of diversity. But over the past seven years, I've just sort of gotten, well -- used to it. My brain stopped registering all the different pronunciations and accents. The languages have become an inconsequential part of my days.

Except for this particular night, when the families were coming and going, the hinges of the large glass doors banging shut. For some reason, I came up out of my book like a diver coming up for oxegyn and stopped and listened again with new ears to the rattle and beat of that familiar language.

"Isn't it amazing?" I asked Dwayne.

"What?"

"Hearing another language right outside our door?"

He didn't respond. He has grown accustomed to it to.

"I mean, shouldn't I speak this language too?" I said putting my book down. "It's right outside my door!"

Dwayne and I shop at the local markets in Azusa and so often I feel like a great big rock lodged in the middle of the creek. All around me the workers and shoppers are speaking Spanish, but I wont because I'm too embarrassed. I mean sure they accommodate me, but still I get irritated with myself. I don't like making everyone meet me on my terms.

Sure the water will bend and move around the boulder, but don't I have some sort of obligation to listen and understand it's liquid voice?

Today Noelle and I went to the park. We put our stuff down on a picnic bench next to a stroller. I saw an abuela standing on the side of the park watching her nieto. She glanced over at us and I knew we were sharing the bench. After a little while she came over, sat down beside me, and with the comfort and ease of a friend said,

"Cuantos anos tiene su hija?"

I turned toward her and decided it was time to pull up my heavy stoney butt and dive into the current, no matter how much I might splutter and sink."

"Dos anos," I said. Then added, "Dos y medios anos."

She looked up at me. I recognized a hint of gratitude in her smile, and the current between us pattered on.

5 Comments:

Blogger Gwen said...

Love it Christin! I want to write like you! :)

3:01 PM  
Blogger Sarah Forgrave said...

Way to go, Christin! I love learning other languages, and I'm trying to make sure Zach learns some Spanish. We have all sorts of other languages in our neighborhood, but we'll start with one for now. :-)

8:37 AM  
Blogger tfritter said...

I love that picture, is that Irwindale Dam area? I recognize the structure. I've felt like a "rock" Oregon, Indiana, Haiti.....not the most Spanish-of-upbringings, eh? I have to be careful to walk with Compassion in our neighborhood, even when I am so quick to judge a culture that I feel so lost and different in sometimes. I sat in my park last week and said "Hola" to a suspicious teenager just to ease my "mom" gut, and found out he "no tiene amigos en la iglesia (esta hombre trabajar en una iglesia, no hablo engles) and that grammer is a GOOD as I could get to in sharing a bit of our lives together. It was a nice moment though. It is good to try!!!

5:29 PM  
Blogger Jess said...

I took 6.5 years of spanish in school and wanted so badly to be fluent (and still do). However, in college I had such a bad experience that I took a CLEP test and got out. I agree that it is intimidating trying to talk with people and I feel very self-conscious trying. However, it's so gratifying in those moments I do try and am able to understand and communicate clearly. I applaud you for trying. Keep it up!

5:07 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

I had a sign translated in Spanish, had it posted on the corner in our "hood" and at the grocery store parking lot and a few other places, it said:

Please spend your money here instead of sending it back to Mexico. If you are going to be here illegally, at least learn our language and assimilate into OUR culture rather than trying to force us via PC crap to give you some sort of Mexico here.

At one of the signs someone posted a "thumbs up" sign!

5:18 PM  

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