I say this mostly because I had a celebratory welcome back Saturday night and perhaps had too many free chupitos. And then I accused a friend of being too cold with me. I layed in bed this morning surprisingly less hung over than I expected concocting my apology in my head. “I was dumb last night. I’m sorry.” And when I finally got a chance to say it, it was met with “Esta bien. Shit happens.” Perhaps the best answer one could get.
But my apologizing skills have been developing. I suppose I’ve never done anything too terribly awful to R, but I’m constantly apologizing for being late or having to change plans. “Discúlpeme!” I used to say. Its too formal he would tell me. Eventually I worked my way down to “disculpas” of which he approves.
So this morning, that’s the form I used.
But perhaps its good I didn’t learn this lesson until recently, because using the more formal version may have saved a relationship last September. I posted some pictures of luchadoras in polleras taken at a Titanes del Ring event on facebook.
In the comments section Daniel wrote, “Por que muestras estas payasadas de El Alto si tu hablaste con los mejores luchadores de Bolivia y los mas antiguos? Hasta criticabas ha estos bueyes por que los promocionas [aqui]? Hay grandes profecionales que puedes mostrar como LFX, Halcones del Ring, Super Catch…Que mal!” [Why do you show these slapstick artists from El Alto if you have talked with the best Bolivian wrestlers and the oldest? Until you criticize these oxen, why promote them here? There are great professionals you can show like LFX, Halcones del Ring, Super Catch…How awful!”
Jonathan, a luchador from Santa Cruz in the Southeast part of the country agreed, “Bien dicho.... Sabemos que hay mejores luchadores que estas cosas.” [Well said…We know there are better wrestlers than these things].
And I responded “No tengo fotos de lfx, super catch, etc. En enero voy a arreglar el problema!” [I don’t have photos of lfx, super catch, etc. In January I’m going to fix the problem]
But this answer did not satisfy them. I removed the pictures and wrote a private message saying “Discúlpeme!” to both, and they didn’t keep hating me for long. And to be sure, the conversation that resulted from the photos was eye opening for my research project. So I suppose even the mistakes turn out well some times.
And then again today, when I took Alé up on his offer to transfer me and my possessions to my new (sort of) apartment, I ended up having to apologize. Along the way, Edwin, his boss called and said he needed to meet him at the shop. We sidetracked ourselves there, and even beat Edwin there. Alé parked on the side of the street, and leaned his head back. “Do you mind if we just sit here for a minute. I don’t want to work yet.” “No me importa” I responded. And then he looked at me strangely. At first he was slightly offended and then explained that “it doesn’t matter to me” isn’t exactly a correct translation. It seems to be something more along the lines of “I could care less.” In a rather dismissive sort of way. And so, though I probably didn’t need to say it, I answered with “disculpas.” At least we’re making good on our promises to each other to help with language.
Learning the art of apologizing (which by no means is a complete project) has been important for me. As an anthropologist, I am at the mercy of those around me. And as an outsider, I’m often doing things that aren’t quite right. I’ve been called stubborn and unwilling to admit I’m wrong, and for the most part I don’t disagree with those assessments. Most of the time I will argue until I’m hoarse, trying to find a loophole, even if it was clear in the first five minutes of the fight that I’m wrong. But I think in my academic life, I’m more willing to accept being wrong, whether that means refining theoretical standpoints or simply telling those who surround me during fieldwork that I screwed up. Anthropology requires learning about other people, but I think it requires just as much learning about yourself. And learning how to make yourself better able to work, live, and enjoy life with those around you during fieldwork.