When you're a newcomer living abroad you manage to muddle your way through each day with varying degrees of success. There are times when you even tell yourself you seem to be fitting into your new environment quite nicely. However, certain instances have a way of accentuating the truth that you are a fish out of water and don't have a clue what's happening around you.
I offer Exhibit "A"--the person somewhere across the street who keeps shooting off fireworks. I've noted in previous posts that a day never goes by here without the sounds of fireworks and car alarms.
But this is different from the normal random shenanigans. From our bedroom window we saw real fireworks from a cathedral way off in the mountains last night, so apparently yet another holiday of some sort is being celebrated this weekend. Our neighbor seems to be deeply moved by whatever is going on because he's been setting off explosives periodically for the last 16 hours with a short break for sleep (or exhaustion). He's also the only person within earshot who has chosen this particular form of revelry.
It's mid-day as I'm writing this. The sun is brightly shining. Not the ideal time for fireworks, you might think, but in this case such trivialities as day or night are irrelevant because these fireworks are not of the ooh--aah variety that we all so enjoy. No, our buddy's are ignited solely for their decibel value (a dubious attribute in an otherwise quiet neighborhood). And each is a multi-explosion combo pack.
All of this raises limitless unanswered questions to the outsider I am revealed to be. What exactly is being celebrated? Why is this guy (I say "guy"--somehow I can't imagine a woman doing this) the only one around here shooting off fireworks? He stopped around 11 last night. Why then? He started back at 6;30 this morning. Why then? The detonations seem to occur about every 15 minutes. What's he doing the other 14?
But you see, this is just a minor although revealing example of a much larger mystery. Because when I think about it I don't really know anything of substance about anything that's going on here. Hell, I haven't read a paper or watched the news in almost 2 months. Not that I'm disinterested--I don't know what's being written or said!
We're working on our Spanish most every day. Watching a soap opera while Cynthia was getting a mani/pedi yesterday we could pick out more and more words and phrases (he said "muchas cosas"--that was in our lesson!) And we realize that with increased vocabulary we will eventually emerge from the tunnel of cultural darkness through which we are currently traveling. The light on the other end is ever so faintly shining.
In the meantime it's interesting to be the shoe on the other foot. So many Hispanics in the US obviously don't speak English. Otherwise the too-familiar choice of button pressing when calling almost any large company wouldn't exist.
But as much as I'd like to be better informed right now--as damned frustrating and exhausting as it often gets trying to communicate on even the most fundamental level--I still don't agree that the American culture should have caved on this issue.
I firmly believe when you live in a country it's your responsibility to learn that country's language. Period.
We look on our present situation as a temporary inconvenience and an incentive to keep moving forward. Often the locals, seeing how much we're struggling, apologize for their poor English! We invariably let them know it's not their job to learn English; it's ours to learn Spanish. And we will.
H-m-m-mm----the fireworks have stopped. Oh, it's early afternoon. Has he quit for lunch, run out of ammo, or just gotten bored? We'll find out after 3 o'clock, when life in Cuenca always resumes.
Never mind----the correct answer is "none of the above." Another blast just went off. (Sigh)
I've almost recovered enough to report on the trauma otherwise known as last Friday. Stay tuned for "To Hell and Back for 50 Cents."