Sunday, December 15, 2013

Five weeks already? It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Language study continues: We've reached the point where we now struggle to communicate in either language. Our minds are having trouble switching from Spanish to English. We have to think for a bit when someone in a store or restaurant starts talking with us in English. There’s this switch in our heads that tries to jump between languages, but ours seem to react very slowly. We stare at people, confused for a few seconds before thinking “Oh, they’re talking in English. We should understand that.” There are times, thanks mostly to encouraging teachers, other students, and friends, when we think we’re finally getting it. There are other times when we wonder if we’ll ever be able to effectively communicate. “Poco a poco” my teacher keeps saying, “Little by little”.

No matter how far away we go… I kind of thought I’d escaped the crazy Christmas decorating time that always turns our house upside down. Recently we were in our little den doing homework when we heard a commotion downstairs. It sounded like furniture crashing over and things moving. Debbie sent me down to investigate, concerned that our hostess (and provider of all good things edible) may have hurt herself. Though dressed in bathrobe and slippers, I dutifully descended the stairs and found the dining room in disarray as our hostess made room for her Christmas tree. It looked like she could use some help, or she knew we’d enjoy helping with the decorations. Soon we were untangling lights and hanging ornaments, searching our limited vocabularies for ways to describe the various decorations. All with classic Frank Sinatra tunes playing on the stereo. Oh, and just like back home, if one light goes out, they all go out!

A visit to TRAMA: One of the side benefits of our language school is the optional outings in which we can participate. Recently we paid a visit to a women’s weaving co-op called TRAMA. The name is derived from the Spanish name for the weaving thread used in the weaving process. This co-op was formed after the devastating Guatemalan civil war that deprived so many women of the western highlands of their traditional support base of fathers, brothers, and husbands. The co-op provided a means for these women to market their weaving creations to support themselves and their families. It appears to be a very well-run program, with volunteers from all over the world helping out, and women of all ages and educational backgrounds working to create and market the variety of woven products that have become their livelihood. The co-op is in the process of marketing their products via some of the Fair Trade venues around the world. I encourage you to check out their web site: It’s worth taking a look. During our visit, we got a chance to work with the fine cotton thread used as the base for the weaving process. I found laying out the thread to be only slightly easier than untangling Christmas tree lights.

Even in Sunday school: the spirit of ‘deck the halls’ has been unavoidable! Church is still a little more linguistic practice than it is spiritual experience for us, though we’re comprehending more and more each time. The adult Sunday school class we've been attending has been really helpful because it’s always lecture style, and with visual aids so we can do better at understanding what’s going on. Last Sunday was a little different. Instead of the normal rows of plastic chairs, there were several tables setup. After a brief scripture lesson, we were given kits from which each couple was to construct a Christmas wreath. Talk about out of our element! But, we got through it, learned some new expressions (like: “I think I glued my fingers together”), and got to know some of the people a little better. And now our little wreath adorns the table in our den, next to Debbie’s nativity scene she brought from home.

Christmas is disruptive: It always has been. Work and school are interrupted; the checks and balances of normal commerce go out the window; our home in Spokane, and now it would appear our home in Guatemala, is rearranged to the point where we have to walk sideways through the house to avoid running into all the stuff we've hauled in from the garage or up from the basement and placed all over the house. And yet, in the midst of this holiday madness we call tradition, there is a lesson for all us “Scrooges” out there. It’s good to be reminded that the first Christmas was one of the most disruptive events of human history. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us”. I suppose if we have to live with rearranging the furniture a little to make room for Christmas, we can do it.

Christmas blessings from Richard and Debbie!

1 comment:

  1. Indeed, Christmas is disruptive!
    In some ways, I envy your new life where you can avoid some of the usual disruptions (I know you aren't there to avoid life) and where you can begin some new traditions.
    I remember getting to the point with German when I struggled in both languages, trying to figure out which one was being spoken and how to respond. This means you are making progress!
    Much love from Spokane,