Sunday, July 13, 2008

La Lengua Maaya and Puppets

The puppet show...
Some of the characters.
The kids who stole our song.
The presentation.
Certificate of Completion Presentation

The five month semester of Mayan Language class at the pre-school level has been successfully completed. I now know enough Mayan to greet a person at any time of day, but there is no simple “¡Hola!” It reminds me of Bali where every other hour the greeting changes….Good new day, good morning, good late morning, good early afternoon, etc, you get the idea. In Mayan the greetings all involve the sun. To be specific, Máalob K’iin is Good Day. Máalob chokob k’iin is Good ‘n’ hot flippin’ day, eh? Chumuk k’iin is midday. Máalob ok naj k’iin is good day later in the afternoon, and so on.

I understand only the most simple questions, such as “What are you doing?” (local favorite, everyone always needs to know what you are doing) and “Where are you from?” or “Where do you live?” Even the dreaded “Where are you going?”(If they don’t know what you are doing, they surely must know where you are going!) I am able to answer those if only with one word responses. I guess it is a start. We did not learn to conjugate verbs until nearly the end of the program, and that is my favorite. Conjugation provides my base in language learning. Once I get verbs planted in my brain I can surround them with nouns and adjectives to expand the potential usage of all the new information. My only disappointment in this class was the helter skelter teaching method our Maestra utilized. I find it easier to learn a language, which I consider to be very structured, in a detailed and organized manner. But maybe that is just me.

I can remember how to say “I sell one dead deer” (Kin konik junp’eel keej) and “I am selling thirteen live deer” (Táan in konik oxlajuntúul keej), but herein lies my biggest problem. When will I be selling deer? On the other hand, after the puppet show we performed, if I WERE a deer I could tell you I saw the little lost girl wandering in the woods. (Min yan ti’ le k’aaxo’ chen sa’ati.) What I have not embraced is the complicated vocabulary. If I could remember some of the verbs and nouns I could actually say what I really am doing or tell where I am going (or trying to go!).

I think this is interesting: check out the variations of this word. If mispronounced its significance changes drastically.
Chak Red
Chaak Cook in water/parboil
Chaak’ To wink
Cha’ak A plant with edible root
Ch’aak To cut (e.g., a tree down)
Cháak The Mayan rain god
Cháak Rain

It is a giant undertaking, trying to learn Mayan while still learning to properly maneuver Spanish. I plan to continue to the next level of class which begins in September. By then I hope to have had the time to review and hopefully organize my notes. Our current weekend trips to the pueblos and ruins should prove helpful. I always take the Mayan dictionary along. We try to speak to people in Mayan but do not get much past how sunny and hot it is in To’, the Mayan name for Mérida.

I could go on about the intricacies and bizarrizmos of the Mayan Language, but I should get back to the matter at hand: finishing pre-school. We took a final written exam a couple of weeks ago. Mine came back with a “Muy Bien” on it. Everyone else’s tests had numerical grades. I did not quite understand. The second part of the final was to participate in a puppet show with all the Mayan language students in the Olimpo Theater in the center of Mérida. The production was held yesterday, July 12, 2008. Our class had to change the song we were scheduled to sing because the little children’s class beat us to it! We changed characters around a few times because people stopped attending class and we did not know if they would appear at show time. It was the first time I have been involved in the production of something like a puppet show. A prior blog tells of the creation of Pablo’s and my puppets, JConcho yéetel le keejo´. Almost all the women wore huipiles to the production; I think I had better consider investing in one pretty soon. We have to perform as part of the Mayan learning process. Earlier this semester we performed a song in a Mayan pueblito and the women DID put me in a huipil.

They awarded our certificates of completion at the ceremony. They personally called me on stage to give me mine along with the top students of the other classes. I don’t know if I scored the highest on the exam or if I am just the novelty being a foreigner learning the Mayan language. Early on in the class I was interviewed by the local TV station and asked why I was interested in learning Mayan. The interview included me singing the pre-school song Jach Túun Máalob K’iin to all of Mexico at 6am on a national program. The class and all communication is in Mayan or Spanish, and many concepts escape me. I grasp quite a bit but there is a lot to learn before I am willing to say I speak Mayan. And so continues this learning process we call life.

We perform in a Mayan village

1 comment:

Theresa in Mèrida said...

You look good in a huipil! Definitely get one. Does the different embroidered designs have special meanings? I always wondered about that.