Tuesday, June 26, 2007

all the world's a stage

Aisha

I’ve been in Lima since last Sunday and with each day we’re becoming better acquainted. It was a formal introduction at first, a well-groomed interaction with the tidy politeness of a distant stranger. Over the week, formalities have been deliberately subtracted from the context and already we’re forging a bond through insightful chats with comic taxi drivers, warm chocolate churros and spontaneous street theatre.

My relationship with the city has flourished through the language experience. Beyond a progressing familiarity with street Spanish I’m gaining a clarity and honesty that comes through a disarmed simplification of expression. I find fluidity in conversations with taxi drivers, on minibuses, at street cafes, with market vendors and local artists chatting away with unguarded ease. I love taking on an accent, slurring the vowels, playing with words and tossing in the occasional idiomatic expression.

In professional settings, however, when I try to impose a calculated deliberateness to my thoughts, intended articulations come out butchered and sloppy. It’s humbling to see the meager truth of my ideas when they’re not dressed up in poised rhetoric. The pursuit of quality will surely be a long one.

As I’m taking on roles and trying out scripts in this city, I enjoy the occasional break as a spectator. I love people watching. In Lima my favored vantage point is a lower step of the amphitheatre in Kennedy Park. Sitting in the hub of Miraflores district I’ve gotten to know the old man who comes to visit his pigeon friends. I’ve seen young love stories spark and old ones fizzle out. I’ve watched family outings, temper tantrums and the occasional mid-life crisis. I love opening my senses and soaking in the vibrant surroundings. On long afternoons and late evenings I get lost on rambling trails of thought while inventing stories to piece together the scraps and fragments of passing strangers.

In continuation of my nomadic theme for this summer, I find myself freer and more penetrable in this unpaved journey. It’s an escape from passive consciousness with its surface impervious to the details of daily activity. Traffic jams that were once annoying inconveniences become primetime for people watching, crammed mini-buses offer wisps of juicy conversation, and no matter how trivial the discussion my rough language skill demands complete focus, eliminating a lapse into passive listening.

Friday was my first venture into the industrial region on the far side of the city. As fellow bloggers have expressed, the visual juxtaposition is astounding between the modern and the traditional. Heading into the heart of a bustling district on a chaotic minibus I stumbled over outstretched feet and into the last vacancy in the back seat. Ten minutes into the ride I was sparked into conversation by a solemn looking Peruvian in his early 50s. Carlos Vera dove right into discussion and analysis of Peruvian politics, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the recent elections in Egypt and the role of the United States in the Middle East. Carlos attempted a simplification of events to a bottom line of deteriorating human culture. “It’s the capitalist spirit that eats us from the inside; each person pops the top to his own individual Inca Kola, fights for his entitlements, and pursues his personal rights - this global mess we’re in is the product of self-interest, and where does that leave the masses?”

As the bus stop approached, our conversation wound down to an all-too familiar question. “Have you been to visit Machu Pichu?” He asked. “You must remember to vote for the 7 wonders of the world! You remember Machu Pichu and I’ll remember the pyramids,” he smiled.

For a bit of thematic relevance, my ‘Arab experience’ has certainly been unique. To date I’ve incited a fan club of 60-year old chess players, in a 15 minute span I received requests for 3 photo-ops, on a regular basis I cause double-takes and literal jaw drops, I’ve held my own against stare-downs of the masses, and for the eighth day now I've withstood round after round of the ‘top to bottom sneer’ as coined in Egyptian dialect. I often feel like the three headed woman in a circus freak show, but more on that will follow shortly…

5 comments:

salma said...

mmm churros...

disfruto mucho tus escritos, querida. hasta que miercoles!

(a proposito, that movie with johnny depp and amitabh bachchan comes out next year and it's being directed by mira nair who's married to, interestingly enough, mahmood mamdani of "good muslim bad muslim" fame. connections connections. http://www.asiasource.org/news/special_reports/mamdani.cfm )

salma said...

oh and on a side note i always kind of loved that in spanish "ojala" substituted for inshaAllah...

salma said...

and another p.s.-- you cant vote for the pyramids as one of the seven wonders anyways so dude lied! ;-)

Lauren Jill Hatshepsut said...

Aisha, you write wonderfully. I'm now getting to the earlier postings. May your times in Peru and Egypt be ... quite good. I had my 1 month of ameeya in Cairo, difficult for me, as you might expect. I'm now switching back to fusHa, in hopes I'll get into Arabic I (the perennial beginner, but I *will* and *can* learn this beautiful language, at least to an extent). Before I attack Alif Baa, to get a head start, I'm finishing off a child's beginner little book of Arabic [Nasser had actually thrown that in the pot of suggestions, to show how desperate we are.] But when you're back in the spring of '08 I will be a little fluent! My 'Western experience': well, I did get a handful of proposals, one quite serious.
All the best.

Raoul said...

This Carlos Vera in your blog sounds like my missing father. Could you please describe him to me. Was he a doctor? Used to be a foreign exchange student? Do you know his full name?