Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Language Head Jenga

When I went to Africa with the Peace Corps in 2002, my aunt, Sandy, said, "Honey, even if you don't speak the language, just smile. Everyone understands a smile." As a result, I spent the first few months in Cote d'Ivoire, and then Madagascar, with a big, goofy smile on my face.

I have bypassed the status of village idiot this time. I am currently in Oaxaca, Mexico, a pleasant town famed for its culture, laid back atmosphere, and Spanish schools. I am smiling in my language class, but not because I feel clueless. Indeed, my one year of high school Spanish is coming back (thanks, Ms. Kelleher).

My head feels like a big jenga puzzle -- you know, the game with wooden pieces stacked together? My brain bits get re-stacked daily, with French and Malagasy settling lower and lower in my cerebral hierarchy.

My favorite new word, so far, is alegría, which means happiness. (It is also a tasty and nutritious rice-krispy-like-treat sold by the street vendors. Mmmm.)

[photo: giftmonger.com]

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