04 September 2008

2 Small Epiphanies (With My Apologies to Charles Baxter)

One: I finally tasted my first mate gourd this morning. After nearly burning my lips on the metal straw with the first bitters sips, the taste became clearer, softer and more delicious. It was like going backwards in time through the stages of tea seeping. This is the way it happened: one of my students asked me if I wanted some maté. It was 8:30 in the morning, we were both groggy. Our eyelids were sticking to our faces. Like a classic American used to things being mass-produced, oversimplified and individually wrapped, I thought he was going to bring in two tea bags. But Fernando walked in with a gourd in one hand and a thermos in another. He looked like a soldier of yerba. I could have hoisted him on my shoulder and yelled Hip Hip Hurray. But instead we took turns sipping from the gourd and my congestion went away, faster than you could say take a deep breath.

Two: though I'm enjoying many of the conversations I'm having with my students, some of whom are terrifically funny and sweet, smart and tirelessly interesting, and though most of the time it feels more like a cultural exchange than an English class (e.g. I'll teach you to correctly use the term shorty as a term of endearment, you teach me how to say this is bullshit in porteño Spanish), this thought occurred to me today: the very thing that is helping me pay the bills in Buenos Aires is the same thing that is stopping me from fully plunging into Argentine culture. English. It's a strange and fascinating irony that all English teachers spend most of the week speaking a language that they already know in order to travel and live in a country they usually know very little about and cannot speak all that well. Here I am making a living with a language I'm trying desperately to shed. I mean, I came to BsAs with my girlfriend to celebrate our life, start a second novel and travel, but also to get my Spanish in working order. And yet all I do is speak English all day long. It's absurd really. It's like I'm being paid to freeze my own personal growth cycle.

For this reason I'm going to consider translation work in the future . . .


miss tango said...

Well you kind of came to the conclusion that your classes are more of a cultural exchange. I am sure you would not get this being alone with your computer translating. Just a thought.

JACKSON BLISS @ 水と魂 said...

Well, technically, I DID come to the conclusion sitting in front of my computer. But I think I know what you mean. Yes, the cultural exchange is awesome. But I'll eventually kick it with some of my former students at a bar anyway, even after I decide I'm sick of teaching and get the best of both worlds: cultural exchange, better hours and better guita. But for now I'm content. Check back in 5 months!