On going public

"In the east there are not portraits because the cult of the personality is not fomented: the human individualism in front to the cosmic determinism is an European invention and its great contribution to the world. The east focuses its attention on the mysteries of the universe and not in the individual."

I celebrated Thanksgiving by wondering around an exhibit of self-portraits at the Museum of Costa Rican Art called "The other side of the mirror: Tribute to Rembrandt." As I caught sight of myself in the mirror cleverly placed @ the beginning of the collection, I thought about how caught up, how distraught I've been this fall, @ my faltering attempts to learn Spanish. This has been a very difficult trip for me, out of my element, away from what I do well, unable to flourish--even to function--in a culture so different from my own, in a place where "who I am" and all I have come to be have no meaning @ all. And a lot of that distress has had to do with my focus--which is the focus of the West--on the accomplishments of the individual.

These issues of self-esteem also seem all tied up with a concomitant need to "keep private" what I don't know. All of that has been much better for me this week, since we've been in San Jose. We've picked up Spanish lessons again @ Universal de Idiomas , where we have small group classes instead of the one-on-one tutoring we've had heretofore. There's more conversation, less pressure on individual performance....my mistakes seem less important.

I've also enjoyed being back in a city, with more to do, less need to rely on my own resources for entertainment. We've enjoyed the street scene (I've never been in a city where there are SO MANY people on the street); the public sculpture (including quite a few voluptuous women who please me a great deal!); a "unipersonal multidisciplinario" performance called "Despertar es un Sueño" (Waking is a Dream); a Russian movie, "The Return," with Spanish subtitles (quite do-able); and a night of different types of Costa Rican music where the star was an AMAZING singer named Guadulupe Urbina who had us all stomping and singing and clapping. We've also taken a jaunt into two adjacent river valleys, to see the shrine of "La Virgen de los Angeles" in the basilica at Cartago, and the beautiful Osori River Valley.

Next weekend we leave Central America for the last third of our trip, which we'll spend in Chile. In preparation, I've been reading Chilean fiction: a collection called What Is Secret: Stories by Chilean Women, Ariel Dorman's Death and the Maiden, and Antonio Skármeta's The Postman. The first suggested to me that "Having another language is having another soul" (I've some distance to go on this one). The second raised all sorts of questions about what truth gets us (not to mention how we get to the truth). The third is taking me into all sorts of spectulations about how "the whole world is a metaphor for something." More on this later...