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Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Update: Decembering

I have it on (good?) authority that London is bitterly cold, Jeremy Clarkson is a complete idiot, and political correctness has, of course, gone barking mad – again (too tired to post link, just search for any comment site). And, of course, the kind of shocking stats that only come round once a year have returned, bringing with it some understandable cynicism as well as criticism of common ignorances that still persist.

I’ve not yet been gone two weeks, but stepping completely outside of your home environment, with little access to emails/phone etc can have the effect of making everything completely surreal. Or maybe it’s just me?
I’m travelling around, and currently in a not-so-small-anymore town in the Dom. Rep. where I once lived for a while. When I was last in the region, running water and electricity were limited, no one had broadband and horses were almost as common as 4x4s. It was a 2 hour journey to the airport through bumpy roads and the occasional (dodgy) police checkpoints. Now, whilst the power still goes out once in a while and water isn’t always forthcoming round these parts, the new toll road is as fast and as smooth as my Wi-Fi connection, there’s a massive baseball stadium round the corner, and I’ve just had a spin in my neighbour’s new wheels. Viva el progreso!
I’m also learning to appreciate the contradictions that life throws at you, and there are many here, because inequality seems to be exaggerated to the extreme. But I don’t want to talk about that now, especially as someone who is essentially an outsider, with only a week’s worth of observation under my belt. I came here to reconnect and relive, not to make socio-political commentary about the Caribbean.
My English is starting to get a bit confused, as is my Spanish, and I’m sure many of the bilingual people out there with similar experiences can testify to the complications that arise from adjusting to a second language. My dialect – or, better said, idiolect – is returning, along with several words and phrases I haven’t utilised for years, but it's not always coming out with the same fluency as it once did. It's a little frustrating not being at the same level, and just goes to show that language comes and goes, as does knowledge in general. You don't use it, you lose it! 
The poem, Search for my Tongue, by Siddartha Bhatt – which was on the GCSE syllabus when I was at school, and still is – resonated strongly with me the first time I returned to the UK after being here. Suddenly, in London, I was struggling to resurrect a native tongue I barely used here, and it felt easier to shout Cuida’o! than Watch Out! (which nearly got me involved in a traffic accident).
As this web page demonstrates, there are certain concepts that simply work better in one language over the other and some that can’t be translated. I, for one, would like to see an equivalent of the endearing diminutive –ito/-ita which, correct me if I’m mistaken, we only really have when it comes to names, in the form of –y. I think I’m way past being called Keithy, though.       
Christmas is approaching here, just as it is, incidentally, elsewhere around the world; however, the fact we’re in a tropical climate means nothing when it comes to fir tree decorations and depictions of snow-capped sleighs. In fact, whilst I was in the capital, I was amused to see Coca Cola’s annual Christmas tree, complete this year with a house with a chimney, right near Christopher Columbus’s old digs. Hmm. No further comment.
I’m not sure how much I’ll manage to blog up until Christmas, but I will do as and when I have the correct combination of time, energy and internet connection.
Hasta ahorita!



Which is nice and appropriate for what I've just posted below!

Postcard for the Album

These streets are made of domino slaps on wooden boards and diesel fuel
From irreverent motors wheezing up towards the old barrio they call Vietnam
And the same bachata song they’ve been playing till late all week
And the sleep of the dead
And the mangy old dog that hauls itself along and doesn’t chase the pickup trucks
Bearing gifts of freshly beheaded hens
But from the gutter barks its hoarse desire

A tyre on the ground marks the spot
And I’m learning again to make new friends
Out of the words I didn’t quite catch
Like the baseball OUT! I was supposed to deliver
And the tight-skin shiver of morning water from the rusty tap
And the sizzle of the outdoor pan
And the machete man and his sugarcane cart

Because these streets were constructed from all the spare parts
That make up the broke-down lives and histories I once knew
They were created by the stickiness of the self-same sun which hugs my shirtsleeves close
And slurs my tongue
And blurs the Polaroid perfections of all my recollections
Until you and me are here now dancing
Pega’ito outside some bodega or another where rum-soaked minds drink
The music of our dreams
And eat the tarmac of my silence.