Wednesday, August 19, 2009


On the metro the other night, in this the melting pot of the world, I, a Norwegian European American mutt sat beside a 4'1" 65 year old Cuban woman. Her accent was strong though she told me, quite close to my face, that she had been here for, oh, 50 years. She said, "I do not care about my accent! People ask me, 'I hear you accented, where is that? and I say I am here for long time!" I laughed and said her English was far better than my Spanish. I mentioned that I was going to Spain and trying to learn Spanish. She dismissed me with a hand saying, "I tell you," she raised her arms with emphasis, "compared to English, Spanish is easy. It is pho-net-ical," with an emphasis on each syllable, "You learn fast."

So, do you speak Spanish? Yes, well umm, no. I don't. I don't speak much Spanish at all. In the weeks leading up to my trip I have had very limited time to teach myself. I've looked over the basics but have not gotten comfortable speaking Spanish. Language is an interesting aspect to this trip. Seth Cardew is British so we will communicate pretty well. Undoubtedly, I will wish I sounded more like him and try to pick up some of the beautiful lilt. But the remote area of Castellon will, I hear, prove to be a Spanish speaking classroom for me. In my regular glass half full mentality I am banking on the universal languages of food, love, and art, confident that I will get by and learn moi rappido!

At one of my jobs there is a vivacious group of Spanish speakers from Bolivia and Peru. They speak to me in rapid Spanish, tossing my name in the midst of a long string of sounds and calling me "butterfly" and "queen" with a laugh. Its my job to draw on the chalkboard and even the ones that speak very little English enjoy the development of my pictures and advertisements and communicate their appreciation. We've gotten by with a slow friendship developing but there is always a barrier of language. The excitement on their faces, in their body language when they found I was trying to learn Spanish was priceless. Why? To be able to communicate with someone, to have that communal relationship with a fellow human being is essential to our well being.

In his broken English and my barely present Spanish, my Bolivian co-worker told me that when I return from Spain they would have me over for a meal to eat traditional Bolivian food. FOOD. Another universal language. Something to share in, to give, to take, to enjoy, to spit out, to laugh over, to cry over, to do together. Where has that sense of universality gone for a lot of today's art, for a lot of today's people's understanding of art? The ability for art to be a universal language of deep beauty - one to share, to give, to take, to enjoy, to spit at, to laugh over, to cry over, to come together has been lost in commercialism, egotism, and a lack of education in the arts.

But art and beauty, like food, is so much more than those wonderful aspects. Our poor minds and hearts starve without it ... other parts of our lives are affected by the lack of that essential harmony of nutrients or in this case, sights, sounds and textures. Sights, sounds, and textures that allow you to come out of yourself, to realize beyond the everyday. This subtle starvation makes for a sad, limited life, indeed.

Everyone has taste buds, taste buds prone towards certain tastes but taste buds that can be honed, developed, broadened and instructed to appreciate more flavors and textures. Our sense of appreciation for beauty, in music or arts, is the same way. We are prone towards certain styles, colors, shapes, patterns, harmonies, rhythms, sounds, and textures. But with exposure, with development and learning, those tastes can be expanded and our minds and hearts fed in so many more wonderful and fulfilling ways.

Learn to communicate and understand more than a spoken language. Learn what it is to communicate without words, through music, art, food, dance, etc. Allow yourself to grow in these things. The rich experiences that come out of that will feed your soul.

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