Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Teta iz Amerika

Teta iz Amerika (my aunt from America), the Captain tells me, is a popular explanation when someone you know is spotted flaunting something they couldn't possibly have procured on their own. The person will gesture at their new gold watch, flashy leather jacket, or shiny red sports car and say that, self assured, glib phrase. And so it is, with the arrival of the Captain's niece and nephew that I have been said teta.

When we came home the other day and saw his brother's car in the driveway, his toddler nephew in deep repose in the back seat of the car, I was excited. Not only because I love children but also because I thought, Finally, some people who speak at my (low) level of language comprehension. Alas, not exactly. As I whizzed around the house chasing the 4-year old niece as she taunted me, hiding around corners and jumping out yelling BOO! I realized that while I'd be able to cook up something witty in two seconds in English, I was still out of my depth here; not only for lack of vocabulary, but lack of context. What is child-appropriate here? What are the familiar refrains? I don't know, and I won't know for quite a while.

I am trying to be in touch with my newfound alien status. Greg Tate, once wrote, that black people live the alienation that science fiction writers write about, and so it is that I often feel a profound sense of outsiderness whether I am at home or abroad. But this new and self-imposed alienation is thrilling and exciting because I chose it. Back in New York, I kept trying to train myself to be more restrained, to run over my thoughts once, twice, three times before words came flying out of my mouth. Now I rarely have the choice. In my head I ask myself, Do I have to say it? Do I know how to say it? What raw materials do I have to construct it? Words come sliding out of my mouth slow like molasses. The first sound is an Errrrrr followed by word after word at a turtle's speed, mispronounced, mis-conjugated, but there they are. Can you do anything with that?, I ask the listener with my eyes. So far so good. They want to understand, necks crane and ears lean closer into my direction. It feels nice.

And, the other day, as the Captain's niece hid at the end of the hallway, I heard her tiny voice counting in English, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6......when I jumped out of my seat to watch her, she giggled and ran back down the stairs.

BTW, sorry I failed to post yesterday, just as I was eeking out the first few words, the massive rainstorm knocked out all the power. For this same reason (and a few others I could cook up), there are also no pictures today.


Black Woman in Europe said...

Hej Camille! Greetings from Sweden. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog and adding me to yur blogroll. I will do the same with you. Have you joined the Black Women in Europe social network yet? If you haven't please do: Also, will you be in Vienna next week for the Black Women in Europe Congress?

Black Woman in Europe said...

Another question. Would you be interested in writing about what it is like to be a black women in Europe? Or perhaps why you chose to move from NYC to Europe? I am working on a project with a sister in the Netherlands and we are looking for stories from black women that will empower other black women. I am focusing on Europe. If you like the idea, I could simply cross post from your blog. Hopefully this project will start next month and not just be on my blog.

Camille Remarkable said...

No prob, thanks for upkeeping your blog. It is good to be able to connect with the other crazy black women here in Europe! I just submitted a request to join the social network. I hope I get in!

As for the Black Women In Europe Congress, I didnt know anything about it so I dunno if I can make it :(

Camille Remarkable said...

Yes! I would love to write about being a black woman in Europe (as I am sort of already doing that). The project sounds great. I could certainly talk about my reasons for moving from NYC to Europe. The cross-posting sounds great, let me know what else you might need!

Thanks so much!

jenene said...

that's a great phrase: "Teta iz Amerika." Love it!

Anonymous said...

I just found your site. i lived in the czech republic for about a year and a half. I'm bi-racial, but honestly i kind of forget what i look like or what people might think or see when they see me. i feel a little like an alien. i felt like i was just starting to explore that feeling you are speaking about - choosing alienation and somehow then having a new kind of freedom-when i decided to move to nyc with my husband. we need to have proper papers so we can be free to be together and travel in the future (ukrainian passports don't get you many places).

being allowed to be curious and speak your mind without the assumptions you feel are being made about you (imaginary or otherwise) i used to talk about this with a Jamaican friend of mine in Prague. she was quite clear that she was abroad because of that feeling. the pressure of race in america was just unacceptable to her, but the pressure of being a foreigner was more attractive and liberating.

but this is a big conversation that i have kind of shortchanged, but wanted to raise my hand as a fan. i'm sure my husband and i will be back in europe before too long, but in the meantime it's really great to hear your perspective.

Camille Acey said...

@Anonymous - Thanks for reading. I forgot all about this post. It was a good one!

I definitely miss many things about NYC but you're right that there is something special about this type of "self-imposed" alienation. I hope you two can get your papers together and get back to travelling!