MattNoonan's Travel Journals


What was the dumbest thing you ever did while traveling?

accidentally climbed a mountain (not a terribly large one) in mid-may in yellowstone because we failed to read a FULL description of the trail before starting our hike. once we found snow shoes tracks, we knew we were screwed, but continued up anyways.

  • 28 years old
  • From Illinois, United States
  • Currently in Cordoba, Argentina

Peru: para mi & para you

ramblings concerning a four month stay in Cusco, Peru. circa winter/spring or rainy/almostnolongerrainy 2011 depending on your hemisphere/climate zone.

Regarding Reality Conceiving Of

Peru Cusco, Peru  |  Jan 17, 2011
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 "Language is the liquid that we're all dissolved in--great for solving problems after we create a problem." 

I almost regret bringing song lyrics into the mix, but this Modest Mouse line is just stupidly apt especially since I have to resort to a lyric to express my thoughts about language.  The way language shapes reality has always been an interest of mine, but the profundity with which this idea has slapped me in the face since I’ve been here wasn’t really accessible from my comfortable English-speaking bubble back home; I could speculate how maybe my world was shaped by the words I used to describe it, but being in a place where people use starkly different sounds to paint the picture of their reality has really opened my eyes to a whole new Spanish-colored world and the idea that there is a relatively endless amount of ways to conceive of reality simply using language. 

Regarding the lyrics specifically, I’m mostly just in awe at the extent to which we really are dissolved in our language.  It’s almost as if the language has more control over us than we do over it.  What can be conveyed is limited by the words I choose—or sometimes refuse—to utilize.  Though it’s not as if we didn’t create the language, and of course, what we can express even within the boundaries of a language seems relatively endless.  Song extends those boundaries by using extreme forms of expression—sometimes yelling, sometimes whisper-y falsetto goodness, sometimes adding inflection with rhythm, with pitch, with volume, with timbre, ad nauseum—making the amount of things we can express almost limitless and the extent to which we can relate to one another deeper and deeper.  But at the core of everything is a silly little abstract thought (what the hell is a thought?!) that we beg to roll off of our lips with clarity.

In these first days it’s been rough adjusting to waking up in a different language.  Sometimes I look at my host mother, Jesús, with wide eyes after she asks me a question at the breakfast table, and she’ll just laugh.  In general, we all manage to get across the most simplified version of what we want to express, but I feel like at this point in my language development I can’t truly know Jesús, Pedro, or Diego (Mama, Papa, Hermano, respectively) with the intimacy that I’d like to know the people who have graciously offered their home to me.   I can’t even relate to the stray dogs that wander these streets and surely bark in Spanish and only “come” or “sit” to words like “ven” or “siéntate”; I can’t connect with the plants or the land the same way that the Cuzqueñans do, because all of those things are conceived of in a language that I don’t fully understand yet. 

That being said, I’m super glad that it’s only day two of this program.  There’s only room for vast improvement and deeper connection.  I can’t wait to swim around in this liquid with all of my dissolved surroundings.  And maybe then we can have some problems.  And maybe then we can solve them.  And maybe then we’ll know each other that much better and we won’t have to beg for clarity.  

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