Sunday, September 6, 2009

Happy birthday to me.

I’ve always been fascinated by the way the brain stores information. I’ve talked about this before with some of you in conversations, I know. Like the fact that in high school, I knew how to do chemical equations and loved them. I could look at the periodic chart and pick an element and tell you how many rings of electrons it had, how many electrons were in the outer rings, how well it would bond with which other elements… that’s gone now, but after having gone to culinary school I can tell you the components of mirepoix, and what ratio of it to bones you should have in a stock. I look at the brain as having only so much room, and when something new moves in, what, I always wonder, have I had to move out? What do I lose every time I gain? My friends and I here are watching that happen in real time. For me, I find that when I can’t think of a word in Spanish I frequently can’t think of it in English either, even though I know exactly the concept I’m trying to convey. Kiki and Cory have found that their English has been affected – that they use phrases in English they would never normally use just because they’re the direct translations of the common Spanish phrases we use. I also find that I’m having problems spelling English words when I type with my friends back home. The other day I tried to spell soak as soke. In Spanish, it’s necesitar… so the other day I called something necesari when typing English. Whaaat?

Another thing that fascinates me is long-distance travel and my own experience of recognizing the location. I said at first that I didn’t feel like I was in a foreign country, and that’s true. I finally had my moment where I went “Ah! Mexico!” And I find, when I compare it to other moments I’ve had in the past during long-distance travels and when I realized and really accepted and came to terms with my location, a common theme. It usually happens when I return to something I’ve done there before and it feels familiar. For me, it happened at the last futbol game.

I told you I went to one already. I told you it was wild and raucous and intense and fun. There was something familiar and exciting about going to this second one. It was like, we knew the routine already, we get the student discount, we’ll be sitting behind the goal with the fans, and as soon as we made it through security and all the little kids and old men trying to buy and sell us tickets, we walked through the entry of the stadium and into the stands just in time to hear a fellow scream the most horrible obscenities at his own team.

They take shit seriously here when it comes to their futbol. Just last night, at a rockin’ house party, we were watching the Mexico v. Costa Rica game. Mexico was smoking Costa Rica three nothing, and the Costa Rican fans were not only leaving with a good fifteen minutes left in the game, but they were leaving their jerseys behind in the stands. The stands were two thirds empty, but still completely filled with red. Bizarre. As Kiki said, “Futbol fans are serious. When they love you, they fucking love you, but when they hate you, they really fucking hate you.” She said this at our game because our people were starting to leave toward the end.

And that’s when I felt like I was in Mexico, and I knew it, because things were feeling familiar and foreign at the same time. The same chants from the last game, the same crazy kids leading them, but this time less enthusiastically. The last game was magic – we thought we were definitely gonna lose but ended up smoking them three nothing. This time, it was bizarre. It seemed like they had twice as many players on the field, they knew where we were going before we did and they were just toying with us. They were up three to two until the very end, and here we were, those of us who stayed to watch, chanting SI SE PUEDE, hoping for one last goal to get us a little more time – until the other guys scored a fourth and then the stands practically emptied. We stayed, my little group of exchange students, bitching about how the micheladas tasted wrong, the other team were a bunch of assholes, but still having fun. At the end of the game, though, our fans who were still there got really really crazy. Sure, they threw beers at the end of the game last time, but they were happy beers, celebratory throws. This time they were angry and trying to hit the refs, the other team, the police with shields guarding both. The two teams almost got in a nasty fight on the way off the field (the police with shields broke it up) and then the cops had to go guard the team on their way off the field as our fans shook the fence, screamed the most awful things, threw beers and cups and anything they could get their hands on.

It was wild… but I’m still glad I went, and I’m planning to go to all the ones I can until I’m gone. I’m really developing a taste for this futbol game. I don’t reckon I’ll get as crazy as these beer-tossing obscenity-screaming fence-shakers… but I want me a jersey baaaad.

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