Hale Empuje (Push Pull, Pull Push)

Every morning, I grab my laptop bag and hurry out the door of my habitación, usually running a few minutes behind Dan and Felicia, on account of my chronic procrastination and my frecuentamente discombobulated and befuddled self (mornings, especially, are not my thing).

So I run out the bedroom door, turn two quick derechas, and soon stand facing the foyer door. The gateway that opens onto the balcony, the club grounds, and the pathway to the restaurant where my friends and breakfast (jummmm) await.


Sometimes it takes me a segundo, sometimes I don’t even think about it. Sometimes, when I’m particularly groggy and not yet quite awake, I stand in front of the door like a statute, staring blankly at the door, computing.

Hale. Empuje. Pull.

My middle school spanish teacher, Señor Ferro, often said that the secret to mastering a new language is to teach your mind not to process it through your native language. If someone says “el niño estaba corriendo,” to not, as your mind wants to, think “the boy was running,” but to instead picture a niño  running around a baseball diamond, or una playa, or la calle. The secret is to refrain from thinking through the foreign language in terms of you’re own in order to arrive at the intended or implied significance, but instead arrive there by somehow magically bystepping this process.

But there I find myself, staring at the door, reminding myself every early AM whether hale means push or pull in my language.  And every day I am reminded of this story, knowing that I should not be thinking in terms of these two words, but instead seeing empuje o hale and simply knowing cual acción to perform.

When you reach that plateau, when one’s mind learns to work around the middleman–one’s native tongue–this is when you arrive closer to a true understanding.  And it does happen, but in small doses, and not all at once. Listening to our driver Lupo, or Sandra at the Hogar, or Inexis at the office recount stories and things about their life is at times draining in the attention and energy it can require, but it is also perhaps one of best ways to try and simply understand, and a good gauge of one’s progress in this endeavor.  I am grateful for the few times when I hear a story and just know what action transpired, who got robbed or what was built or where some accident happened.

Yet despite these moments of understanding, I still regress, standing dumbfounded at the door on some mornings.

It’s a struggle, a push and pull if you will, but I know that soon enough I will be walking through doorways and not thinking twice about it.


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