The Life of Liz

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. ~Anne Frank

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

English to English, Dust to Dust.

On the Hot/Cold Theory of Health:

I'd like to take this opportunity to introduce you to a prevalent and particularly Nicaraguan idea: the Hot/Cold Theory of Health.  It basically goes like this, sudden and drastic changes are responsible for illness.  Thus, one does not go barefoot on the cool tile floors, drink a cold beverage with a bowl of hot soup, or shower in the middle of the day when the blood is hot.  A sudden change in weather is usually blamed for any illness going around, and a doctor will tell you to make sure to wear your chinelas (flip-flops) if you have a cough.  The theory is obviously more complex than that, but I'm not sure how well I really understand it.

I first heard of this at orientation.  Some of it I've adopted as it just makes good sense (like always wearing footware because the floors get pretty dirty).  The rest I promptly rejected in favor of basically doing whatever I want.  As it so happens, I really want to shower in the middle of the day, after I've gotten all sweaty from cleaning, when the cold-water-only showers feel super nice.  Nobody really seemed to mind.

Now, however, I have run up against this in a big way. As mentioned previously, I caught a little gripe (a cold).  I feel fine, except for a cough and the fact that my voice sounds like I'm being slowly strangled.  Five different people told me I absolutely must not drink any cold liquids or soda.  Come again? I've been sick approximately 9,000 times in my life and what I drink is tea, cold orange juice, ice water, and sprite! Back me up here, lukewarm water on a sore throat feels like knives. 

Yesterday, I was trying to explain to ElĂ­, in a nice way, that this is a cultural thing and I really don't believe what he's telling me is true.  He made the inexcusably good argument that if cold liquids aren't bad for me, why don't I have any voice.  You know, it's really bad manners to make such a valid point when I'm dismissing your deeply held beliefs as superstitious nonsense. 

On Translating:

Until you've done it, you cannot conceive of how hard it is. I am not frankly convinced that the two languages share any space at all in the vast metropolis that is my Brain.  English hangs out in a swanky club in New York City; my Spanish mans a gas station in Limon, Colorado (at least for the purposes of this metaphor).  There's a looooooooooong road in between.

Mostly it's hard to keep track of myself. Who are you? What language do you speak? What am I trying to tell you? These are the slippery little fish you must juggle should you ever take a whack at translation yourself.

It's nice to know that I am not the only one that finds it super difficult.  The other UMVIM here, Kimberly, brought her mom (here for a nice long visit) over to the house to say hi.  Her mom speaks only English so Kimberly was doing her best to translate (everyone else in the house, besides me, speaks only Spanish).  I should mention here that Kimberly's Spanish is vastly superior to my own.

At one point in the conversation, we were talking about the water.  I said it is perfectly safe to drink straight from the tap. Kim turned to her mom and said, "Liz says it's OK." For one glorious moment I thought, sweet! I said all that in Spanish! I am AWESOME! Then I was like, wait, none of that is true, and I certainly don't know how to say "straight from the tap" in Spanish.  We all got a big laugh out of Kimberly translating English to English.

I can't really tell you how wonderful it is to laugh with someone about the thousand tiny impossibilities we volunteers in mission face daily. None of which, I might add, were included in the training manual...

On a Completely Side Note:

I watched Gangs of New York last night. I seem to remember this movie being up for at least one Oscar, possible even Best Picture.  Yeah...I'm pretty sure I want my life back.  Snooooooore. I admittedly don't know beans about the cinema, but I do know when a bad movie doesn't know it's bad and takes itself way too seriously.  I didn't stick around to watch the end, but I imagine there was an epic showdown between DiCaprio's scowling indigestion and Stupid Mustache Guy.  Possibly you are gasping aloud in shock and horror; possible I don't care. 


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A brand new mom trying to navigate the crazy world of mixed families, babies, and working full time. Phew! Just writing that makes me want to lie down.


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