3.15.2010

Eighteen Ways to Say Hello in Uruguay

Nod to the man who sells you oranges and weighs them with a scale that is older than his grandfather. Look straight ahead and yell to the children who are calling you ‘girl’ from the trees; later you will learn to love their mother. Put out your hand to the man who lives behind the clambering house, there! Where a chicken wandered into his single room out back. Is he sad about it? Or is that the way life goes? The cracks in his hands are filled in with grease, he wipes them off with a dirty rag; he came home from work early just to speak with you. Take a picture with a family and the moon as big as your mountains. Sit on crates and rock back and forth until the woman puts her breast away and the baby is asleep. Listen to the radio play Alfredo Zitarrosa before knocking on the door, record this beauty like a dream. Ask for water, they can see you are sweating, no one in their right mind skips siesta. Accept invitation to drink well water, even when dirty. Defend yourself. Say nothing. Approach the gate with confidence, clap three times loudly, walk away with confidence when someone inside yells that nobody is home. Smile, they are all looking at you. Dye your hair black, and let your skin tan, they will think you Chilean, or Peruvian. Do not open your mouth and reveal the accent, you can’t hear it, but oh, they can! Tell your one joke over and over, the kids love it, and then the accent doesn’t matter. Look them straight in the eyes, this should say everything, if it does not work, try again with the next person. How are you? Beso’s Beso’s! until your right cheek is sore. Laugh and wave. Remember this! A deep-colored patchwork quilt that will keep you warm on cold nights for the rest of your life.

8 comments:

ke said...

Yes.

Laurie said...

Ashley, that's beautiful. I got a little choked up.

LJ

Laura said...

Hm...I've heard about the clapping, and I must admit I'm kind of worried about not being bale to clap loud enough when me and Jimmy go to Brazil - I've always had a wimpy clap no matter how much I practice - haha.

Sofia Deyanira said...

Oh Ashley, thank you for sharing this with all of us!

Jae said...

Yes! The long adiooooos from the old gaucho with the tobacco-stained mustache. This brought back so many memories.

ani said...

thank you for sharing this lovely and familiar imagery. The "18" made me remember this line of Annie Dillard's where she explains that the number is sacred because when we bow to pray we bend 18 vertebrae.

lia said...

"Defend yourself. Say nothing. Approach the gate with confidence, clap three times loudly, walk away with confidence when someone inside yells that nobody is home."

so much wisdom in your voice.

shelly said...

Ohhhhhh....your imagery.