Saturday, June 30, 2012

one of those good news/bad news kind of days

I've had some of the most encouraging experiences this week, alongside some of the most frustrating ones.

First for some of the pleasant news. A friend of mine has taken to dictating sentences to me lately, often in my own voice, watching to make sure that I write them down verbatim. This is a painstakingly slow way to communicate, but it's her idea for how to make sure that I don't forget any Kichwa. ñuka rimashka, ñuka rimashka, killkangi, she commands (I speak, I speak, you write), adding a gesture of dragging her finger across the tablecloth for emphasis. The exciting part of this story was a few sentences into her dictation, but I'll provide a transcription of a whole paragraph here for good measure, to give you a bit of a feel for Kichwa:

escuelata tukuchirani; colegiota tukuchirani, kunan universidadbi mauni, yachauni.
I completed primary school; I completed high school; now I am in University, constantly learning.
Runa shimita maskauni, yachangawa.
I am searching for Kichwa, in order to learn it. (she said it just the way my blog is titled!! woohoo)
Shuj watata rirani Iyarinai runa shimita yachangawa, sachata purirani, riksisha sachata.
One year ago I went to Iyarina [field school] to learn Kichwa, I walked in the forest, becoming acquainted with the forest.
Canoa Yakuta, pichka kilómetro purirani. Chimanda ñuka suerte kunai churirai armarani, supai tYuka uktuta riksirani.
In Canoa Yaku stream I walked five kilometers. From there I bathed in a waterfall, a demon-spit waterhole.

A few disclaimers. First, that last line still sounds off but I wanted to somehow communicate what a great image supai tYuka is for waterfall, the spit of a spirit/monster/demon, and then uktu is the hole part of that, referring to the pond at the base of the waterfall. Second, I would have liked to include a more professional breakdown of morphemes and a literal translation along with the Kichwa and English lines, but I'm already subpar on the blogger formatting so I think it would take a long time and still turn out atrociously. Also the Kichwa is roughly phonetic but obviously not IPA. Some other time I'll provide a better transcription, more like I would put in an actual linguistic paper.

Now for some of the more frustrating thoughts. I haven't worked through them but I was glad to see my friend Rem articulate some similar frustrations in his post about the frustration of not being around other academic-minded people while in the field. As he mentions, you can send emails and keep in contact with peers about such highminded topics (as Rem called it, postmodernism), but it would be so much more satisfying to talk to people right here in the thick of it, to share ideas and have discussions and arguments and develop thoughts together.

Personally I think it would be perfect to do linguistic/anthropological field research as a partnership with someone (especially after meeting an amazing couple from UCLA who came to speak to us last year). Even apart from that dream, though, it would be so great if I could spend time with local scholars, people who see the culture from the inside but still share my background of Western-style critical thought. I guess that's where it breaks down, that style of thinking is culturally based so what I'm missing might just be a part of my Culture Shock. Or maybe critical thinking is so superior that it successfully transcends the boundaries of culture and really does provide us with the most important thing in life, Truth with a capital T. (tongue in cheek, guys)

Either way I am looking forward to processing all of this when I get home and immersing myself fully in academia again, because I'm enjoying real human interaction here too much to be in the same theoretical frame of mind that I was during the winter. Does that make sense? What I'm trying to say is, while I was preparing to enter the field I was exercising the abstract academic part of my brain, and now I'm exercising the practical language-learning and human sociability parts, and I can tell that some of the former is slipping away a bit. Maybe one day I will get better at holding both at once but for now I'm (relatively) content with the trade.

1 comment:

  1. that is so cool that your blog title randomly materialized out of the blue like that.

    one day i hope to know the answer to the critical thought topic
    ...because as much as i have been searching for answers, i still feel like it is the transcendent universal, or close to it
    even the Indian critical works and stuff that i have come across, stuff that was written around the time of Plato and stuff...its all so steeped in cultural context and religious dogma that it isn't really capable of questioning itself
    it views itself as Truth and doesn't leave much room for the contemplation of truth

    maybe there is a different flavor of the critical, maybe something less steeped in academia and more universal? may that is the transcendental whole?