Sonntag, 27. Dezember 2009

I am a scardy cat.

When I was chaperoning a camping trip this spring, we went to a rope park. Having never been to a rope park, I got the group of children who were most afraid. This meant that we would start at the absolute easiest level and see how far we could get. By the 5th rope, 3 of my group members had needed to climb down a ladder, so frightened were they of the, so-called, yellow-course. In truth, I too was terrified, but my legs ceased to shake when any of the teenagers looked my way. "Isn't this fun?!" I would call, and it was.
I remembered how my mother had hidden her fear of dogs from us when we were children. The first time (of a plethora) a dog's bark left my mother clinging to my arm chanting her unconvincing "Nice doggy. Good Doggy. Go away." I was shocked. I had not an inkling that she had this fear. It turns out that she had purposefully hidden it, so as not to pass it on to us. When we were small my mother would stand still and not react. When we would be excited by the dog she would remind us of the etiquette of not approaching the dog without first asking the owner. I am forever grateful for this. I continue to follow those rules (made easier by German, in which "can I pet HIM?" is always correct, regardless of the dog's gender) and have met some lovely dogs as a result.
In this spirit I pushed fear aside and swung from rope to rope, "flew" with the clamp sliding down a wire and had a tremendously good time. Likewise, after the rope park I cheered my new group on as we "mountain-scootered" (like those push-scooters on steroids) down a mountain back to camp. One of my kids was lightly-injured but remained in good spirits, held aloft by the excitement of the group, and trusted me and my bad french when we reached the first-Aid station at the bottom of the mountain.
In summer, when Ivo and I found ourselves in a part of Schwarzwald popular among old-fogies, we thrilled to find that there was a rope park by Titisee. "It's so much fun Ivo! I can't wait!" I truly meant this. I was not acting excited to assuage Ivo's fears. We were both looking forward. Ivo, with curious excitement and I, with memories of the fun in Charmay. It was raining and the ropes were slick and our park guide told us that we would need to start on the easy course and progress from there. Sadly, the super-difficult course could not be done in the rain.
I couldn't finish the easy course.
I was paralyzed at one point. My legs simply wouldn't move. I focused all of my energy on one foot "You can do this!" I reminded the foot. It didn't budge. Without a pubescent audience to convince I succumbed to the knowledge that falling is painful and probable and I am mortal. I was crushed. So disappointed. Ivo and I have since made plans to visit the rope park in Luczern. This time we'll bring his god-daughter so that I can enjoy the whole park.

This week I was back in snowboarding class and I my other class-members were teens. One of the boys was a natural but the other was terrified. Thanks to him, I was able to curve and break and slide and traverse. Then he broke his wrist. My teacher said that it was self-fulfilling prophecy. In truth the boy wasn't going fast or anything. He'd completed a turn, stopped his board and then toppled onto his own wrist. Snap. In the time that remained of that class, as he was happily drinking Ovalmaltine and having his cast wrapped I was motionless on a mountain unable to put my weight on my front leg and drive. When I did it felt too fast and I would instantly curve and stop parallel to the mountain. The next day there was a new scared student and I was again able to move.
Luckily there are always enough new folks on the mountain. Yesterday when boarding alone I drew inspiration from the teeny children being yelled instruction from their parents in a number of various languages (ah Christmas time). I only wish that there were another way.

Meanwhile it's almost New Year. There are things that I want for myself, ways that I'd like to do things, things that I would like to leave behind. If it's only by example that I am able to challenge myself, I think that I have that motivation. Curled up on my chest is a little warm bundle named Anouk and I am in love with her. She's begun to smile and shares it with me when I dance with her or in front of her to James Brown. She soaks in my English as I whisper stories to her. The language of her Tata Jessy is just as much gibberish as the Swiss German of the rest of her family, but I hope that it all gets organized in her brain at a similar pace. I look at her sweet face and multiple chins and want so many good things for her. The world has bad things in it, like falling from a rope or breaking a wrist, but I plan to be a big ol' good thing in her world. I will leave behind the things I want to leave behind and do things the ways that I want to do them and my niece will never suspect that it was an effort, I hope. I want to be one of the women who show her that things can be done.

Freitag, 18. Dezember 2009

clean water

When I was living in Philadelphia I helped a nice fella make a commercial. While we were filming (with a crazy old WWI-era camera) the camera man got word that, due to rain, the sewers in Brooklyn backes up and that his friend's cat was covered in poo as a result.

I recently learned more about this from New York Times reporter Charles Duhigg. He's also got a new bit about "clean" water in the US. It's shocking and upsetting and instantly reminded me of an incident in the Kindergarten where I worked:

I believe in not scaring children with environmental knowledge, but teach conservation as I would everything else. We don't hit, toilet words belong in the toilet and we don't waste water or leave on lights when we're not in the room.
"Please turn off the water while you're brushing your teeth." I told the children. On one afternoon a child asked "why not?" and I said "we don't want to use more than our fare share of water." Then came another teacher, ready to undermine me "Oh, in Switzerland, we've plenty of water."

Ugh. I start to get very scared and nervous and I don't want to push that on children, but I do want them to understand the gravity of small choices and that they don't wind up like this lovely woman who I respect but who may not be an environmental expert. Until then, I meditate on a day in the woods outside Philadelphia strolling through a super cold brook.

Sonntag, 13. Dezember 2009

excuse me if I am confused.

Let me just set down my Bügeleisen from my Bügeln and hang the Bügelwäsche up on the Bügel. Oh, I need to adjust my glasses as well, better move the Bügel. And I'll put my saw down using the Bügel.........
There are times when I chuckle to myself thinking about the dance that one does in a new language. Pick up a word put it in your mind, later on fit a similar word nearby, later still slap yourself on the head for having known the word, but not all of the applications.

Now that I have met my niece Anoushka which means that she has now met the English language (she did not hear it in Utero, except maybe when her mama was watching films). While I speak softly in her ear, I ramble on in my Language: The curse of the great bambino, the stories of Halloween and Thanksgiving, etc, and her mother pats her head and says "Was sait si für Sheiss? Huh? Was ist das für Unsinn? Komisch Englisch." (What kind of shit is she talking? Huh? What kind of nonsense is that? Crazy English)

I likewise would like to speak German or Swiss geman with any children that my siblings may have, but it isn't my mother-tongue and would be unwise. Perhaps Ivo will. Our children will be able to speak both languages but the mothers of any future nieces or nephews I might have, will not be able to understand the languages that I (or Ivo) would be using to tell them stories.

This Thanksgiving while playing with a young boy and some cars, I explained that Ivo would call the green car's color "grün". This made total sense to him. "What is red for him?" I told him. Children and language is nothing new for me, but I've never considered families in different continents and language.
This must be why I dreamt last night that I was trying to convince my sister and brother-in-law, as well as my brother and sister, to learn the language of Esperanto, that all of our children may speak the same language. I awoke feeling dumb and selfish. I'm sure that this is all a far smaller molehill than my subconcious would have me believe.

Mittwoch, 2. Dezember 2009

I am grateful.

I'm so darned grateful. How appropriate that it was just Thanksgiving.

We had a terrific time in the States and I like to think that I didn't revert back into the immature youngest sister that I was time and time again when visiting my mom and sibs. Though Ivo pointed out that I said "I'm sorry" more than was necessary. But a-hah! Because the way one says "Thank you" in Japanese is "I am sorry". Where is, in German, the word "danke" is from the word for thinking. "(Ich) danke schön" literally: I think pretty. I love that.

When I say that I've been to visit my family, there is a typical exchange that follows:
conversation partner: Oh? Do you have brothers and sisters?
(conversation partner is attentive)
me: I have. A brother and sister.
cp: older or younger?
me: older sister. twin brother.
cp: Twins?!?! Do you feel his pain or have a secret language?
me: ummm, not really.

Lucas and I have never had a secret language, but we had a special way of starting a conversation for a while. Sadly, no longer. It used to be, that Ivo and I would greet Lucas with a friendly "How's your tree?"
You see a tree grew in Brooklyn, just outside my brother's apartment. It was planted there a few summers ago. Ivo and I came into town when it was still new. We arrived with Lucas, who'd been out of town for the weekend. We approached his building and heard him groan "Oooh noo. The tree!" It seems that it had been planted too shallow and that the city wasn't giving it enough water. Lucas made short work of that. Or rather, long, stair climbing work. He put down his bags and brought down the milk jugs filled with tap water that he had for this purpose. For a few years this went on. Asking him "How's your tree?" has proved to be a great conversation-starter. You see, no matter what else might be negative in his life, it appears less so in comparison. After the gloomy tree report, everything else seems a little less bad. The tree is no officially dead as is our perfect conversation-starter.

This isn't necessarily a twin-communication, though. After all, Ivo used it too and he and Lucas aren't twins. Plus the fact that Kendra and I had a similar opener a few years ago. "How's your guts?" is not unlike "How's your tree?"