Saturday, October 4, 2014

Learning to Be an "Accidental"

One of my flash cards ... now
if I just had a printer!
Today I went out to find a “papeleria” … like a doll house version of Staples … I needed more index cards, a yellow highlighter and a ruler. It amuses me that I am making flashcards … and actually studying. Never in the way-too-many years I spent in school did I study like this … and I don’t remember ever really caring whether or not I remembered the material after regurgitating it for the test. 

Learning a foreign language is a whole different learning field for me. No one’s giving me a grade and passing me along to the next classroom. I’m being tested every day … by my actual Spanish teacher, by the signs in the street, the menus on the tables and the kid in the papeleria who couldn’t quite grasp what I wanted when I asked for a gobernante, the word Google Translate told me meant ruler. When that word didn’t work, I tried to pantomime “ruler” … you try … it’s not that easy. Finally, I saw one in a student’s kit on the wall and pointed toward it … “Ahh,” he says, “regla” and brings me one. When you can’t trust Google, who can you trust?

I keep seeing bouquets
of the most unusual combinations.
For years I’ve wanted to learn Spanish and even took the first 2-3 classes of beginning Spanish at least half a dozen times. For some reason I never made it past that first stage. Now, I’m pouring myself into this world where the price of admission is understanding and speaking the language. There are a few English speakers here but almost everyone I deal with doesn’t. It has never been that way in other places I’ve been in Mexico. There I could always muddle through and pay in dollars if needed. Not here. People are friendly and helpful and will put up with a lot of ungraceful hand gestures, but basically most people I meet just don’t speak English.

Last week, I sat in a living room with 5 other women … 2 Americans who speak Spanish, 2 Mayan women for whom Spanish is their second language and a Mexican woman … and one very happy Mexican guy. I want to be able to talk to these people but, right now, I’m only getting about 10% of the conversations and contributing a gibberish that is flying around the room landing almost nowhere. 

I hate to admit it but this state of affairs is after 4 weeks of pretty intense study. I know a lot
Would I learn to play the piano
if I had one painted like this?
of words and can conjugate a bunch of verbs but when I’m with someone, some sort of blockade goes up in my head and disconnects everything, leaving me wordless … in Spanish and English.

My original schedule had me going to Merida next week and then flying home. It has been slowly dawning on me
that the chances of my becoming fluent in Spanish if I leave next week are minimal at best. It could be done. I could continue to study and find people and resources to help me continue to develop proficiency. But, if I stayed here longer, I would be immersed in the language, have fewer distractions and my chances of advancing would be much better.

I don't know if this is my angel,
but she does make me smile.
There is a synchronistic angel who’s been riding on my shoulder since I arrived in this charming town and she was with me today when a new friend started telling me about a woman who wants to rent half a hacienda in the center of town … for 6 - 12 months. My new friend really likes it but doesn’t want to make the time commitment needed to rent it. It’s a beautiful place, owned by a woman poet who does not speak English and it’s within my budget. It looks and sounds perfect and I’m going to meet the woman on Tuesday.
Maybe being an "accidental"
is a good strategy.

I’m reminding myself that I’m not in charge of this … but I do find myself a bit breathless at the thought of spending six months or a year in Mexico. Yesterday I found the tiny flower at the right growing in a gravel walkway. It's not in the "right" place, but it's doing fine. Maybe I should learn from it.

I’ll let you know what happens.

More pics ... 

Ready for the next fiesta.

The mountains around here
remind me of Santa Barbara
But, I don't remember these
colors in Santa Barbara

How can you not love a place
that routinely makes you smile?


  1. Lovely article... I can't wait to find out if you stay.

    1. Thanks, Mary ... I'll definitely keep you posted.

  2. Sounds exciting. I know now after shutting it up for many years to act on those gut feelings or whims that you can't shake. Like my beautiful farm. And now also my old run down building to build my dream of owning my own business. It screams at me when it is meant to be, other times it whispers. But I listen now. Those are those angels whispering...listen to them.