Hitz eta Pitz

So far, ‘hitz eta pitz’ is the best idiomatic phrase in the light sprinkling of Basque I’ve learned. To break it down, hitz = word, eta = and, & pitz = to split, to grate, to shake, to drive crazy… As I take it, it’s just word after word, giving someone the third degree, the never-ending saga, going to down to the funny farm and taking you down with me. Also, reverentially referred to as la chapa: word that means what it tastes like and that’s chapped lips.

This past Wednesday, December 3rd was the International Day of the Basque Language. Day(s) late and dollar short, at least the Euro is still as strong as it is.

Yikes. I’ve been out there. Last post was in… October… and between now and then you bet there’s been plenty. Wrote 50,164 words for no one but me (NaNoWriMo, my first time around) and spent lots of time planning (unusual for me and perhaps, damning) a trip to Poland and Ukraine that never got taken, and investing in canine ophthalmology treatments. And sprinkled heartily around all of that, been getting me some education in the Basque language. Just the thing that’ll legitimize and get me back on track with the whole theme of Basque-ing in Reflected Glory. Fingers crossed.

Euskaraz bizi gara. We live in Basque. I’ve been busy adding case endings to the ends of nouns and the end of my rope. Surprising myself with what I can bring to class each day still knowing… like I have a working memory that’s still working but for a frozen salary and surrendered benefits. Alas, my Lingual Empathy returns and I again I’m truly feeling sorry for my English students. I mean, word order? Prepositional phrases? As a purveyor of the language arts, I’ve eaten my share of humble pie these last 2 months and sorted out where my pedagogy has surely left somethings wanting.

Una lengua esta viva

Back to getting schooled by the difficulty of a blunt beginning … when the irakaslea, la teacher, asked me about how hard it was to learn all of the conjugations in Español*, I kind of just shrugged it off in my short-term presence of mind (and flushingbeetredpleasestoplookingatme everyoneinthisclassrooomrightnow). But it was difficult and it was endless. I mean, how could one still feel the pangs of incessant effort once it’s culminated and adjusted to the ease and fluid manipulations of daily life’s second nature? It was a slow-drip of Peninsular dreaming that kept me carrying on with it for so many years. But now, since it’s an after thought, I shrug, the beginner’s mind is both painful and disorienting and still full of unprejudiced luck and willing openness. Which is cool, no lie.

So, why do it? I admit, the hitz eta pitz is mainly because I wanna get squirrely and learn how to be a Basque witch. For fun. For mental health and taming the tiger of task-switching (the mortal peril of the mind formerly known as multi-tasking) of this ADHD. For humility. And learning how to sort the pressing matters from the one’s that just have to wait for later, exempt from the label of procrastinasty.

For example, the informal second-person plural of you all, or ‘vosotros’ in Español. Never learned it in the States. In North, Central or South America, “Ahh naaaw you wont need that”. EXCEPT EVERY SINGLE DAY. In Spain, the rain is making y’all complain. Frig, ended up just putting a timorous “-ais?” on the end of every verb. So when I’m told not to worry about learning the extremely rare form of “informal ‘you” (hi*, yes, hi = meaning ‘you’ but only use with your beau and/or your truest bffffff), I get shiver of foreshadowing… But it goes away real quick, since everything else about this language takes up all my all my time and conscious attention, as Out. Of. Control. as it is. I hope to elaborate this at a later date.

All images in this post are from the 'Badu Bada' exhibit at the Alhondiga in April of 2014

All images in this post are from the ‘Badu Bada’ exhibit at the Alhondiga in Bilbao, April 2014

Fun fact: no cuss/curse words in Basque. None. You can say every last thing in this language in just about every setting; whether your audience is most the starch-collared headmistress or the most linguistically-spongy toddler, no need to fear the gasps of scandal.

Argi-argi… as much as this is clear… as for this much is clear? How do we even say that? SEE? It’s HAPPENING. There’s only so much bandwidth and I’m losing my own religion, out one ear while as I turn the other cheek. Wait, wha? I also have to wonder if the Euskera/Euskara (potato, potAto) seems to be sticking because I’m learning it in Spanish… another thought-tuber to plant and dig again later.

Argi = light. Meaning, clearly. Meaning, of course. Meaning, obv, duh, right.

Call me romántica*, but this is the discovery that really satisfies, the possibility to communicate but a darling side effect. Even if it’s enough to give a high 5. Eman bostekoa, “crash them 5’s”. I shit you not, that is the literal translation. I’m straight nerding out on this one.

I need a nap with a twofold end, and especially after the more taxing classes: to swallow the thickness of mental fatigue and properly digest the contents of the lesson.

It’s totally worth it, all of it, just to hear the tune of saying something completely new in the oldest way one knows how. Even if it’s just to comment on the weather, or how to get to the bakery from the ballet school, a giggle crawls out from the click and cordiality, community spirit comes out of accepting limits instead of what lacks. Learning a language is hard, but the brain knows better than we do, and figures itself out eventually. Immersion doesn’t hurt to get the tongue rolling. And we can get lucky enough to find ourselves in a mood that appreciates fleeting but oh so fulfilling success. Like when you’re able to yell at your kid who’s wandering too close to the street and sound like you’re summoning a high-level Pokemon in Japanese. Or something.