Thursday, April 10, 2008

Afternoon Moment

Yesterday my sister who works as a nurse in the Tehatchipi prison was down for an interview at one of the prisons down here. It's a sad commentary that one of the main growth industries in this proud farming region is now locking up our fellow man. I have no illusions that these places hold many folks that I would absolutely want to be under lock, key, and closed armed supervision, still, I am alarmed at the rates of our incarceration.

That's neither here, nor there with this post though. She brought my beautiful new niece down with her and while she was doing her interview and house hunting I was spending a wonderful day playing the Sponge Bob board game, and exploring out by the irrigation overflow lagoon. We found a clutch of duck eggs, left them undisturbed, we found a beautiful Great Blue Heron feather which I am going to wrap and bead for her (since she's an indin now and stuff).

In the afternoon it was time for my intermediate strings class out at the local J.C. I brought her along with me, bringing her brand new 1/2 size violin. She was a big hit with the college kids. She did feel a bit of culture shock though. I have 12 students in this class and 10 of them are far more comfortable in Spanish than in English. Since I figure teaching is about being able to communicate a great deal of our class is done in Spanish. It's no big deal. Just doing the job in the easiest and most efficient manner. Thing was my darling girl was beginning to feel a little left out.

I noticed this and we talked about her coming move down to this area and I suggested to her that she start thinking about learning Spanish. I told her that she is going to be making new friends at her school and that many of these new friends will have parents that are more comfortable speaking Spanish than they are in English. I suggested to her that learning how to at least be polite and find the bathroom would be a handy tool to have. She agreed. We went over the basic greetings, please, thank you, and all the rest. Then we went over the parts of the violin. She was really getting into it. So were my students. One of them remarked that there are more than a few teachers at the college that act like it's great big fucking deal when they are called upon to use Spanish. I gave them my standard reply on why I regard being conversant as more than just a mere social skill.

Porque yo contar mejor de Custer. (because I can count better than Custer)

We had a little laugh and my neice chimed in with

"Have you ever heard him talk Apache?"

My students said that no, they had not, and the neice said:

"It sounds really strange. You know how if you're in the pool with your head under water and start talking it sounds like burps and bubbles? That's what Apache sounds like. I'm trying to learn but it's really hard. It's not easy and pretty like Spanish is."

She spent the rest of the day basking in approval and beauty. As we left she said:

Hasta la vista mis amigos nuevos."

She's going to fit in just fine.

los pelotas brassos grandes


Anonymous tata said...

In this, as in all your stories, there is no time when a reader drifts in a warm, airless stillness. It is all new. It is all wind, all bright light.

11:38 AM  
Blogger BlondeSense Liz said...

Another charming story to light up my day.

I shall be brushing up on my spanish because I'll be heading to Oaxaca for Dia de Los Muertos this year. I just can't wait... and you will be thrilled, I hope, with my blog posts and pictures from there.

Hasta luego, mi amigo.


11:45 AM  
Anonymous Stephen Taylor said...

How old is this wise young lady?

11:50 AM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

just turned 9

11:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love languages and only wish I had the skill of being adept at them. It's really a gift...

...and your new niece sounds delightful.


1:55 PM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

she is an absolute delight and a treasure. coming from a situation that can only be described as dickensian it is a source of wonder to me that she is such a sunny and eager child. sullen, distrusting, suspicious minded would all be easily understood if they were present.

2:44 PM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

as far as the languages go, it wasn't something i ever thought was all that special. it took apache, spanish and english to negotiate my immediate family. it wasn't until i left the rez that i understood speaking more than one language was anything much beyond normal.

2:45 PM  
Anonymous oddjob said...

it is a source of wonder to me that she is such a sunny and eager child

Ah, but in its way is that not also Dickensian? :-)

2:46 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...


I just read that the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate for its citizens in the world.

Re. your niece: Children have a resilience which adults sadly forget as they ossify. Yesterday I read a social worker's observations on why he is happy, though tired, after a day of working with the hard cases of ill children.

He said it was because almost all children demonstrate the impulse to play. They allow themselves to go off-task; in fact, that is their purpose. Once we grow up and become respectful, we have less time for such frivolities.

3:08 PM  
Blogger Sherry said...

i think she sounds bright and beautiful.

me, i think the small bit of apache you sent once sounds lovely and almost magickal to my ear.

it's the sort of sound that is almost visable. that sounds strange, i know but...

yous is an interesting life and it makes me happy that you share it with us. thank you.

7:32 PM  

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