Tuesday, October 14, 2008

M'car; In-jokes, slang, relaxation, and the impossible

One thing I learned today is that you can still get embarrassed and called out by someone even when you're pretty dang sure it's not going to happen. But isn't that always the case? Well, I wasn't expecting a pop quiz on my assignment responsibilities from the Peace Corps person who picked up the phone when I called to accept my invitation. So I stumbled around and said "uh" and "sustainability" too many times. Still, they let me in. Whew.

I found out that a fairly common abbreviation for Madagascar is M'car. What I want to know, is how socially acceptable it is to pronounce it that way. Is it like saying "Ell-oh-ell!" or "oh-em-gee"? If not, how d'you say it? "Mm-car," "Micar," "Muh-kar," or "Meh-cr"? Given that you're dropping the accented syllables, where do the accents go? What's my linguistic ticket to the (second buzzword from the title) in crowd, here? Which slang (other than the Peace Corps' huge fleet of acronyms) can I use to be cool?

That's mostly an idle, intentionally silly question. But I know that I am incredibly susceptible to being part of an informed group--I like the shirts that say "Staff," for example. Makes you wonder who I'd be in The Wave (you should be able to find the second half in "related links"). I know who I hope I'd be. But doesn't everyone hope that for him or herself?

Honestly, I kind of like to say "Madagascar." It sounds so exotic and unreal. Wait 'til I get there--I bet it'll get real in a big damn hurry. I was reading the "A few Minor Adjustments" handbook that the PC sends us to read, and had my first moment of terror about this thing I'm about to go do. I read through the first, oh, 20 pages, which mostly constitute a laundry list in prose form of how hard it will be in so many different ways. Linguistically (new), culturally (new), weatherwise (new), climate (different), personal space (none), so many new people (too many), no support network, different food, different customs, being on your toes every moment of every day, being scheduled for stuff to do every moment of every day...all of these things. And more. All the sicknesses you'll get, and the changes your body will go through, the emotional stressors and the bickering and infighting that can happen when everyone's under all of these conditions. Then it talks about at site, which is a whole new can of problems and difficulties and just generally so many things that require energy to deal with that it sometimes seems like getting up in the morning is just too much to ask.

And then it gets to a section entitled something like, "Where are the Hardships?"

I was thinking, "I can deal with all of that stuff. I can do it. It'll be hard, but that's the whole point, is to go somewhere that it's so difficult that you have to grow yourself in brand new ways just to exist," but when all of that everything (much of which I hadn't even thought of) is just a precursor....I nearly choked. In my head, there was the first small voice that said, "But...there's more??? I might not be able to do that!" I think I've gotten some perspective on it now, and it helped that the section wasn't actually about more hardships but more about how to deal with them. But it didn't change that I've officially had--not a moment of doubt--but a moment of mouth-cottoning terror. Which brings it into reality, brings it all into focus in a good way. A real way. A very, very real way. And Peace Corps, for me, is (in a way) all about finding the reality.

I'm sick of the cushions around me--I'm sure I'm pretty unsuited to survive without them--I'll get awfully bruised when they first vanish. Things like heat, electricity, Internet, grocery stores. Things like "careers" rather than jobs, recorded music, lots of spare pens if I lose one. Things like cars, and travel, and out-of-season food. Most of these I feel are not intrinsically important to how I live my life, but I think some of them are, and more importantly that all together they constitute a bloc that I will be very...interested to see how I cope without.

I'm looking to relax without being propped up. Maybe this is college idealism. Maybe it's non-college idealism. Either way, I'm looking forward to trying. Except, you know, when I'm terror-stricken. Although I think I look forward to it, then, too.

The impossible has been demonstrating itself to be beautifully petaled in my life, lately. It's impossible, it is, to get what you want as chancelessly and honestly, as whimsically as I wanted to go to Madagascar. The desire was like my decision to go to Cornell--made without much information and suddenly. "I'll go there!" It would be easy to take that and make it hugely significant, except that if I didn't go here, I'm sure I would've met influential and important people, as well. That I'm happy I came here is a good thing. It promotes more on-the-fly decisions, of course. Is it intuition that guides decisions like that? Is it Pure Luck? Would I really have been as pleased, deep-down satisfied with the environment around me (I have learned so much here), if I'd gone to, say, Warren Wilson College? Things would be different. I would be different. The fact that I like how I am now (and like the ways I am still growing and changing) doesn't mean I wouldn't have become someone I like otherwise.

That's kind of a digression.

Any case, The Impossible is not impossible--people you thought were gone forever come back into your life, a country you had no chance of being sent to (but desperately wanted to go to with all the logic of a decision of the type described above) ends up having a space open in its program exactly when your Placement Officer (PO) finally gets to your file. A flower you thought was dead will quietly bloom, and though it was a slow process, your surprise when you realize is no less sudden. An artist you wanted to see perform before you left the country comes to a town an hour away from you, and plays your four favorite songs. Friends you thought were lost were merely misplaced, people you thought spurned your opinion actively approach you for advice. People demonstrate themselves fallible but not unadmirable. This semester feels culminatory. It's a good feeling to have, during your last semester at Cornell.

"Sometimes," as a friend of mine says, "the impossible happens. And when it does, it's sweet." And he is right.

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