Pronouns will be the death of me. Pronouns and prepositions with a little mix of uncertain past and a desirous future will be the long, slow, torturous end of me. Learning a language has proved more difficult than I had originally planned. One doesn’t actual plan such things, but in my daydreams I would remember words the first time I heard them or diligently write them down and study late into the night with a nice cup of tea and soothing music. I would prance around Salamanca having no fear and walking up, smiling, to the camareros, with an order ready on my lips. When I mispronounced words, everyone would laugh, and I would take it gracefully with humor like we were all in some Katherine Hepburn film. But as things turns out, it isn’t like any movie I’ve ever seen at all. However, it is like some books I’ve read. Les Miserables, for example. An excellent read, but there are a solid 100 pages (at least) were everything is worse than the dreariest day in the most depressing month of the most monotonous year. Four pages later it’s still awful and then 50 pages later nothing has changed. I remember having a strong dislike for Mr. Hugo during that section. I thought to myself, “Those old authors. They have good stories, but what is the deal with the mundane crap fest that all of them seem to put in their novels?” Dostoyevsky in Crime and Punishment, Austen in Mansfield Park, Dickens, Tolstoy, Dumas…They all have these long, seemingly pointless sections in their books. But in living here for 12 weeks, learning a new language and a new culture I’m realizing the stuffy old men and women who scribbled by candlelight in worlds of disease, dirt and slow communication understood far better than us the importance of those tedious periods in our life. They empathized with those seasons and wrote about them. But our generation cuts it out. Jean Valjean’s months and months of this drawn-out tedium isn’t in the musical and hardly in the film adaptations*. I mean who wants to watch a man moping around for 30 min? Those 100 pages aren’t in the abridged version of the book either. In our fast paced world, we just don’t want it to exist , so we cut it out. But I can’t cut it out of my life. And perhaps Victor Hugo couldn’t write it out of Jean Valjean’s life because he was creating a character of brokenness and redemption and struggle and joy and journey. He is a character we relate to and root for. I’m frustrated that remembering which pronoun I need and how it interacts with the particular verb conjugation I am using is taking up a good 100 pages of my life. Granted, comparing my time of acculturation with war torn France and being chased by an over vengeful inspector is a little dramatic. But what I am driving at is the boring and sad exists in stretched out seasons of life. We can’t cut it out. My life isn’t a 2 hour film. It has taken nearly 3 months to grow some love for this place, and I know it will take even longer before the grammar begins to come naturally. I finally find myself applauding those authors of old for writing characters who really have to fight to keep going; who have long periods in their life where everyday they have to overcome and get up and keep on keepin’ on. We all do. One day more! And another and another, and so on and so forth.
*This was edited Jan 14, 2013 after re-watching the musical and confirming: that section isn’t there.