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I wanted to learn some mapudungun because I hoped that, when I met my former boyfriend parents, I would be able to pleasantly surprise them. In the end, I never met them. But I was surprised.
I had learned English, some French, a bit of Latin. I fancied myself a bit of an amateur linguist. I was able to understand the underlying structure, the grammar of these languages, even if Latin was a bit of an outlier.
But when I began approaching mapudungun I knew that it was something else. The language was so foreign! And that struck me. This is the one language that wasn’t foreign. That, and the fact that it really was a challenge, was my initial motivation to learn.
I was very fortunate, because there was a mapuche group near the place I was living in, so I asked the if I could attend their classes. They kindly accepted and I met my kimelfe: Carlos Huencho. When I first saw him, I thought that the class would be really boring. He seemed old, moved slowly and the class never seemed to begin. But when he started speaking, I heard a voice of deep quietness, of a profound knowledge. We bonded pretty quickly, and I made good friends of everyone. I felt in a place where I belonged.
And our teacher began to teach us about many more things that just the language. I realized the emptiness of some concepts, like cosmovision. Yes, the mapuche have a view of the world, have myths, have stories. But we cannot see the stories from afar. A social scientist can, but I can’t. I can’t speak of the view of the world, I must live in it.
Appendix to 4: an extract from my journal
Reading this I remembered something the Kimelfe said, rather metaphorically, but it can be read in another sense: we are immersed in a kura mawida, a forest of stones. Finally —I was thinking now— that’s my nature, my tuwün. I come from here.
But it’s also true that I long for something, I miss something and I need something unknown to me that calls me, summons me, in a very powerful way. I don’t listen to it, sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously, and I feel sick, with the existential vacuum that I’ve always felt. I follow the calling and I feel fullfilled.
Kimün ñi dewmayal. I know what I shall do.