As it’s been months since my last blog post, I thought I’d provide some life updates. Besides everything that’s going on with the world (what is going on, anyways?!)–the biggie in my personal life is coming back to the Mandarin Chinese speaking world of Taipei.
In April and May, my first two months back home, my Chinese was very rusty. I’d find myself at a loss for words, in an unintentional moment of silence for my tangled mother tongue, trying to remember the street name for the taxi driver or order something as simple as a drip coffee.
Then, in June, my daily life speech was back to normal(ish) and smooth(er), but I was starting to teach yoga in Chinese, too! All of my trainings, teaching experience, and even the vast majority of classes I’ve taken before have been in English–so the last few months consisted of some exponential-growth-like learning: a lot of mental energy, regular referencing of Google Translate and Pleco (my favorite Eng-Mandarin app!), and moments of interesting stumbles/improvisation.
I often think of the poem ‘to make use of water’ by Safia Elhillo, a Sudanese-American poet:
i forget the arabic word for economy i forget
the english word for عسل forget the arabic
word for incense & english word for مسكين
arabic word for sandwich english for وله &
صيدلية & مطعم & safia
/stupid girl, atlantic got your tongue/
I can finally teach a class using 98% Chinese, with a couple of English words thrown in when I simply lack the vocabulary. Which also means I am at a point where–as Elhillo’s poem above quips: ‘stupid girl, atlantic got your tongue‘–the Pacific Ocean has my tongue.
When I need to speak both English and Chinese in class, for example, I’ll say 大腿–dà tuî, or thigh in Chinese, which translates directly to ‘big leg’–and then, transitioning to English, catch myself starting to say ‘big leg’ in the next sentence! As in, okay guys, now externally rotate your… big legs.
No matter the tongue tied moments and a possible decline of my grip on the English language–this rapid learning has come with a reconnection to a part of my brain largely left behind in my nine-ish years spent in the Anglo worlds of America and Australia. They say that we have difference personalities in different languages. Sinking into my Mandarin personality feels like a reconnection back to my inner child and this country, as it was actually my very first language and dominated the first few years of my life.
Deepening into language is a deepening not only into the brain but also into culture–an act that opens doors both internally and externally. I think it feels good. It feels freeing.
As for the grand scheme of things, well, I think we’re all in this one together. It’s been a time of growing into ourselves, integrating the lessons we hadn’t integrated yet, reflecting on the places we’ve neglected or shoved deep into the shadows of the psyche, accepting the present moment of un-known-ness that has really always existed, and realizing that as soon as we think we’re done, we’ve healed, that it’s locked and loaded and simple from here on out–we get sent into another spiral of growing.
It’s a time of quantum leaping into another reality, for all of us.
And it feels good. And it feels freeing.
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