Darjeeling

The heat is settled in now, has been settled and settling since early April. It’s drier and wetter than last year at turns, but when it’s wetter it’s much wetter and when it’s drier it’s not much drier. The days dawn cool, a low cloud-cover promising protection and blazing off by ten am.

Our office is the best-sheltered place in town. It’s the second floor of an old hotel built into the side of the hill on which the Franciscans first put up the Mission, the Plaza Mayor, and the town. The floors above shade it so the heat of the sun can’t filter down, and the double-doored balconies along one side let the breeze in.

Hill Station-1-2

The office makes it so the season creeps up on us—we leave our houses earlier and earlier to catch the foggy pre-dawn and come back to them long after the sun’s gone down. The rest of Jalpan bakes for weeks while we can still hunker at our desks. So when it gets to the office, we know the heat has really come. It seems to seep out from inside you, meet the cushions of your chair and the wood of your desk, rebound onto your thighs and hands and forearms until you are all-over seating and you can’t touch your papers without soaking through. A girl I know down south told me, “The horror here in Oaxaca is the same; we are like gum, we stick to everything.”

Continue reading

Advertisements

Poetry

I’m just in from five days on the road, here to Ciudad Guzmán by way of Guadalajara and back, so the post is going to be a bit of a medley.

The heat is here but fierce, and we’re up past forty centigrade in the daytime. It’s almost eight in the evening as I write and it’s easily ninety or so in Fahrenheit here in my open-to-the-outside-air-hallway.

Like this but minus two months and plus fifty thirty degrees

Like this but minus two months and plus  thirty degrees

From now until the start of June, life gets a little less bearable. The fería started this weekend, and first you wonder why they’d pick these of all days to hold it and afterwards you wonder why they didn’t plan to fall asleep drunk through all of May, too, and how you yourself will manage to do it without the help.


 

I picked up two books of poetry, Keats and Yeats, over Christmas. Collections, better said, and I haven’t made much progress. I’ve only had poetry once, from a great AP Lit teacher in high school—with guidance, I get the intellectual pleasure of picking the things apart, and I like the greatest hits as much as anyone, “Two Paths Diverged” and “Walking by Woods” and all that. But alone, I’ve had trouble taking the time to sit and read, so when I went on this trip, I brought only Yeats (and The Fall, but it’s short enough to finish in an hour or two and it’s thirteen from here to Ciudad Guzmán), and, well, I’ve been reading.

The thing is that I think I might be doing it wrong. I want to read poetry because I have a vague jealousy of Englishmen who can quote Wordsworth and Tennyson and Yeats and Keats à propos and off the cuff. So I’ve been reading-as-hunting, looking for whichever lines strike me and putting them down for later committal, rather than trying to parse or discern narrative flow or pay all that much attention to any stanzas that don’t grab me right off. Better or worse, that’s the only way I seem cut to do it, so here are two of Yeats’.

The Falling of the Leaves

Autumn is over the long leaves that love us,

And over the mice in the barley sheaves,

Yellow the leaves of the rowan above us,

And yellow the wet wild-strawberry leaves.

 

The hour of the waning of love has beset us,

And weary and worn are our sad souls now;

Let us part, ere the season of passion forget us,

With a kiss and a tear on thy drooping brow.

Continue reading

Liberal Arts

When I first got here, the volunteers of the group before mine called me ‘Georgetown.’ I hadn’t meant to mention my university so much. I’ve gotten less snobby about school with every passing year, and in my experience GU doesn’t impress much outside of the foreign policy crowd anyway. But I came to Mexico straight out of college, and it was my major touchstone for the last four years.

Placeholder

Having, as it did, a lot of stones

A friend brought it to my attention and I’ve tried to stop using the name so much, even here on the blog. But with all the debates that have been cycling through the navel-gazing loop of Slate and Atlantic and New Yorker comment pieces about the nature of college, I’ve been thinking about it more. I disliked old money at Georgetown and the extent to which everyone in DC fetishized the northeast; how fashion went off the deep end my sophomore year and everyone in the city started dressing like they were about to go sailing with the Kennedys in Nantucket, all boat shoes and pastel pants and little anchors and sailboats peppering everything. But it’s an idiosyncrasy of mine that I look back to the hoary old campuses of the East Coast and the glory days of an American aristocracy growing up in prep schools, heading to the Ivy League, and then entering civil service or elected government.

Once you've climbed on John Carroll, you're practically there

Once you’ve climbed on John Carroll, you’re practically there

We play down how much our undergraduate institutions mean to us. We don’t call ourselves Harvard men or Georgetown men anymore, don’t get together and sing the alma mater for old times’ sake. I don’t know if it’s that they don’t leave as much a mark on us as they used to or if we’re determined not to be tied to something so solid and old in our eagerness to be young and restless and free. But I am a Georgetown man or an East Coast man and I want to be, because there’s something that lives in those ancient, ivy-obsessed ruins that’s fading away everywhere else.

Continue reading