Thursday, January 15, 2009

Vocabulary Gumbo

I got off on a weird tangent today while giving thought to the journal pages I’ve been working on. New Orleans and the love/hate relationship I have with this town. I adore the city, there’s beauty at every turn. It’s the most of the locals I could live without. But that’s vangogh_glowa whole other rant. I like that the city is a mix of cultures that all at once stand alone and blend together smoothly. The parallel between  the city and myself begged to be heard.

I think I most identify with being a Celt. But I am not Irish. We are Breton French. There’s some Miccosukee Seminole and Creek thrown in the mix. And there’s also a big question mark in the old ancestry trail. Seems some of my mother’s ancestors just magically appeared on the planet in the early 1800’s. A trip to Savannah only added to the mystery. A very old man with the same surname told me, “Pirates! They were pirates and took a  common name when they came ashore for good.” Could that really be true? Maybe there was a reason I was enamored of pirates at a very Abstract01early age. Maybe I came by my love of the skull and crossbones honestly. Who knows?

As New Orleans is a mix of cultures, it has a mix of languages. Everything from from French to butchered English. In everyday normal conversation, words and phrases from other languages are thrown in like seasoning in the gumbo. Delicious. I like the looks on the faces of people nearby when I launch into another language. Since Katrina and the influx of Central American workers, Spanish has really been getting a workout! I have a regular customer who is Bulgarian and speaks many languages. I usually greet him in Romanian and to my great amusement, we cycle through Italian, Russian, and Czech.

I used to speak French but somehow lost the ability. I can still read it and I understand when someone is speaking it to me. Oddly, French words and phrases still pop in my head like long lost friends. I speak Spanish fluently, with the correct accents (I get a kick out of native English speakers speaking Spanish flatly), along with reading and writing it. I speak some Romanian, Breton, Gaelic, Italian, Arabic, and Miccosukee. I can read Arabic words, even if I don’t know what the word I’m reading means. I can write my name and some work related words in Arabic.

My life has included a German step-father and a Miccosukee great-grandmother. My best friends in school were a German girl and a boy from Estonia. Friends now and in the recent past are Romanian, Russian, Ukrainian, Greek, Turkish, Algerian, Iraqi, British, Jamaican, Swedish, and Spanish (as in from Spain). Romantic entanglements have included a Frenchmen, a Romanian Gypsy, an Argentine, a Mexican, a Hawaiian, and currently, a Chicago Italian with a side of Irish.

I’ve lived in Mexico, been all over North and Central America, a  smidge of South America, and several European countries. I feel that witch_aliceI carry a part of the languages and cultures I’ve been exposed to in this colorful life. So who am I? I’m still a Celt and still a Floridian in my heart. This is me. I love this picture! It’s certainly not the best ever taken (I look a bit pudgy) but I think it captures my personality best. Being silly in Walgreen’s trying on absurd Halloween hats as if I were 5 instead of scaring the hell out of 50. That’s who I am. (Cue the chorus from Javier Garcia’s song, Molly. Yo no soy quien soy, soy quien quiero ser, esta es me historia.) Even if you don’t speak Spanish, the video and music are worth a look and a listen.

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