Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Words of an Earthquake in Chile

When you learn a new language, you learn quickly the words that most affect you. When I first arrived, I learned all the Spanish words for vegetables because I'm a vegetarian. I also learned all the meat words so I knew what to avoid.

I learned the words of love. I learned the words related to stray dogs and pets. I learned my personal Chilean-Spanish world of words.

And now I'm learning the words of disaster, albeit unwillingly. Toca de queda (curfew) is said 50 times a day here. I learned maremoto (tsunami) and terremoto (earthquake). I learned damnificado (victim) and saqueador (looter). I now know fallecido is another word for dead.

I really, really wish I wasn't learning these words.

But despite my now sadder Spanish vocabulary and the earthquake stories that still come streaming from friends and acquaintances (one friend says her parents are from the south and lost everything), my life is strangely, oddly normal. I've been writing and editing, riding my bike, and packing my room to go home for good.

Pollo and I got into a disagreement, the first one since the earthquake. I guess the unity that fear of death brings has gone. I am embarrassed that the argument was a petty one, a kind of argument that couples have about communication. Huevas, is the name for it in Chilean Spanish. Arguing about nothing. I'm embarrassed that we argued at all. Could we not have been grateful for our lives and each other just a little bit longer?

A friend asked if the earthquake gave me a different perspective on my life. It feels like I should be more grateful. But I have been grateful since I landed here, grateful that I took a risk in my life that turned out to be one of the most valuable experiences of my life--earthquake or not. Instead of a shift in perspective, I only feel all the more certain that the choices I've made in my life are good ones. I am all the more certain that I am blessed.

Bendecida. Blessed.

1 comment:

Mari said...

Oh gosh, Cathy. Your words are so nourishing and illuminating. It's good to hear what's happening there, what you're feeling. This whole earthquake thing has affected me so much, in ways that were so surprising for me. Feelings are so strange and unpredictable; I am learning to accept them whatever they may be and stop thinking about how I "should" be feeling.

I'll write you soon; I am so glad you're writing here and keeping us all updated.

Much much love.