Dienstag, 15. Juli 2008

from the mouths of babes

Working at a Montessori kindergarten, I write down LOTS of observations. I record trends that are troubling (like a certain child's sudden pliability and tendency to do whatever another child suggests) or spates of bullying and what-not. We also have language booklets. We record full sentences or sentence fragments that the children accomplish in one of the three foreign languages. I, however, like to record some sentences in the children's mother tongues, as well. A rant of one of our students that is quite clearly the parroting of a parent ("weisch, Ich will nüüt zu der neue Schule geh, ich ha'zu viel zu tun, und s'wäre noch eiz umfahrt.": "'ya know, I don't even wanna go to the new school, I've got so much to do and it'll only be another detour to take."), or something so damn cute I don't wanna forget it ("America is like cookies, it's the best, but you can't have it every day.")
My colleague and I have argued about which things the children have come up with themselves. The only ones we can agree on are when the children are role-playing and imitating the teachers. This is never a proud moment for us. I cringe when one of the girls announces that she is Jessy. "Alright. That's enough!" "I don't like that kinda talk" "Calm down!" They are pitch-perfect and simplify my role in their lives to an embarassing degree.

Ivo came hiking yesterday with the kids, and I found myself parroting my parent. "We're almost there! Just a little further!" That is parroting a parent. We had he best time. I was a little cheerleader when those with shorter legs complained. Ivo was a pedestrian rickshaw when he heard their complaining. He came up with the "let's throw stones in the river!" idea when one of our more frequent criers fell down and got a boo-boo. He spoke in everyone's own language, which raised the question "Why do you speak Italian?" in Italian from Arianna, our Italian students.

Arianna's rather forthright blathering in English and German is often quite priceless. A few examples:
"A man came to visit. He doesn't have pretty teeth like ours."
"When you go to Rome you can eat anything you want and sleep all morning." (This in response to our asking for advice for our trip to Rome this weekend.)
"St. Nicholas is old and ugly and smells and I don't like him. I think he eats children."
"Ich liebe Ivo, ganz einfach."

This is interesting, as St. Nicholas, this year, was played by Ivo. She doesn't know this. Her mother tried to explain that her opinion of St. Nick may be because she has a beard phobia. This, Arianna has not parotted.
In her ever-honest way, Arianna's new found love, Ivo was honored in her art work today. She wanted to make a thank you card for Ivo and drew big hearts and "Ivo" and "love" all over the place.

Feelin' pretty good about my man. Because, let's face it, I do say "Alright! That's enough!" quite a lot.

Samstag, 12. Juli 2008


Above the door to my toilet hangs a sign:
"Ivo Gets More Ass Than Toilet Paper"
A testament to bros.
The other sign that was traded for this one on the evening of Ivo's bachelor party is less useful in the home. "Pleitch mich. Ich brüch's hart"

At Upenn, I gave an assignment to help warn students of the siren song of projected statistics. Anthropologist must not make the mistakes of sociologists. We know that one needs time and patience to truly understand human behavior and that a certain behavior can not be called "norm" without both time and patience. The students understood my point quite quickly. I asked them to write their findings for a normal year in a place that they had only visited once, for a short time. A student who had recently and unexpectedly transferred from Toulane University, wrote about his findings in Philadelphia. "Typical Philadelphians spend evenings sleeping in doorways". His classmate, who'd only been at Toulane two days before being transferred due to Katrina used a typical Statistical formula to declare that Louisianna's Gulf Coast region received an average annual rainfall of 37 feet.

If I were to use projecting statistics after tonight, I would question the theory that "bros come before hos". I would note bros hanging one another from trees in superman costumes, bros dressing up another of their bros in pink tu-tus and blond wigs, while wearing t-shirts saying "RIP Lukas".
While siting for a long while at a tram connection, one bro was holding his bro's hood as the latter vomited. I can only assume the former bro was going the extra measure, eating a bratwurst. This seemed, to me, to say "Don't worry bro, I don't mind. In fact, I mind so little I still have an appetite. I have so much appetite in fact, that I can eat while you yak."
So, which is the control group? Which is the exception? Are bros uncommonly cruel or super there for each other?
The two solid conclusions I can find at least, are that a lot of weddings are happening this month in Zürich and this leads to conclusion 2 being that this results in insanely heavy drinking.

Sonntag, 6. Juli 2008

by a nose

I often joke that Ivo as the sense of smell of a pregnant woman. Last fall he came home with a story of olfactory dejavu which is typical of him. Someone at the university had attempted to mask some heavy drinking with peppermint's and the au de alcoholism had tapped into an old association from years past.

I heard somewhere that smell is the sense most closely linked to memory. I wish I had understood that earlier in life. I wish that I had a way of bottling those smells which most comforted me as a child. On second thought, I seem to remember my favorite smells, as a child, being gasoline and fresh cigarette smoke. As it is, I delight in finding an old familiar smell and procuring it somehow. Like when my sister kissed me the first day I tried using Pond's face cream and she was struck with a memory of our dead grandmother. This same grandmother is evoked, for me, when I smell that kind of Listerine that is yellow and burns worse than bourbon.

I wish I knew the name of my father's old cologne. I don't know if he only wore it at work or not, but I remember him smelling of it strongly in his dress whites. I have a memory of meeting him at the airport, his clothes miraculously still appeared fresh-pressed. He grinned and from beyond the airport arrivals barrier, stretched his arms out and wiggled his fingers. When he'd passed the small gates and placed his large bag on the floor, I'd taken his big white navy hat with it's black patent-leather brim and gold band. I drank in his smell.

Years later, after doing some obligatory service time with the navy, though he'd moved on to another career, I was staying with his wife and small son. We didn't meet him at the airport. Nevertheless, as he came in, he had the same arrival smile sans far away stretched out arms. I smelled his cologne and in a Pavlovian way, awaited his hat on my now larger head. The cologne deceived me, however and the hat tipped and wobbled over the fat cheeks of my half-brother who took it and ran away clumsily.

Years later, I was invited for a weekend with my father and a woman he was seeing, to Cape Cod. I was older and living with a boyfriend. My father was separated and no longer had a navy hat to give. I drank a glass of wine and felt very old and very strange. I was an adult child, a new role with my father. I felt confident, but something else was different, which made me uneasy. I couldn't name this change, nor could I adjust to it's newness. On our second night, all of us freshly showered and preparing for dinner, my father emerged from the bathroom.
"Your cologne!!!" I nearly shouted.
"Do you like it?" asked the woman he was seeing. She smiled brightly. "I bought it for him."
"very clever." I thought. Is there any better was to eliminate any immediate remembrance
of a life before you, than to eliminate the smell of that life?

I don't often wear perfume nowadays. After quitting smoking, I was less self-conscious of my smell. The smell of smokers in trams give me no pining or reminiscence of my old life as a smoker. For that matter, the smell of folks in Zürich trams in general is something to which I've become accustomsed. I like the smell of Zürich and hope that someday it will smell like home.

People ask if I get homesick and I list small things that I miss before concluding that, no, I am not. That's not to say never. When I smell someone grilling and think on my Philly neighbors and their competing marinades for baby back ribs. When I smell the Swiss version of Mexican restaurants. The worst, however, is when I've been swimming in the Zürich lake. A navy kid from the Ocean State, I take my freshly-dried hair before my face and smell - - nothing. That is when I miss "home".