Thursday, 19 December 2013

Bellydancing and Translation Lessons

When I first packed up my beautiful apartment of the last five years--five years!!--I knew I had chosen to enter a season of suffering in some form. I remembered from growing up and studying across four fascinating continents that every change of place and abrupt altering of routine means not only exquisite adventures, but also ache and longing. It is the great dichotomy of my life; this love and hate of movement.

It has been two months now since my arrival in this city--it is in fact my seventh capital city in which I have resided in some measure of permanence rather than transience. I love it and frequently wonder why and how I lived so long in a rural area before coming back to a place that plays like music through my being, though I know the answers well and do not regret the choice.

In addition to glorious happiness, however, has been the pain. Firstly, people--people whom I grew to know and love over the years and expect to see every day, many times a day, on weekends. Fixtures in my life whom I must now live without their promise of regularity. People whom I miss dearly, who are now added to the Hall of Wonderful People I Have Known Around The World.

Past people comes everything else. The learning how to live and be and move in a new place. Building your reputation anew. Learning the culture and choosing what to embody and what to find a way around. Deciphering the webs; transportation networks, organization networks, friend networks, job networks. Where the best coffee is and how a dishwasher works. How you cannot get a post office box without a signed lease or car/home insurance or car/home ownership papers. How to calculate risk. How to write cover letters and obtain interviews and listen and talk. How to introduce yourself--here that experience is so different than the introduction of myself I have shaped the last five years. Here I am learning myself anew and determining what facets of myself to show and what to tuck away.

When I first came here, and found no one to smile back at me, no one I knew to feed me a hug or wish me good day; when I had no job to learn and no work to pour myself into, I found myself fading in shadow. I jokingly say to friends I am like a dementor (Harry Potter reference, if you don't know), feeding off the souls of others. (Don't worry, it's not quite like that...) In order to hold onto myself, I decided I needed to find a way to connect. For the record, connecting in a city is significantly easier than connecting in a rural area. All I had to do was chose what to connect with and decide it was monetarily an affordable investment. I chose: bellydancing.

Now bellydancing immediately afforded me a number of things: my first friends, my first group (think of this as a circle of people to come home to in a way), positive endorphins from the exercise, a reason to get out, discipline, and something wondrously fun and new. It was a perfect choice. The learning of bellydancing has also paralleled my own experiences moving here.

You start out simply, moving your body in ways that make you laugh, moving your body in ways that are so basic you think, that's it? really? But then as you continue learning, you discover some of the moves require you to forget muscle memory; that the particular muscle you are trying to use for a move is the wrong one; you need to forget it, and you need to learn to move all over again through a different muscle. The differentiation is fine, but significant. You also begin to discover muscles you never knew existed. I had no idea about some of the ones the teachers tell me to use. "You need to use this muscle, here," they say, pointing to a place on their belly that moves. I look at myself and try to move that area. Nothing. "Um, I don't think I have muscle there," I say, sheepishly, trying again. "Oh no, you do! You just aren't used to moving it!" And we all laugh. Now my body aches in places I never felt anything before, and the tiniest success I have in making a twitch thrills me. As we have progressed through the class, we have begun layering. Instead of working on just one move at a time, we combine two, or three. It's like on piano, the first time you play with both hands, and then the first time you play two different, complimentary notes on those two hands.

And it is exactly like starting out in a new place. You are back in many ways to the basics, to one step at a time and it feels so elementary it makes you angry at times. Things you should be able to do, or to handle, that you just cannot. How some things you did before still need doing, but with a tweak. You have to forget the old way and teach yourself the new. I feel as though after two months here, I am finally starting to find some of these new muscles, to reteach some of the old muscles, and to tap into muscles I used to use back in the day, when once before I lived in cities and capitals around the world, though never as an adult and professional.

So many new things.

Which brings me to translation. This is certainly something that I know a great deal of. How many languages have come through my ears? How many cultures and idioms? I remember in college days, I was still troubled by this idea that I had to be all of one thing and that meant none of another. For those like myself, global citizens and nomads, to deny one of our cultures in order to be fully the other is sto destroy or anihlate part of ourselves. A sort of ethnocide of self. But we just need to learn how to translate ourselves from one culture into another. We will pick up things, as actors keep a piece of every part they play, and we take all of these things and translate them throught the cultures in which we live and move. It is beautiful. It is a work of art. And like a baby growing up, it is the most natural thing in the world.

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