Saturday, July 9, 2011

Week Six: To sleep, perchance to dream...

This past week I reached an important milestone in immersion language learning- I dreamt in Spanish.  Oddly enough, this dream (of which I remember no content) occurred during a period where my attitude received no points for positivity.  Exhausted and praying for one conversation that didn’t require my full attention just to get the gist of, I had to remind myself my options did not include spending the day hiding in bed.

Allow me to set the scene...  This past week trainees left for “Long Field Practice.”  Essentially, under the guidance of a current volunteer and a language professor and in the comfort of a small group, we pretended to live the volunteer life.  We led three classes at the local junior high, one talk (aka charla) at an adult learning center (no one showed up so we practiced with the other teachers), visited a cooperative (for a tour and meeting) and a small time sweets producer, and had daily language classes.  In other words, we booked every second of those four days.

During this time, each aspirante ate meals and stayed the night with different families in town.  An experience in itself, home stay makes an already long day even longer.  Now before I sound like too much of an ungrateful monster, the generosity of these folks who have opened up their homes and hearts to us wide-eyed Nortes’ overwhelms me.  Our host mother treats Kevin and me as her own children and I would be lost without her guidance.  However, living with someone always requires adjustment and these particular adjustments tend to require more energy than I have in the reserves these days.

The night in question, my temporary house mother gave me a long-winded speech about how if I expect to support a pregnancy, I need to eat more.  So far, the most common topics of conversation I have encountered since entering the country involve a) my reproductive future (and why it’s not my reproductive present) and b) eating.  Often Paraguay is referred to as a poor country where no one starves.  Although troubles here are many, food production does not make the list.  This country love to make big meals and force feed newcomers.  We’ve all met- I don’t need much encouragement in this department.  However, in Paraguay, evidently only polishing off two grilled cheese sandwiches and a piece of cake calls for an anorexia alert.

Once my temporary mother determined she had sufficiently scolded me about diet and babies, we moved on to my language skills.  She pointed out that I really need to speak more if I expect to learn the language.  Never mind that she had spoken so much and so quickly during the past twenty minutes that I don’t recall noticing her breathe.  Shortly thereafter, she sent me to bed with a wink (remember topic number one) and I feel asleep very quickly.  Around 2am I shot up out of my sleep with the confidence I needed to turn the week around- a dream entirely in Spanish.  Although I remembered and understood it fully at the time, it’s gone now.  The effect, though, lingers.

We had an exhausting, awesome long field.  As it often happens in intense experiences, in the matter of just a few days, we came to adore our temporary host family and can’t wait to visit them again.  Before, as we planned our week, I couldn’t help but feel dread about our upcoming experience.  I was sick of speaking Castellano, sick of talking to strangers, and sick of waking up every morning at 3:30am to the sound of the dog arguing futbol with a gang of roosters.  (Seriously, what other topic could get so loud?)  Now, though, so much has come into focus.  My vision for our future life as volunteers has gone from an abstract possibility to something real, tangible.  Also, I not only scored peanut butter, but won a bet with my host mom.  Chocolate and peanut butter do belong together.  What a relief!

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