Friday, May Day, was a fantastic day because I was alone, without threat of undesired company, all day long. That hasn’t happened since winter break. Vee and another housemate left town for the long weekend, and our male housemate is rarely ever here, leaving me and Kay, my fellow uberintrovert, to ourselves. I knew Kay was here by only the occasional kitchen sounds or slamming of the bathroom door.
That morning, I awoke. There was no one to comment on the minor drop in temperature the previous night that was “freezing.” The water flickered off and on. No one commented on a thwarted desire to shower or how she couldn’t focus or how odd it was that the men who arrived to weed the yard just hopped the fence and started working (but I did text The Boy about this). I wasn’t expected to react to the lack of bananas at the secret pulperia or expend energy on matters I didn’t care about. Ahhhh, relaxation. I read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, made and ate brownies, typed and thought and typed and thought on The Machine, researched end of year travel plans (swimming with sea turtles!), ate brownies, watched a movie, and discovered new music, including Mexican alternative pop. My only interactions were at an end-of-year dinner at Miss G’s house with the other volunteers and the Honduran teachers, the highlights of which were discussion of a volunteer’s 18 intestinal parasites and scheduling a future date with Kay to see the new Avengers. I wonder if I have parasites.
The pleasure of solitude comes from having control over my internal environment, interactions, and choices, to the maximum extent possible. It means cooking dinner uninterrupted, farting loudly when required, paging through a book for hours, and leaving the vocal cords and the Spoken Word Generation Neural Network (SWoGNN, pronounced “swhoa-gen”) unexercised. I can give everything I have to my own interests. The alternative is just too tiring, especially within a group of people whose needs, ideas, or modes of expression rarely coincide with my own. I’m unsure how to respond and resent that my interpretation of social convention requires that I do so for the sake of politeness. Some days I just grunt noncommittally.
Aside from my living situation, I get the impression that desire for solitude is not understood here. The room Vee and I share initially had three twin beds and we briefly had a third roommate, which for us was a bit much. But some families live in homes smaller than this room. Multiple generations live together. Families are large. Solitude requires space, which is a luxury, so the need might be somewhat culturally developed.
Being shy and self-concious, in addition to introverted, contributes to my frequent yearning for all extra people to be gone. These qualities, unfortunately, interfere with my ability to follow some Honduran customs. When entering a room, even if people are having a conversation or you’re late for a meeting, it is proper to say “Excuse me” or “Hello” or “Good afternoon,” to call attention to yourself beyond the physical interruption. If you pass by someone eating, even if it’s a stranger, it is proper to offer a “Buen provecho.” These courtesies are beyond me in any language. They require me to break the fourth wall and call attention to myself, assume that another cares to interact with me and cares about my existence, increase the risk that the person with whom I interact will want more, and risk rejection. My awkwardness has lead to unintended rudeness before. As a child, when I left a friend’s house I wouldn’t say “goodbye” to the family for the reasons listed above. So some families didn’t like me. I still have this problem, even with my family.
This seems to be a very outward and social culture: what happens to introverts and shy ones? Activities require so much more assertiveness and personal interaction here. To buy almost anything I have to tell the vendor what I want rather than grabbing it myself. Replacing the gas tank requires a visit, sometimes multiple, to the Tropigas shop. People don’t line up but push to the front. There are no street signs, so finding a new someone or something entails help from someone else. It all requires people, whereas I love the impersonality of the internet. The language barrier here makes all of this so much more challenging of course, but, even at home, I shy away from small stores, where the attention of the clerk is unavoidable.
The roommate will return Sunday, then it’s back to the stress of unwillingly lending brain space to another, but it won’t be long now before I’m back home, sharing my space willingly with my partner and a little less willingly with our three cats. And when even that is too much, retreating to my room for some quiet time.
Shake your ta tas,
P.S. Today’s picture is of the winning art project from the Earth Day competition. The lid removes so you can store tiny trinkets inside or your false teeth.