Monday, January 26, 2009

Mistakes...The Doing...Carnival

Friday, Jan. 23. Learning from your mistakes, or not.

There’s so much you learn, or think you learn, by observing, by putting together patterns. 

When it’s been 8 months, and you think you have something down, it’s frustrating as hell finding out that you were wrong this whole time. 

Voy y venga” (I'll be right back), I always say from my next door neighbor’s house, when I run home to pee or whatever. 

Finally, my buddy Oscar had had enough.

No es ‘voy y vengA,’” he said, changing his voice in an imitation of my voice, only slightly more mentally handicapped. “Es ‘Voy y vengO.’”

“Well thanks for telling me,” I said, “After three months!”

Voy y venga.” he keeps saying to me, in that voice. 

And that got them started. Also, apparently, I greet people way too early in the street, from about 20 feet away, when I first catch their eye. The 11-year-old did a demonstration with her hands. “You say hi here,” she said, her hands held apart as if showing me about how long a shoebox is.” She started to move them together, like two people passing in the street. “You’re supposed to say hi more around here.”

And, Oscar added, you don’t say “Adios” to people who are passing in the street. They’re supposed to say Adios to you first. 

Apparently in my eagerness to have everyone like me, I had broken the norms of society. 

I just want to know what’s going on already.

Today I was waiting for the van to Villarrica at the main bus stop in town. Last time I went to VR, the bus came from my right, on the other side of the street, and it seemed like it wasn’t going to stop. 

“Francisco!” I yelled to the driver as the bus was about to turn the corner. He stopped and I ran across the street. It takes a lot for me to purposely attract attention, when I already feel so self-concious.

I got in the cab, huffing, everyone staring at me, but I was thankful I had caught the bus. 

The van continued all around little Yataity, then came up to the same stop I had been at, on the closer side of the road, and the driver parked and waited 15 minutes, where I could have calmly gotten on, sin vergüenza, had I just waited. 

So today, while I was sitting on the bench at the bus stop to go to VR, then on to Caazapa to meet up with my PC buddies, and the van came from the right, I knew better than to flag it down like a big dork. I was playing it cool. The van would come back to me. 

Only it didn’t. And here I am in Yataity, having missed the Caazapa bus for the day, and the party tonight. I wasn’t feeling so cool when I had to walk back to my house with the same packed bag I had left with 2 hours before, or when I had to call my friends and tell them what happened.

What is wrong with me?

I had to laugh today when I read this section of Dave Eggars’ “What is the What,” written from the view of a Sudan refugee, about a man who came from Japan, working for a NGO, to help in the camp.

“I did not understand why Noriyaki would come to Kakuma, and why he stayed in Kakuma, especially when he had a family and a ladyfriend in Japan. For a very long time, I tried to figure out what exactly was wrong with him, what might have prevented him from getting an actual job in Japan. What would have caused him to travel so far for such a poor-paying and difficult position as he had here, with us? ... He had no physical deformities that I could discern. 

I discussed Noriyaki with Gop’s familiy on night over dinner.  --He could be some sort of criminal in Japan, Ayen offered.” 

Jan 24. The Doing

So, according to the scale in the little store near me, I’ve lost more than 5 kilos. When I calculated the pounds, realizing I’d lost more than 10, I laughed. For all the times I’ve set out to lose 10 pounds and failed. How had I suddenly lost 10 without even noticing?

I have been good about yoga nearly every morning, and learning to cook vegetarian, meal by meal. And come to think of it, I went from too lazy to look up the number for the pizza delivery place to being consistant with studying and actually taking care of myself. 

I think one of the things that changed that most was reading Eckhart Tolle’s books. This passage explains a little bit:

“How” is always more important that “what.” See if you can give much more attention to the doing that the result that you want to achieve throught it. Give your fullest attention to whatever the moment presents. This implies that you also comletely accept what is, because you cannot give your full attention to something and at the same time resist it. 

As soon as you honor the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease. 

So do not be concerned with the fruit of your action -- just give attention to the action itself. The fruit will come of its own accord. 

The moment your attention turns to the now, you feel a presence, a stillness, a peace. You no longer depend on the future for fulfillment and satisfaction -- you don’t look to it for salvation. Therefore, you are not attached to the results. 

The psychological need to become anything other that who you are already is no longer there. You will not have illusory expectations that anything or anybody in the future will save you or make you happy. As far as your life situation is concerned, there may be things to be attained or acquired. That’s the world of form, of gain and loss. 

Yet on a deeper level you are already complete, and when you realize that, there is playful, joyous energy behind what you do. You know longer pursue your goals with grim determination, driven by fear, anger, discontent, or the need to become someone. Nor will you remain inactive through fear of failure. 

When your deeper sense of self is derived from being, when you’re free of “becoming” as a psychological need, neither your happiness nor your sense of self depens on the outcome, and so there is freedom from fear. You don’t see permanency where it cannot be found. You don’t demand that situations, conditions, places, or people should make you happy, and then suffer when they don’t live up to your expectations. 

Everything is honored, but nothing matters. You know that nothing real can be threatened. 

When this is your state of being, how can you not succeed? You have succeeded already. 

Before, I realize, I always focused on the outcome and the fact that I didn’t have it. That six pack and why it wasn’t here yet. That writing award and those who already had it. Now I’m better able to trust the process. Little by little. When I'm jealous because all everyone talks about is how good Sasha is at Guarani, all I can do is sit down day by day, and study. Do I not think that if I study for an hour every day I'll be there some day too? Of course I will. 

I know that if I want to do something, speak Guarani or cook, the first step is to accept that I don’t know how and others do. The second step is to start working on it. And then I repeat the second step until I get there. 

One more bit of wisdom I picked up that speaks to this. 

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.” -Aristotle

Jan 25. Ajerokyta Carnivalpe (I’m going to dance at Carnival)

I was napping today, when my neighbors came clapping at my door. There were two younger girls, high school girls, that I knew from around town outside. They want me to dance at Carnival.

For weeks my 11-year-old host sister has been bringing out her outfit from last year, just strips of silver and sequence in a box, and samba dancing around the dining room table. The tradition of Carnival, which is most famous in Rio, requires big headdresses, lots of glitter, but tiny pieces of clothing.

“We’ll bring you the clothes,” said the girls outside. “They’re not too sexy.”

Brennan assures me this only means it will be more than a thong. 

I had been dreaming forty seconds before they relayed this information and it all sounded like a lot of work. But still, I knew I’d say yes. It falls under my once-in-a-lifetime opportunity criteria. To which I always say yes, as a rule. 

Practice was an hour later. I showered and walked with my host sister, my presence with her visibly boosting her esteem among the other preteens as we entered the huge gymnasium. 

There were about 50 people. Again I was one of the oldest and physically biggest and most aware of the eyes on me. I had the same kind of shame I felt when showing up for modeling practice. This shame I turned off, lest it ruin my good time. 

The band came in and it started. Samba is of African origin, filtered through Brazil, and it’s all drums. About 20 kids stood in a circle, pounding out the beat. It filled the gym, vacuuming out our voices. 

I was grouped into the newbies and taught by hand motions. I kept looking around at it all: Little girls trying to worm their body, the two front dancers practicing shakin routine, the band, the teachers, who looked amazing. Everywhere feet were moving: under the teachers, the watchers, those tipping up thermoses to drink water. With the music, it seemed like an intense movie montage, always at the climax. This was until I caught my teacher’s eye, then she’d point two fingers at me then back at her own face. 

After a while I was taken on by another teacher, who taught me the most basic step. Step across, other foot out, pivot first foot, step across, other foot out, pivot...around and around the gym we went. 

I took dance lessons and recall being stumped at kick, ball, change, which is what they teach right after they teach you how to put on your shoes. 

So now I'm seaching "samba how to" on YouTube and looking for dance shoes that I can have sent from the states. Ah, again, what have I gotten myself into?

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