As many of you are likely aware, I have a rather… interesting sense of humor, which I share with the world at any given opportunity. I have a passion and, if I do say so myself, talent for puns and wordplay that you won’t really find anywhere else. If I’d had my choice of talents in life, I wouldn’t have chosen puns, but beggars can’t really be choosers, no? Regardless, being in Ecuador has certainly done a number on my humor, my way of making others laugh, and my outlook on laughter in general.
Now, of course, I still make puns. Aside from the Ecuador puns (Ecuadorables, Ecuadormitorios, et cetera), the highlight of puns made in the last three weeks was polvo-rized, in regard to what being on the dusty streets of Apuela will do to you (when it’s not the rainy season.) Polvo is the word for dust in Spanish, and I’m chuckling even as I write this at the idea of being turned into dust… by dust.
So, the problem is, the people here don’t get the puns I make. When I’m thinking enough in Spanish to actually make a totally Spanish pun, and not a bilingual wordplay, generally speaking people just think I’m mispronouncing the words because I’m a silly gringo, and by the time I’ve found the words to explain the joke, the comic timing is absolutely ruined, and thus, no laughter. So, of course, I’ve had to adapt, because life is a lot less fun without laughter (or without the groans of disheartened pain and despair at the quality of my latest pun.).
Pantomime. So simple, really. What’s simpler than body language when trying to convey a point?
In my quest to bridge the language gap between my family and me, I’ve turned to all of the drama training I received in high school, becoming, in effect, un payaso (a clown). Jokes about the low ceilings in my house, and how I’m constantly hitting my head on the slanted roof of our kitchen have become a norm for dinnertime shenanigans, generally involving some creative way of removing my head from within an inch of the ceiling. Jokes about my size, too, have become a fun way of playing around with my family, joking about how I’ll be leaving Ecuador looking quite a bit rounder, the physical expression of which almost always brings laughs to one of my four brothers and sisters (plus one cousin). Or even about my health, turning the ritual of drinking oral rehydration fluid, nasty stuff that it is, into a battle, for the sake of generating some levity. I could go on, but you get the idea, no?
Laughter has become one of the most important things I share with my family here. I’ve found that in inviting my family to laugh at and with me, the awkwardness of communication and culture has begun to disappear, replaced instead by a sort of mutual trust, built on the risks that comedy, especially physical comedy, requires, by both the comedian and the audience. By going out of my way to risk looking silly, and inviting my family to laugh and smile with me, they’ve relaxed around me, not constantly worrying about my mood, my health, my opinion, and have seen that I’m totally at ease with life here. By seeing that my family here loves to laugh too, and finding that human connection with them, I’ve been able to relax as well, and feel like an actual part of the family.
The take-away? It’s not quite a pun, simply a linguistic observation. In Spanish, a laugh is una risa. A smile, generally accompanying a laugh, is una sonrisa. Sonrisa, the word, sounds a lot like sunrise, no? I’m no poet, but there’s a poem in that.