Some time ago someone suggested I blog about a Portuguese word. I think the one suggested was desembarancando (that c should have a cedilla and it’s read like ss) which is sort of “how to make do forward” i.e. how to improvise, elbow, scratch your way forward. Desenrascando (no cedilla, the c is read k which as you can tell sounds more dire) is the more severe form of that, because it presupposes that you’re “a rasca” i.e. in serious trouble.
As any linguist will tell you when words like that exist in a language, it’s because they’re needed. Portugal is, in its way, as unlikely a survival as I am – it’s the only one of the many tiny countries that once dotted the Iberian peninsula, which hasn’t been absorbed by Spain. It has other things going against it, including a very long shore line (Portugal IS a long shore line. I managed not to live by the sea, but most people assume I did), an inherited Roman political culture, where nepotism is not a bug, it’s a feature, and a kakistocracy who learn their bad manners in the rest of Europe and come home to exploit the land they despise. (I don’t despise it and I never went back to stay.)
The end result is a country that is so far gone in the rules-and-regulations-no-sane-person-can-obey department that rule of law exists more in theory than reality. Everyone works under the table, and the best way to resolve a traffic accident is NOT to call the police.
That said, things are much better now than they got in the seventies. I often find myself nodding agreement when I read stories of Russian immigrants and how they procured things by barter, trade and devious means, because it was never a matter of just going to the store and buying something.
So, you see where those words would be needed. And you’d see too – I suppose – how someone like me come from such a culture would have a terrible craving for security. Which is why it’s so funny that I am, after all, a writer and at a time of no security at all. It probably accounts for the panics too, and the stress which right now had my body in one long eczema eruption from the neck down. (Yes, I’ve tried everything, prescription and non. No, I’m not willing to have steroid shots. When steroid cream doesn’t work, steroid shots are only going to complicate matters. I know several people who’ve had these too, and if the cream doesn’t work, the shots don’t seem to also. I’ve sent for the cream I used to use in Portugal and HOPEFULLY it will arrive soon and make a difference. Until then I suffer and try no to rip my skin to shreds. (Right now my right arm is in shreds.) It doesn’t help that my husband’s job seems “okay” for ten months. No, I’m not complaining. In ten months tons of things can happen, and yes we know people who are much worse off. It’s just for someone addicted to security it’s a difficult place to be.
However, both my craving for security and my Portuguese training in desembaracando and desenrascando are probably the only reasons I still have a “job” writing.
Think about it. You’re ten years old and about to go to school out of the village for the first time, in the nearest (still small, but I didn’t know it) town.
In the village everything gets done very informally. It has been known for kids to be signed up for school at the right age even if the parents forget, because everyone knows “so and so little so and so goes to school this year.” But outside the village you come across the Portuguese love for form a in slot b. And also the disorganization that makes it almost impossible to fulfill. You march to the nearest phone booth and sob out to your parents “I need to buy stamp form c to sign up, and the paper store doesn’t have any.” And the answer comes back, “Well, what can I do about it? Desenrasca-te.”
Turned out while I didn’t have money to bribe a secretary to pretend I’d given in the form and it had been lost, I had enough to buy the stamp paper off a kid who was not as interested in signing up.
Was this not excellent training for finding my first series dead in the water and shrugging and going “Okay, so much for literary fantasy. Let me try historical mystery and urban fantasy and… One of these doors go to open.”
The person who wanted me to blog desembaracando wanted me to explain how it is human wave. Well… do I need to explain? Part of what seems to be built into the dystopian sf is that people get stuff done to them and they just fold and die. Guys, even people who have suffered horrendous dictatorships – Russia, China – find ways to cope with it, to escape, to still have hope for a future and to work towards a better day. And that’s human wave. If it had a motto it should be the Heinlein quote “The Future is Better Than The Past.” Even if you’re not writing sf, that belief is human wave. The individual can make things better. Humans can overcome trouble and horror. Keep trying. Giving up means you already died.
And if trying means coming up with ever more inventive ways to forge forward through showers of shit and alligator attacks, then do so. A human got to do what a human got to do.
(On what this human got to do, since she’s a rasca and the future is uncertain: I need to get a fundraising earc out and get the zazzle shop going. Oh, and get an indie novel out too. All of these are of the essence and should be done yesterday. However, I’d like them done WELL. Yesterday was lost to a doctor’s appointment – no resentment on that. I not only am not seriously ill but the annoying issues seem to have resolved – and today I deal with electrical (that oven vent thing? Line to it went dead – long story – and it doesn’t seem to be wired through the breaker box. Fun, uh?) Then I’m going to Liberty con this weekend – if you’re in TN or NC or even SC and can come on down to Chattanooga, do. It IS great fun. – and somewhere along there the revision needed for that e-arc will happen. The way I’ll do THAT at least as a fundraiser is to set a “donation level” and a time and if you send it, you get that. If you send more than that you’ll get a bonus story, and more than that, you’ll get schwag – hey, I have posters, t-shirts and a magnet on hand that I can send. And then I need to set up the fun stuff shops. And then Kate Paulk and I need to rewrite our stories from Valdemar – which are incredibly popular – and make them into novels set in our own world (yes, by contract we CAN use them as is. No, we don’t want to. In our own world, we can then continue in ways we want to. So we have hammered out geography and history and Jem and Ree are going to get a new world and a FAR more detailed account of their adventures with some new stuff happening.) which Naked Reader has agreed to bring out. In between and around that, I HAVE to deliver Noah’s Boy and write the 2nd Earth Revolution Book. I’m not sure how I’ll find the time for all this, but hey, I’ll be all right, I’ll continue desenrascando.)