Archive for August, 2016

Living in Translation

Friday, August 19th, 2016

My darling daughter-in-law called me yesterday on my birthday and followed the Haynes tradition of singing the happy birthday song. She has a lovely voice but is self conscious about her pronunciation. English is not her first language, but a fine second. You know the voices you hear in your head? Probably speaking English, right? She hears Korean and translates to English. Everyone and everything around her speaks English, even my son’s Airedale. However, her Westie, who came with her from Seoul and whose first language is Korean, has rapidly become bilingual. My daughter-in-law speaks beautiful English. I often think of her not just coping here in a foreign language but thriving!

MelindaI was a Spanish literature major. While in university and when I was teaching, I spoke fluent Spanish. When I traveled to Mexico I would even begin thinking in Spanish. But ten years later when I lived in Brasil where they speak Portuguese, I often struggled to communicate in a sort of Portanole–Spanish Portuguese mix. I could stand right next to an Argentinian speaking Spanish to a Brazilian and try to speak Spanish to him as well but he would not understand me. My Spanish was correct, if university level with a bit of a Mexican accent. Hers was Argentinian Spanish. The Brazilian and she communicated. He and I did not. If I had to speak on the phone where I could not see a speaker’s mouth, I had great difficulty understanding what was said. Once, the concierge of our service flat called to tell me something about the phone system in the building. I could not understand him. Next thing I knew he was pounding on the door. I opened it and he roared into the room, picked up the phone, yelling and gesturing about how I should use the phone. I saw his lips. Heard his inflection and got context clues from his gestures. We communicated. I also understood that he thought if I didn’t understand I must be deaf, so he yelled and spoke slowly with big, broad gestures, because I apparently was not only deaf but a bit developmentally delayed.

I get what my daughter-in-law is dealing with in this adventure in foreign living. I understand her concern, her constant vigilance in translating and communicating, being understood and not embarrassing herself or her new family. I’m dedicated to praising the fabulous job she’s doing so that she will be as proud of herself as we are proud of her. Oooooo , if only I could speak Spanish with the fluency that she does English, I would be not only simpatica (Spanish speakers and Brazilians always called me that as I was kind and friendly) I might be writing delicious magic realism like Gabriel García Márquez, Miguel Angel Asturias, and Isabel Allende. Ah, now there’s a dream worth pursuing. 

Says the Spider to Guest Blogger Suzanne Gunn, “Welcome to my orb!”

Saturday, August 6th, 2016

Orb WebSummer in Kansas goes through stages. It starts hot and muggy with a few bugs, which is followed by hotter and muggier and “did you see the size of That Mosquito”; and finally it’s damn hot, wring-it-out muggy, Backwoods Off as the perfume de jour and season of the orb spider.

Along with increase in bugs comes an increase in their nemesis, spiders (along with bats and miscellaneous birds, but this is about spiders). Most spiders know their place in the yard. The gorgeous yellow and black garden spiders spin magnificent webs along the border of things, neatly out of the way. Not so the orb. These ladies believe the world is their oyster and happily rig their webs any place they can get an anchor line attached. The webs can be really big, nearly invisible and surprisingly tough – after all it has to withstand struggling insects. We are now at the beginning of the Season of the Orb Spider (mysterious music, please).

So the other evening Skamp, the rat terrier, and I were following the plopping journey of a smallish toad across the yard. I was looking down at the little critter, not up. Oh darn! Walked smack dab, full frontal, forehead to belt into an orb spider web that hadn’t been there an hour before.

I levitated. Yodeled! Flailed mightily and then did my best cheerleader moves midair trying to remove web and find the spider (oh where is the spider!?!?!) and avoid stepping on dog or toad. Eeee! Once grounded on terra firma the spider hunt continued, bending at the waist, shaking out my long hair, alternately hopping, shaking and flailing. It’s the most horrible feeling not to know where the spider went to say nothing about the creepy web. The spider obviously survived because there was another web in the same exact place by the next morning.

If you happen to drive by our place and see the Lady of the Manor out and about waiving a long stick like a demented Hogwarts escapee don’t worry. It’s just the best available spider defense system. It’s low tech and it works. Sweep and swish through thin air and there went another spider web…