Archive for May, 2009
A couple weeks ago some Spanish books Olivia had ordered for me arrived. I cracked them at the beginning of this week, and I’m catching on surprisingly quickly.
She bought Spanish for Dummies and The Complete Idiots Guide to Spanish. The books break it down very well. Plus, in order for me to understand the verb conjugation better, I have a Spanish Verb Tense workbook.
While I was growing up, my mom insisited on my brothers and me taking Latin during some of Junior High and most of High School. She always used to say, “It will help you understand English better and help you if you ever want to learn a new language.” I always called Bull! whenever she said this. At those ages, Latin seemed like jibberish. It was tedious and a headache to learn.
Amo, Amas, Amat, Amamos, Amatis, Amant. That conjugation, one of many I had memorized with the aid of note cards, has always stuck with me. Well, that and the basic understanding of what conjugating a verb means.
Say you have “To learn.” Well, in English, there is no conjugation (the change a verb takes on when applied to a subject, or, the applying action to a subject by changing the verb). You simply add a pronoun, like “I learn.” The verb, learn, is the same. But in romance languages, like Latin and Spanish, the verb must take on a transformation in order to give a subject the action.
So “aprender” is “to learn.” The root of the word is aprend- and the verb end is -er. In Latin, I learned all about this, but didn’t think it was worth much, or applicable in my future. “Seriously Mom… no one knows Latin!”
To change “aprender” from “to learn” to “I learn,” you have to change the verb end. If this was an irregular verb, either the end or the root would change. That’s a whole other story. “Aprender” becomes “Yo (I) aprendo.” Just like in Latin, except the endings are a bit different for the verb endings (but quite similar too!). In Latin you have the example I showed before. In Spanish, using the same word “to love” (the Latin example is I love, you love, he-she-or it loves, we love, you (all) love, and they love) which is “amar,” we will conjugate it. Notice in the conjugation the similarities and slight differences as compared to Latin’s “amo, amas, amat, amamus, amtis, amant.”
Amo (I love), Amas (You love), Ama (He, she or it loves), Amamos (we love), Amais (You, pl., love), Aman (they love).
Now what I’m getting at is this- the only thing I couldn’t remember in this little lesson wwas the word for “to learn,” aprender. So I looked it up.
Everything else however, was easy to remember because of all that damn Latin I felt I was choking down for 3 or 4 years. But I’m thankful to my mom now. I’m sure most of those painful bouts between her and I over Latin, she was praying and hoping that I get some use out of it later in life- otherwise she’d be kicking herself for putting up with me over it. She knew though. She knew exactly what she was doing. And thanks Mom, Yo te amo.
Now for an interesting and entirely unrelated bit of information to mull over:
At work yesterday, a lot of talk went around about wrapping up our business in preparation for going home. Being in Afghanistan since December, these last few months can’t go by fast enough.
But it is nice to know I am working on things in my line of work that are contributing to the end of my time here.
Home will be very welcome when the time comes. I’m closing in.
I saw a school opening today, all by myself of course. Or at least it felt that way…
It was an interesting mix of passionate, meaningful speeches, segregation, and abuse. I must have won the lottery.
One of the first things I noticed walking up the steps to the opening ceremony were the older schoolboys wearing armbands. You know, like Hitler’s Youth wore. Not quite the same actually. These armbands just meant you were in charge. You were allowed to whip the younger schoolchildren to keep them in line.
I had seen this before, but usually the boys hold sticks. This time, they had gotten a hold of rubber tubing. Each had a segment of tubing about three feet in length. And if all the younger children came running up the steps to sit down for the ceremony (before it had begun), the older boys would whip at their legs and chase them off. The older boys really enjoyed this responsibility. It was humorous and a little disheartening. Those whips hurt I bet.
The second thing I noticed was that after all the children had been seated (finally, after a few bouts of whipping), was that there were no women or girls. I thought at first, “Well it’s a boy’s school, of course.”
This was not the case. The women and girls began filing in, and all the men and boys made sure they had their own seating- to the left of the actual ceremony in some tents.
I couldnt believe they were making them all sit in such an awkward place. But even though the boundaries of American political correctness had been obviously crossed, I also couldn’t help noticing that these men who ran the new school had unwittingly done the women and girls a favor. It was brutally hot outside, and they were able to sit in the coolness of the shade while the rest of us sweat ourselves to dehydration and dry throats.
Last but not least, and in fact, most surprising and heart warming, were the speeches given. There was much talk about the “need for knowledge in Afghanistan,” and, “learning will make Afghanistan like other countries, such as America.” And while these are some good points, the most notable speech was in English… and given by a 16 year old.
He was introduced with this line, “And now [name] will give his speech using the English language.” Sure enough, the 16 year old who stopped me just before the ceremony and asked, “after the ceremony, can I converse with you in English so I can practice?,” stood up in front of everyone.
He spoke very quickly. You could tell he just wanted so badly to make his point clear. He was passionate. He really believed what he was saying. This is how he started:
“Teachers deserve our respect as students. Teachers are like a flame that keeps us lit. Teachers are like a flower, that spreads it’s seeds so other may grow. We need the knowledge our teachers give us, so they must be respected. Without knowledge, we are nothing.”
He went on to describe ignorant people, and how they are not wanted.
“You do not throw a party and invite the ignorant, because no one wants the ignorant amongst knowledgable people. You do not elect an ignorant man as president either, you need a scholar, for he needs to know all that is going on in the country, he has to know our needs.”
I wish I had been able to converse with him after the ceremony, but I had to leave. I do hope his message got through to the other students though.
I just can’t help but wonder, everytime I would turn around during the ceremony and see the line of students with whips behind the seated crowd, what those schoolboys were thinking the whole time.
I’m guessing something like, “Come on… just one of you squirts try to get up for something…” and maybe when the 16 year old spoke, and in response to his claim that without knowledge, they are nothing, they thought, “Nothing!? Who’s standing here with the whip? Me or you? We’ll see who’s nothing after the ceremony is over.”
In these last few months of time I will spend in Afghanistan, I find it hard to really dive into my work anymore. It takes a bit more effort.
In your mind, you say, “This is it, I’ve rounded third and I’m on my way home.” But really you know that’s not the case. And to think this way, for some at least, could be a dangerous, even deadly, thought.
For troops who find themselves in the field day in and day out, especially ones who have to be very aware of their surroundings, becoming complacent can kill. You begin to feel invincible. You think that because you’ve already made it over half way throught the tour, these last months will go by no harm done. That’s quite the opposite.
It’s been said that the most deaths happen during an elements (unit, brigade, battalion, whatever it may be) last few months of a deployment.
Read this article and in the second sentence, the writer notes a sign reading “Complacency Kills.” Read on and the author helps you imagine how easy it is to lose focus over time. Troops are warned often of this at the beginning, and even before, their tour starts in country. But you hear this warning much less during the last stretch.
So although I don’t find myself outside the wire too often, it is interesting to me that I recognize my own complacency. It makes me wonder how many Soldiers who find themselves roaming through countrysides and villages do not recognize it in themselves.
I would like to welcome you to Kabultrout. My “all-about-my-Afghanistan-visit” blog.
If you want to know more about the meaning behind Kilgore Trout, see “who is kgtrout?” to the right, or go to kgtrout.wordpress.com/about/.
As often as possible I hope to update my blog, keeping you up-to-date on my life in Kabul and the rest of Afghanistan.
I want to share with you through word and imagery the culture, and war, in which I am immersed. My priority is to try to give you at very least, an interesting read.