Carrots

Phuong Nguyen - Ecuador


September 10, 2017

“No comprehendo.”

“No hablo espanol bien.”

“Estudio espanol”

And silence. Smiles. Smirks? An abundance of shame.

The car ride to my host family’s home was unbearable. The welcome to my Quito home was an overestimation of my social skills. Those had expired the moment I set foot away from my cohort.

I was loitering in the kitchen doorway, reciting inwards over and over: ¿Puedo ayudar? ¿Ayudo? ¿Necesitas ayuda? ¿Necesitas ayudo? iAyudame! Which one was it again?

When it came out, and it did not come out pretty, mi mama said “iSi!”

She smiled, but I didn’t see it through my blinding trepidation.

Mi mama handed me the green peppers and I cut those in silence.

Mi mama handed me the carrots and I cut those too in silence.

I wanted to disprove my self-accused foreign incompetence to her and to myself. I wanted to redeem some dignity that was lost when I came to a spanish speaking country with no spanish language education. I wanted to cut those damn carrots as thin and beautifully as possible.

And I wanted my hands to stop trembling.

The moment I became conscious of my unsightly, unstable hands, I let out an ironic laugh. It was the realisation that this is the “stretch zone” I had avoided (and unsuccessfully tried to confront) my whole life.

Undoubtedly, this is what I needed. This earthquake in my hands, the tsunami in my head, the uncomfortable shifting of tectonic plates in my heart. This was the breaking of my bubble, the beginning of — not a new, but a better — me.

There are only smiles from here on out. Silence at times too. But no more shame.

 

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Phuong Nguyen