November 18, 2011: Music of the Cherimoya

Thank goodness it’s Friday. I am not a creature designed for waking up at 7am every single day.

I’ve been feeling rather too dependent upon English during my downtime (hanging with other extranjeros, reading things on the Internet). So, for the walk to school today, I decided that I would try to force myself to think only in Spanish. Occasionally a little silver-fish of an English thought would pop up to comment on my progress, or an English song would start playing in the background of my mind (if the latter, I’d try to translate the lyrics into Spanish). Nonetheless, it was a moderately successful attempt — about 80% of my thoughts during the walk were solely in Spanish, albeit much slower and clumsier than my normal thought processes. Bien!

We watched a Chilean film called Machuca in class. It followed the friendship of two boys — the privileged Gonzalo, and his working class new friend Pedro — during the time after Allende’s election, through 9/11, and into the beginning of Pinochet’s regime. Dark, divided times seen through the (initially) ingenuous eyes of Gonzalo and the less innocent eyes of Pedro. A well-made film, which alternated between humorous, disconcerting, and heartrending. I’d recommend it, if you have a few heartstrings to spare.

That place that has pretty good coffee, Emporio La Rosa? Turns out that it also has amazing sandwiches and salads. I had a lightly toasted baguette with ham and avocado, which was easily as good as any sandwich I’ve had in the States.

The cherimoya (which I bought a week and a half ago) was finally ripe enough today, so I sliced it open. It has soft, custard-textured flesh filled with large inedible seeds. I’ll concur with Wikipedia’s summation of its flavor being “a blend of banana, pineapple, papaya, peach, and strawberry.” (Apparently, Mark Twain called it “the most delicious fruit known to men,” but he was a man known for exaggeration, was he not?) I like its flavor, but I was only able to eat a few spoonfuls before it got too overpoweringly sweet for me. I shall return to it later.

Tú eres una chirimoya.
A little green planet.

In the evening, I’d just settled in with a cup of hot mint tea when M. called and asked if I’d like to go out. I agreed, and chugged my mint tea before heading out — because that is how I roll. Along with R. and B. (M’s boss’s friend with whom we’d gone to the circus before), we headed to a bar called La Playa. There was loud music playing all night, with their music videos displayed on two large televisions on the far wall. When we arrived, they were playing almost entirely English-language rock (Joan Jett, Queen, R.E.M.), but as the night wore on, these were phased out and replaced by boisterous Chilean and Mexican songs. We sat for a bit, and then danced for several hours, while shouting back and forth in Spanish with friendly dance-floor strangers.

Eventually, my knees and ankles were whining too much, so I found a table and chatted with a random Chilean boy about everything from fútbol (soccer) to musical instruments. Since it was more removed from the loud music here, it was excellent Spanish practice. (The bad thing about going out in Chile: you’re at the mercy of your compatriots, as it’s unwise to walk alone after dark. So inevitably someone ends up being up past their bedtime, or someone leaves before they want to, or both.)

We left the bar around 5am. On the walk back, we passed a traditional Chilean band, outfitted in matching outfits and bearing a variety of instruments. One of them asked us for a cigarette; B. obliged, and M. joked that we’d exchange it for a song. Without skipping a beat, the man whistled to his bandmates, and there — in the middle of the deserted plaza — they performed for us a melodic, haunting piece. One of the band members grabbed my hand and spun me in dance for the end of the song. Then, B. asked them if she could borrow their guitar, and proceeded to pluck it skillfully, while singing in a quiet and lilting voice. A surreal, breathtaking end to the evening.

5 thoughts on “November 18, 2011: Music of the Cherimoya

  1. Wow, what a day! Little did I expect that the sampling of a bit of acne-fruit (as I call it here in the US) would lead to your being swirled by a Chilean musician. It sounds like a marvelous evening. Be safe.

    Here, the sun peeked out for a minute but now there’s a thick billowing bank of dark grey headed from the SF Bay to me. (From where I sit, that new house is entirely blocking my view of the Bay, but I remember that it’s there.) I turned the temperature of the heater down to 54 last night. I froze all night but was too cold to get up to get another layer.

  2. If it’d make it easier for you, any emails from you to me can be in Spanish, for your practice-needs–I usually enjoy having to translate something sent to me in a foreign language. (Sincerely, someone else freezing and miserable in the Bay Area.)

  3. Years ago*, while an exchange student in Germany, I noted that those who shed connections to their familiar life (spoke only the local language, avoided contact with fellow ex-pats, etc…) seemed to have the most rewarding exchange experience. Back then, it was a matter of not writing home or indulging in pecuniarily-prohibitive intercontinental phone calls). With the advent of the internet and instant international communication, I imagine it is that much harder to immerse yourself and all too easy for the mind to find itself lingering with the familiar and comfortable.

    English (and the anglo-dominated internet and all your old friends) will be there after you return. For the moment, here’s hoping you stay in the here and now and Spanish.

    * Yes Virginia, before there was an internet

    1. Fortunately or unfortunately, I currently have part-time work in the U.S. which obliges me to spend 5-10 hours a week online, doing productive things in English. It’s reassuring to have the income, but guarantees that I’ll have a dose of English every day. (And then there are the Chileans who like to practice English with me, and the friendly classmates whose English is stronger than their Spanish, and whom I would rather befriend than shun for the sake of immersion purity, &c.)… still, I am satisfied with my immersion experience so far. I didn’t expect to be able to avoid English completely.

  4. As amazing as Mama Ginna’s green apple/cashew/raisin/melted fancy white cheddar sandwiches?
    I didn’t think so.

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