On the Absurd

Violet Carrillo - Ecuador

September 17, 2015

I find that I have written quite a few blogs that I refuse to post out of simple self-consciousness, but I hope this one will make the cut and actually be posted. Maybe baby steps is the way to go in the publication of my daily life.


I think that something that people may find interesting to read about is my ability to wander into the absurd. Thankfully, this ability is not as prevalent in me as it is in some of my friends, but it is present nonetheless. Especially when I have moved to a new country where I don’t really speak the language and am not too accustomed to the culture.


Don’t underestimate the knowledge with which I entered this particular situation, though. My Spanish has much to be desired, but is at a level where I understand most things that are being said in daily conversation. In addition, though there are some key differences, Ecuadorian culture is surprisingly similar to Palestinian culture. So I have that going for me.


But neither of those things helped me very much last Tuesday, when I was sitting at the dinner table with my Quito host family. Earlier that day, a friend and I were guilty of eating out after class, so when I went home I wasn’t very hungry and asked if it was alright if I just interacted with instead of ate with the family just for the night. My loving mother agreed, with a bit of concern for my health, and carried on preparing dinner as I sat and tried to understand what appears to be a Latin American “Judge Judy,” called “Caso Cerrado” (something I have done everyday with my mother thus far.)
Yet by my luck, this particular day was the first and only day so far that my two much-older brothers and mid-twenties sister decided to eat at home. Though it was slightly awkward to be the only one not eating, I drank tea and excitedly tried to figure out what they were talking about while my mother continued heating up dinner.


However, at one point before the food was served, my sister had left the small dinning table and came back a few minutes later saying something important-sounding in Spanish with a small smile on her face. I, of course, smiled back and nodded, as is my usual approach to such important-sounding statements that I don’t understand, and looked up to see my brothers and mother silently but obviously crying.


I wish I could explain what was happening in hindsight, but to this day I have no clue what was going on.


As you can imagine, I was very concerned with my mother and brothers, and as they hugged her I remained seated and tried to figure out if everyone was really really happy or really really sad. They eventually finished hugging, and as my mother and brothers dried their tears, my sister sat in front of me and tried explaining what had happened to cause such sudden emotion.


In my head it sounded like this: 
telephono… okay she got a call… trabajo…. so work is involved… I got this, what else is she saying… afuera mas cerca de Quito… okay great she got a job that’s closer to Quito! My mother and brothers must be crying because she won’t have to travel so much!”


So, of course, I smiled, nodded, and said the obligatory “Que Chevere” asked of such social accomplishments, as my sister also smiled and walked away to prepare her food. My middle brother immediately sat in her place and tried explaining in detail what had happened. After five different words I didn’t understand (and a hundred hand gestures that I don’t believe fit with such words very well,) I finally understood that someone had been fired.


As you can guess, I only became more confused. Had my sister been fired? Why was she smiling? Did her friend get fired? Someone she really hates? Wait, then why did my brothers and mother care so much if that was the case? So I just did the next most natural thing after smiling and nodding: frowning and shaking my head. 
My brother seemed neither satisfied nor dissatisfied with my gesture, but it didn’t matter because seconds later everyone was seated, watching “Caso Cerrado,” and commenting on how fat a particular defendant was in her very short and very tight dress. After about 45 minutes of this, I decided to go to bed, giving up on figuring out what had both happened and been forgotten so quickly.


Sadly, none of my questions were ever answered, and I have no idea if this is a sensitive topic or not to bring up in conversation with my mother, or even if I know how to bring it up. It would sound a bit like “Do you remember that time you and my brothers cried at dinner that one time because my sister said that thing you think I know? Why was that?” I don’t know much about Ecuadorian culture, but that particular question might not sit too well with my host family.


But all in all, I guess the lesson to be learned from the half hour in which I was more confused than I had ever been is to just embrace the absurd and let it happen as it may: you really don’t need to know all the answers in a story to have one to tell.


Violet Carrillo