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Watch Out, June: Here I Come

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Awhile ago, I said to someone here that I predicted June would be a hard month for me– the cold, the darkness, and it being my birthday.  Today I experienced one of the lower lows I’ve had in awhile.  Let’s start here: my house is cold in the morning.  When I say cold, I mean the air temperature inside is the same as outside– as in 34˚F– unless I wake up 1-2 times to feed the fire (yesterday I had a pretty bad cold, so I decided I’d rather sleep through the night).  This morning I went to a meeting/reception related to the local implementation of a national social services iniative.  Originally I was a bit excited about the idea of “skipping school” to represent the Foundation at this event, but it turned out to combine two of my least favorite things about Chile: 1) excruciatingly boring/useless presentations/meetings, and 2) having to explain my vegetarianism to a skeptical/annoyed audience.

Here’s #1: I found myself thinking the same thing I often do in meetings at school– Is there something I’m missing because of my Spanish, or is this person literally saying absolutely nothing?  For example, there was a presentation (I’ve sat through variations at school) I would title “How To Use a Website”: “This is the link.  This is where you put in your password.  A password is 5 to 10 digits, letters and numbers, and it is your personal access to the site.  Once you enter the website, it will look like this.  You can use the arrows to navigate up and down.”  This goes on for 45 minutes.  Given that everyone in the audience updates their facebook every few hours, I don’t know how to classify this so-called presentation except as a complete waste of time.  Talking about it with my friend M* afterward, we agreed that the only reaction is to laugh or to cry.  It’s funny in a way, until you think about the money and time that is spent on this kind of puras huevadas when we could actually be doing something.  I know there are plenty of bureaucratic inefficiencies in the US, but here it is truly remarkable.  And depressing.

And #2: Again, same story as the US, except worse.  10:00 AM start time meant bread with ham, cookies and more cookies, tea and nescafe– fine.  But as I got more hungry (and bored) I started getting anxious about the inevitable lunch problem.  I talked to one of the servers, who reluctantly agreed to serve me mashed potatoes and mushroom sauce, without the meat.  But when the soup came around (1:30 PM), I had to say no, while she (and everyone else) said, “But it’s chicken!”  As I tried to eat a piece of bread in peace, I had to also refuse the smoked salmon spread, explain that no, I don’t even eat seafood, and then to answer the inevitable, “But what do you eat?”  This was coming with innocent intentions but really, this question almost always gets to me, unless it’s someone who actually cares about me.  I stuck to my usual formula of [briefest possible explanation] + [change the subject], but it left me feeling angry, alienated, and lonely.

This afternoon I got back to basics.  M* and I built a fire, and I finally took my parka off at 4 PM (oh right, the restaurant was miserably under-heated).  After a quick meeting with some 8th graders about our battery recycling campaign, inspiration struck: I needed to go for a run.  That’s right, it’s cold and drizzly, I am hitting the streets, I don’t care what anyone thinks.  Dear body, dear Waring running team, dear Smith Crew, thank you, thank you, thank you, for teaching me this tool.  It really works.  Combined with some yo-lates (thank you Ana Caban, Rodney Ye, Ipswich YMCA, Smith classes), I felt like I had gone to a spa and emerged happier, healthier, more alive, more peaceful.  I also cooked up some chickpeas for a yummy dinner of exactly what I wanted, no explanations required.

So in the end, it comes back to the usual theme: being a grown-up means taking care of myself.  There are situations here (and everywhere) that make me feel terrible, but there are also things I can do here (and anywhere) to make myself feel better.  I am full of gratitude for all of the people and places that have taught me so well how to take care of myself.  And as I continue to ride the social roller coaster here in Palena (the co-ed college experience I never had?), it is good to remember that I always have this: me.  In Mexico I used to listen to this Tegan & Sara song on repeat —

all I have to give this world is me and that’s it
and all I have to show this world is me and that’s it
and all I have to face this world is me and that’s it
just me
just me
just me
and that’s it

To me, this thought is either depressing, or it’s a relief, because it’s so true.  So listen up, June.  Sure, I’m pissed that it’s dark and cold for this month of strawberries and sun.  But it’s still me, I can take care of myself just like always, and besides, my co-teacher is planning me a birthday party.  So I’m going to make another prediction about June: I will be so busy with the end of the semester in school, the month will go fast, and it will lead quickly to July, when my family is coming!  But don’t worry, I’m reserving the right to complain about the weather once in awhile.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Tuesday, May 31, 2011 7:33 pm

    You, just as you are, are a pretty spectacular contribution to this world. Wishing I could give you hugs and peanut butter tonight. xoxo

  2. Kate permalink
    Tuesday, May 31, 2011 8:28 pm

    Aw, Margaret this was great. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a grown up and take care of yourself, and I think you hit the nail on the head here.

    Missing you a lot lately-glad to hear youre doing well!

    • Tuesday, May 31, 2011 8:31 pm

      Thanks, Kate. I’m thinking of you too, hope being a grown up in Boston is good. Just think: we’ve been on our own for a year now!

  3. jane woodman permalink
    Tuesday, May 31, 2011 8:44 pm

    I’m with Caitlin – peanut butter and hugs. Explaining your food, dealing with the cold, all the effort it can take just to be a human being. phew. I want to build you a fire in the middle of the night and have my Gluten Free (oh – “what’s that”? – I’m asked at the motel continental Breakfast this past weekend as I heat up the buckwheat cereal I brought with nuts – this or starve), muffins waiting for you in the morning. Oh I love you missy!! You’re such a wise one, xoxo

    • Tuesday, May 31, 2011 9:35 pm

      Thanks, Mom! I know, gluten-free is even harder to explain, I thought of you.

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