Archive for January, 2012

Tz’utujil, a lesson.
January 31, 2012

I spent the evening learning Tz’utujil from Ana Maria Gonzalez Gonzalez.  At 8 years old, she’s a very serious maestra.

“Wajkex” she says.

“Wajakech” I repeat.

“Write it down” she tells me, eyeing my notebook seriously.

Ana (ei, en, ei, she spells for me, in English) is the baby of the Gonzalez Gonzalez family, though a litter of unidentified children always seem to be passing in and out of the dining room. 

“What’s her name?” I ask Ana, pointing the new baby sitting on her lap during our lesson.

“Uh, I don’t remember,” she answers naturally, changing the subject back to our lesson. It’s hard to concentrate though, since Ana’s big sister Evelyn (pronounced Ebely) is teaching my roomate Liz some Tz’utujil, pounding out her lesson on a prehistoric typewriter. 

“Xoot” Ana writes.

I pronounce it “shoot!” remembering that the x is pronounced like a sh in Tz’utujil. A Xoot is apparently a contraption used to cook tortillas, based on the explanatory drawings Ana keeps in her language studies notebook.She’s not much of an artist, so it might also be an armadillo. 

Over dinner I had asked Ana how to say a few things in Tz’utujil, the Mayan language spoken in this area of Guatemala. Mostly I just wanted to impress my Spanish teacher with something like “Good morning, my name is Emily”  (Aqbil, hanou’be Emily).

Like most people in this area, my Spanish teacher Ruben is Tz’utujil. Since we spend four hours a day together conjugating irregular verbs, I thought I’d learn a few words of his parents’ native tongue, though Ruben admits he doesn’t speak it much anymore.

Ana doesn’t seem to know much Tz’utujil either, since she keeps yelling at her mom in the kitchen to translate everything. While Ana speaks Spanish at home, she is leanring both English and Tz’utujil at school (all Guatemalan children are required to learn the Mayan language of their area). So far Ana has learned to spell her name and say good morning in English, a phrase she uses to greet me at all hours of the day and night.

“Good morning” she says to me, bouncing the baby on her lap and calling my attention back to yet another obscure and unpronouncable Tz’utujil Word. When this is over I still have hours of Spanish homework waiting upstairs. Xoot. 


The Chicken Drop: a night out in Belize
January 26, 2012

It had been another exhausting day in Caye Caulker, Belize, full of enfeebling activities such as hammocking, sunbathing, reading, watching the sunset, and reading while sunbathing in a hammock at sunset.

After the obligatory 5 o’clock shower (for washing off all the suntan lotion and sand of the day), it seemed like a good idea to relax atthe island’s token sports bar to watch the New Jersey Devil’s cream
the Leafs. (I’ll be getting to the part of the story where the chicken runs around in a circle while beligerent tourists try and scare the shit out of it soon).

At the bar I met up with a Torontonian and a blue-eyed Swede, both deceivingly nice guys with an unfortunate habit of cheering for the Leafs (as an example of how bizarre leafs fan are, one guy had brought his own Leafs beer cozy along to Belize to help cheer for his team).

This is about the time in the story when I started feeling homesick. Though I spent less than 2 of the last 14 months in Canada, I rarely take part in very Canadian activities like NHL games, so homesickness was quite new to me. I suddenly had visions of watching the game in grama’s living room while drinking a Canadian and rolling up the rim of a Tim Horton’s cup. Luckily for me I quickly realised that my homesickness had more to do with all the corporate advertising on the boards than any real affection for my homeland, leaving me happy enough to take part in the chicken drop.

By the time I got to the chicken drop shit was about to go down. For those who have never witnessed this perticular manifestation of animal cruelty, a chicken drop is when you shake a chicken a lot before letting it loose in a pen where beligerent tourists yell at it and try to get it to shit on their number on the ground.

“Don’t worry, I bet on lots of numbers for us” said the Swede, handing me the dredges of a cuba libre.

So the fun began, and the gamblers were all, literally, trying to scare the shit out of a chicken. The Americans had strangely become less loud, calmed perhaps by the possibility of winning $50 cash.

The poor chicken, unaccustomed to such a leading role, ran straight for the corner and stayed there, sticking its ass defiantly into the air. Then, after a few more shouts and taunts, the chicken shat, squarely, and unmistakably, in number 88.

We had won.

As they say in Texas
January 23, 2012

It’s the land of the free but joking about airport security wil lead to my immediate arrest.

Country music blares from Starbucks. McDonald’s. Airport Gift Shop. Massage chairs. Starbucks again.

I wonder if the guy who just walked by me is carrying a gun then I remember that were past airport security so maybe not.

Eight hours not sleeping in airport chairs feels so bad but during red eye fights the stars look so good.

But I never even found any cheesy fries so where’s the freedom in that?

Twelve airport bathrooms all closed for cleaning. For six hours.

CNN airs a fascinating story on Chocolate’s child slaves at 2am. A story about kids in Africa who work all day procesing cocoa makes me wonder why CNN fills the day with mindless entertainment news and GOP politics.

In flight magazine: Handschuheschneeballwerfer is German for coward. Literally: he he throws snowballs with gloves on.

But how can I test that in Texas, where there isn’t even any snow?

And so I leave the home of the free, land of untestable bravery.

On failure
January 18, 2012

I’ve been trying to knit a scarf.

I’ve been trying to knit a scarf for over a week and I wasn’t satisfied with it from the beginning.

It started curling inward after a few rows. But I kept going. I didn’t want to listen when people said that there was something wrong with my scarf. I carried on, until I was almost done.

I then stepped back for a moment and looked at things. My scarf was awful and curling in all the wrong places. I wasn’t happy with it from the very beginning but I blindly continued, convinced I could fix things later, or learn to love a flawed scarf.

I ripped the whole thing up an hour ago. I should have torn it apart earlier, but I loved that little scarf, flaws and all.

I ripped up my scarf and now I’m going to restart from the beginning.