Saturday, March 6, 2010

Menjunge, (Chilean word for hodgepodge), a mix of stories

Today I met someone who was gifted a cow on his 50th birthday because there is a saying in Dutch where if someone asks you how your horses are, you say you'd rather have a cow. And upon having said this, he was taken at his word, and later received a cow. He is Dutch, which I believe is relevant to the story).

I am glad to say that there is a) no such saying in English b) no chance my friends would be foolish enough to purchase me a cow (though at some point it might be nice to have a share in a goat or a sheep for cheese purposes) and c) no reason that I am telling this story other than it is a linguistic curiosity, and one which I have been puzzling over, as I have been puzzling over many others for the past few weeks.

It's a delight to put English under the microscope, including the Irish tendency to talk about "some guy" or "a guy" as "your man." Apparently my man is very good at fixing things, as I have been coincidentally told by two Irish men on two separate occasions. This sounds delightful, and I am wondering if he would be willing to meet me at the door of my apartment when I get back to Santiago. You see, I fear that contents may have shifted during flight, and could cause passenger injury, or at least my inability to open the front door when I arrive.

I know that there are a million and one things to say about the earthquake, and the one I feel guiltiest about is that I wasn't there, didn't have to suffer through it. I feel somehow like I failed my Chilean friends who lived through the shaking, and on some small level I feel as if having been in it would have diminished their fear. I know it would not have, but my irrational and nurturing side wishes I could do that for people. I could be "their (wo)man" and be good at helping.

In other news, New Zealand continues to be spectacular, and has changed faces completely since I returned the bike, which I do promise to one day tell the story of. But whereas New Zealand used to unroll herself slowly, an endless ribbon of snaky asphalt and tar-sealed (good) and chip-sealed (not so good) and unsealed (the worst), and litter the way with red poppies and all kinds of other unexpected foliage, she now has blocks of apartments and stores and more falafel and noodle satay shops that you could ever place on a guidebook map, and a backpack and early morning wakeups (like tomorrow) to take a bus. A bus, which is propelled by someone other than me and didn't have muesli for breakfast and won't take a break two hours in to eat some of last night's left over lentils.

It's requiring some adjustment, but I still think it's pretty great. I have Te Papa-ed (national museum) myself to the point of saturation and have toured, snapped, walked, cable-carred and otherwise put bicycles to the back of my brain, in the category of things that shall be called good.

I'm off to a play in a few minutes during Wellington's Fringe Festival, and I hope that memory will soon migrate into the category of things that shall also be called good, but never as exciting and connected and fully there as pedalling around the South Island, which has a category all its own, and I shall give it the name of the decomposing squid in Te Papa, and I shall call that category colossal.

More soon, back in the saddle and all that.

7 comments:

Bystander said...

Those of us who came through relatively unscathed all felt guilty until we could do something hands on to help. Until then, we all felt, like Mafalda, that we had a little bit of dirt in our souls. There will be plenty to do still when you come back. So enjoy your time there to the fullest! We will be looking forward to lots of photos.

Sharon said...

Instead of guilty, you should be thankful you weren't there. It was awful.

Eileen said...

Sharon, I am undeniably, unquestionably thankful that I wasn't there. Overjoyed, elated, thrilled, relieved. But that doesn't make me fell less guilty. If anything, it makes me feel even guiltier! Stupid emotions!

Glad you're ok, hope your whole family and extended circle checks out, too, of course.

Annje said...

I would want somebody to give me chickens--is there a saying for that I could start using? I am always pining for fresh eggs. STrangely, I have a little of that guilt too, and it don't even live there quite yet, and then people have been asking if this changes our plans... (no). Glad to hear you are doing well.

Sara said...

I get that. I feel really guilty too. My boyfriend did too.

carerica said...

Same on the guilty front. And even though we've been organizing events in Argentina with the Chilean embassy and I donated to the Teletón and got my friends and family to do the same..
still feel a little guilty.

Weird. It must be our empathy acting up in a strange way.

Margaret said...

Funny about the gringo guilt bit... it must be genetic! And man, hasn't this bee a week for reflection!
And yes, there will plenty to do here for quite some time to come!