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The Musty Man - Spanish for Dummies
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Fri, Jun. 9th, 2006 08:19 am
Spanish for Dummies

An Ode To A Dead Guatemalan Dog

You were born to indeterminate parents
Themselves of checkered lineage.
You were raised in the street
And countenanced of necessity
the uneven caresses and sudden furies of the street urchins.

You had sex 283 times, with 283 other dogs.
Then you were killed by a car, like both of your parents and all of your siblings.
This took you less than three years.
Onlookers would agree the collision was entirely your fault.


You know what's hard about Guatemala? It ain't the shit on the side of the roads or the weird looks you get on the street or even THE GUNS ARE EVERYWHERE... I knew what was coming and I signed up for it, and none of it is necessarily the end of the world. And besides, Coban, the town in which I work, is ethnically and demographically out of step with Guatemala proper in ways that make it generally an easier place to handle. It already seems like the Eugene, Oregon of Central America. It's possible to get yourself wrecked here and there are some real drug problems, but the general vibe is friendly and besides, I work for the sort of hippydippy NGO that only attracts the sort of people who like giving hugs and offering rides and being patient with all of my stupid questions and unreasonable gastrointestinal demands.

No, the hard part is speaking Spanish. I've had 5 or 6 years of Spanish classes, I've lived in Guatemala before, I've backpacked around South America, I've dated four fluent Spanish speakers, three of them natives. I know how to speak some Spanish, right? What I have been forced to remember, however, is that there are a lot of different levels of speaking a language between knowing where the bathroom is and being able to explain how the plumbing works, much less in the past subjunctive, and all the sudden I feel newly, rawly sorry for all those Korean exchange students at law school who never laughed at anyone's jokes. And here I had the stupidity to think they were just being sour and/or evasive, or that they were choosing to be marginal and unengaging.

In my experience, the statistical characterization of Americans as people who don't bother to learn another language is totally inaccurate. Yeah, I speak some Spanish, and of my best high school friends, one speaks a little French, another speaks a little Russian, another speaks a little of about thirteen different languages, and another never shuts the fuck up. I bet a lot of you speak somewhere between a little and a lot of any number of different languages, most of which you are probably cribbing together from the hangover of your high school education and maybe a few optimistic college classes before you let it slide. After all, we all know what happens to the sort who selects a language (or group of languages) as a major. Hopefully one of you will emerge from the crowd and prove this point for me.

There's a level of Spanish that I call restaurant Spanish, where you can basically order chicken and find out where the bathroom is and ask directions to the disco but not begin to understand the answer. On girls, this level of Spanish is cute.

"Me little pardon please, where is bathroom?"
(points around the corner, makes hand gestures, smiles in a non-threatening way) "You're gonna want to take your pants off, sweetie, and touch your toes."

On boys, this is less permissible.

"Me excuses, where is the bathroom?"
"It's in the States, fuckface. Why don't you go home and look for it."

Actually, that's crap. People here are really nice, and they'll show you to the bathroom, and they'll make sure you've got toilet paper, and they'll introduce you to their grandmother. Seriously. People are so nice here that once you meet a taxi driver that you like, you generally continue to use him for the next seven years. Mine is named Freddy. Idiot Spanish is fine, they're just happy that you're trying, and usually they won't even try to rip you off. In my experience, this is true in any part of Central America where people don't have to deal with gringo demands often enough that they've realized it's altogether appropriate to resent having to do it.

And you know, I don't have idiot Spanish. My Spanish ain't bad. I've had six years of Spanish classes and I've already bummed around a half dozen Latin American countries speaking Spanish inbetween the alternating incidents of beer and diarrhea. And it would be just fine, if I were still backpacking around Guatemala with the other unshaven types, getting drunk and dressing like a homeless person just for the decadence of it and doing my small part to facilitate the reflex level hatred of young American backpackers. But I'm not. I have a job, and worse yet, I'm a lawyer. This, perhaps, is an unfortunate vocation to try to take abroad, especially on the entry level. Outside of the stage actress, it is hard to imagine a career more tightly bound to fluency and facility with the spoken language than the practice of law, which is itself equal parts archaic devotion to a redundantly complex method of problemsolving derived from outmoded colonial norms and the ability to bullshit persuasively and fluidly.

For all of this, my Spanish can probably only be safely described as "functional" or "conversational" or "okay." If you talk to me slowly and patiently and I can ask you questions or stop you when I don't understand something, I get pretty much all of it, and this is pretty much all we Americans usually expect from ourselves when we leave the country. For me, at least, this was historically usually enough to make me feel okay about my Spanish. If you talk to one of your friends at normal conversational speed, I'll usually hang on enough to track the main point of the conversation and most of the action, though I'll lose a big part of the details. If everyone starts talking at once, I can't understand any of it, but hey, that's cool too. If you introduce me to a room full of my future coworkers and they all start bombing me with greetings and polite icebreaker questions, I will panic and answer all of the questions wrong, and I may even start swearing in English, which one of my coworkers will understand, and not the one I'd sniffed out as the probable English speaker, but she'll have the good sense to blush and giggle.

At this level, which is far above basic Spanish but still doesn't flirt with even basic fluency, I retain the ability to address basic needs and wants, to ask directions, to communicate in a way that is totally without subtlety or nuance, but even with a compensatory overdose of body language, I still feel like most of what I think of as my "personality", which seems suddenly as though it can be mostly found down in the small and token variations I throw on my expression of basic needs and wants, gets pretty much lost in translation. My sense of humor, for example. I can't make jokes that are not rooted in a very simple empirical observation (i.e., about the 5'1" guy - "I offered him the front seat because he has such long, sexy legs"), and when other people joke and I don't get it (which is almost always), I can either laugh blindly or withhold my laughing until I actually understand the joke and feel it and thereby avoid being exposed as a faker to anyone who might be paying special attention. I realize now that this was the same decision the Korean students were making when they chose to remain stonefaced.

I suppose it was also possible that we were just very unfunny. This cannot be ruled out.

Spanish, like a lot of the Western European languages, is full of all sorts of cognates - words that sound basically the same in English as they do in Spanish. Since these cognates tend to be technical in nature, my Spanish sucks in a very particular and conceptually hilarious mix of thirdgrade grammar and post-graduate lingo. For instance, it would totally defeat me to have to say something like: "Well, I'd wanted to go to the dentist today, but since the dentist was closed I'm guessing I might have to go again tomorrow, if I am able to go without paying for a taxi." Never ever. On the other hand, I'm more than capable of busting out something like: "Well yes, but I find that most of our older ideas of feminism were obviated at least partially by the eventual triumph of cultural relativism."

In other words, (and I owe KVDV for a typically cogent description of this phenomenon) I spend half of my time talking like a particularly absent-minded professor (absent enough to skip the verb entirely, sometimes) and the other half babbling like a particularly precocious baby.

"I go to city with resume, and I talk to boss of company, and say I to him that I have demonstrated experience crafting forward thinking, "on the ground" solutions in conflict mediation with a special emphasis in Latin American history, and he say yes good and then maybe I did have the ice cream that is near the square and is good but is gave me the shits."

It's hard. It's harder, even, than the poops.

Because my poops aren't hard at all. They're liquid, like the tears of frustration that are running down my face/thighs.

No, seriously. This is fun. You should all try it. What I said about my sense of humor isn't true at all, actually. I'm capable of being funny in Spanish from time to time, it just isn't consistent with the normative expectations of talking like a lawyer. Being a funny lawyer isn't even easy in English, because to be funny and simultaneously eloquent in the language is something only the British seem to do well, but when I surrender all chances of being perceived as intelligent, I can usually get a laugh with impromptu and heavily accented remarks like "This chair is making my ass scream!" and "The Irish are a bunch of dirty drunks!" (I actually thought the former was funnier than the latter, but everyone just looked at me and asked me if I was okay. Slamming on the Irish brings the house down. Actually, just saying "I'm a foreigner and I'm going to drink a hundred beers and then die!" seems to be a real crowdpleaser. Don't know why.) And even when I'm not funny or accurate or coherent, my day is still a thing of a million small victories. It's like going back in time.

I knew what I ordered in the restaurant and I liked it when they brought it to me!

I bought my food at the market!

I didn't shit my pants today!

I asked for a pencil and they gave it to me!

So imagine me, if you must, as I was last night... alone and safe in my bed in the backside of Guatemalan nowhere, trying and failing to shut down an overactive brain which would persist in keeping me awake until 2 am compulsively translating the lyrics to "When Doves Cry" into Spanish.

[Y como puedes dejarme parandose]

[Solitario en el mundo tan frio...]

[... and yeah, if one of you can track down a ranchero version of this song, there'd really be no limit to the credits or the payback. Double if you make it yourself.]

[... and for those few of you that have E-Mailed me with shit like "Yeah, we all really give a fuck about beerball but could you actually tell us what you're doing in Guatemala?" The answer is yes, but not yet, because I still haven't figured that out.]

Current Music: Prince - Cuando se lloran las palomas

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anarchivist
anarchivist
FLO$$ ICON
Fri, Jun. 9th, 2006 02:30 pm (UTC)
Cobain in the Membrane

Good to hear you're holdin' it down.

And I misread Coban as Cobain.


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inertiacrept
inertiacrept
The Musty Man
Fri, Jun. 9th, 2006 03:09 pm (UTC)
Re: Cobain in the Membrane

I was just talking to squarkz about how Central America loves G'n'R and loves Shakira and Britney, but missed grunge completely even though it's exactly the sort of shit they'd be into.

The theory is that the Latinization of American music brought Guate at least partially up to the present, but outside of that genre, they're still 20 years behind (and it really is about 20... when I was last here in 1997, everyone loved the BeeGees. Now, it's all about Bon Jovi and UB40.)


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inertiacrept
inertiacrept
The Musty Man
Fri, Jun. 9th, 2006 03:11 pm (UTC)

Aww shucks. That's nice of you to say. It helps me feel better about the pooping all the time thing.


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aparecida
aparecida
the appearing woman
Fri, Jun. 9th, 2006 02:40 pm (UTC)

-This entry was really fascinating, thank you.

-It's the same with medicine as with law. Two nights ago, I was going through my English-Spanish medical dictionary, and discovered that cognates would allow me to tell someone quite fluently that their ventilation/perfusion ratio was abnormally elevated due to a drop in systemic arterial pressure pursuant to acute hemmorhage. But I'll probably be at a loss if a guy tells me his ass itches when he takes a shit.

-I am constantly keeping myself awake, or getting distracted during exams, or occupying my driving time, by translating song lyrics into Spanish.


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inertiacrept
inertiacrept
The Musty Man
Fri, Jun. 9th, 2006 03:13 pm (UTC)

You know, I've been sitting here trying to figure out if I could say "my ass itches when I take a shit" in Spanish, and I can't, if only because I don't know how to say "to itch".

That can go on my daily list of "to be learned"s with such gems as harina (flour), alentar (to encourage) and amargo (bitter).

I'm a little amargo about a lot of this stuff, sometimes.


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sp0rk0
sp0rk0
nothing to see here
Fri, Jun. 9th, 2006 03:14 pm (UTC)
don't know whatcha got till it's gone

I never realize how much I miss your posts until you cough up one of these splendid little numbers.

I hope your ass is able to survive the scream-chairs and the ice cream.


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inertiacrept
inertiacrept
The Musty Man
Fri, Jun. 9th, 2006 03:16 pm (UTC)
Re: don't know whatcha got till it's gone

What's to miss? Did I stop posting? Or is it that I just started posting monthly? Naw, the buildup to leaving for Guate, while busy and certainly mostly unpleasant, wasn't really anything I wanted to write about. I'm guessing that now that I'm here and constantly/totally starved for English, the frequency of these "little" (HAW!) missives will become more frequent.

But more importantly, hell yes about the ice cream. That shit will FUCK YOU UP, tho.


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inertiacrept
inertiacrept
The Musty Man
Fri, Jun. 9th, 2006 03:36 pm (UTC)
Non verbal communication as physical theater

You can still make monkey noises, can't ya? You're just not trying hard enough.


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lostcosmonaut
lostcosmonaut
Couldn't Get A Head
Fri, Jun. 9th, 2006 03:52 pm (UTC)
long line of successful dog poems

enjoyed this poem, Aaronaut.--mza.


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inertiacrept
inertiacrept
The Musty Man
Fri, Jun. 9th, 2006 03:57 pm (UTC)
Re: long line of successful dog poems

It is funny (HAHA) and funny (peculiar) and cert. rewarding that the part of the post I had already forgotten about is the part that gets the shoutout.


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switchduck
switchduck
Quote my ironic laugh.
Fri, Jun. 9th, 2006 03:54 pm (UTC)

Oh god. Language I don't know and food that could kill me. You are living the ultimate experience, let me tell you. I may just have nightmares about it.

Actually, I've long suspected that the only way I'd ever really be able to learn a foreign language (beyond my rudimentary GPT-passing crap French or my in-the-car-tape Greek - "discotheque" is the same in both languages) would be to be immersed in it for some reason. A study abroad program, perhaps, or being sold as a prostitute. Neither seems particularly appealing, though, and I just hide my inability behind the arrogant American - "everybody should speak English, dammit!"

Immodium care package! Send me your address!


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inertiacrept
inertiacrept
The Musty Man
Fri, Jun. 9th, 2006 04:00 pm (UTC)

I've got the immodium already, but the prevailing wisdom in these parts is that one should refrain from resorting to immodium for as long as possible, since it pretty much stops yer digestive system cold for awhile.

And in all fairness, I had one day of side-clenching, cold-sweating, ass-wrecking travel poopy and I've been fine ever since with nothing stronger than peptobismol. The problem with being an expat, however, is that you're always one bad banana away from shitting your pants in front of your coworkers.

Though I've gotta say, plumbing in Guatemala has come a LONG way in the last 10 years. It's actually sorta... normal now.

And no address for you, because no one seems to know what my address is.


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claudelemonde
claudelemonde
certain people i know
Fri, Jun. 9th, 2006 04:17 pm (UTC)
eat more plain rice: it's the sponge of the digestive tract

hi-five, bro. my french comprehension is passable, but try to parley w/ Canadian francophone pals & get laughed at (although their accents are totally HICKISH, you know, like the diff. between BBC English and Alabaman).

when i went to Tijuana i was desperately going "SIN CARNE!" at every ristorante, but no dice. and then, a sensation you know well: Poops.


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inertiacrept
inertiacrept
The Musty Man
Fri, Jun. 9th, 2006 04:31 pm (UTC)
If I want plain rice, I gotta make it myself. The Guates lubbadaSALSA.

squarkz is gonna be up against the same thing, if she ever comes and visits it. I think the problem isn't so much that they'll bring you meat even if you tell them not to... that's just a misunderstanding. It's more that when you ask them if something is "without meat", they answer based on whether they can see meat. If it's cooked in lard or a meat based broth, that's frequently too esoteric to impart when you're ordering with a simple SIN CARNE but yes, it has the same horrific effect on your ass.


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wring
wring
Vanelda Bonqueesha! Excuse my beauty...IN ASIA!
Fri, Jun. 9th, 2006 04:18 pm (UTC)

Hope you do post more often, I love reading you, Attorney. Is gatorade cheap over there? That's the best stuff to take for the shits.


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inertiacrept
inertiacrept
The Musty Man
Fri, Jun. 9th, 2006 04:35 pm (UTC)
I don't know why I'm making every comment about diarrhea when I don't still have it, but...

Oh yeah, I've been all over the Gatorade. And the Gatorade has been all over the toilet.

And the circle of life continues.


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gashlycrumb
gashlycrumb
Prime Minister Of Nowhere
Fri, Jun. 9th, 2006 05:33 pm (UTC)

I love to read this stuff.

No Spanish here, though I keep thinking I should learn it. I'm capable of getting-by French (the cognates abound, and the fact that I took several years of Latin helps too.) Also a rude phrase in Russian ("on your knees, bitch") and "I love you" in Finnish (which, when B. was at SXSW and drinking with two Finns and a Swede, confused them beyond all belief when he put me on the phone. "Why is your wife saying she loves ME?" one of them inquired. "Tell them it's because it's the only Finnish I know," I replied.)

Language is fun!

Have you read Me Talk Pretty One Day? If not, I think you'd find it amusing, especially the references to the author learning French by immersion.


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inertiacrept
inertiacrept
The Musty Man
Fri, Jun. 9th, 2006 05:55 pm (UTC)
The days are just packed

I had a friend who could say "chocolate is bad for dogs" in nine languages, though he'd usually blow that by adding, in Asian languages, "though dogs go well with chocolate". Kinda funny, kinda awful, etc.

Give me yer personal history with the Russian of "on your knees, bitch".

And yes, I did read Me Talk Pretty One Day and generally enjoyed it. Actually, one thing I'm excited about with my new, low-wattage life is that I finally have time to read. Of course, the paradox of this is that I no longer have access to books.

Time to whack off again ALREADY?


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asphalteden
asphalteden
Asphalt Eden
Fri, Jun. 9th, 2006 05:55 pm (UTC)
like life is that exciting

Why do I imagine your travels through South America to be a transcendent journey to find various ethnic psychedelic substances, communing with the jaguar god, and finally achieving some kind of psychoactive apotheosis at the top of a Mayan ziggurat surrounded by chattering monkeys?


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inertiacrept
inertiacrept
The Musty Man
Fri, Jun. 9th, 2006 05:58 pm (UTC)
It cannot be called self-aggrandizement when you do not actually do it yourself, right?

Because I get my weekends off, of course.

And b/c Mayan Ziggurats and chattering monkeys are only something like two hours to the north, and there's nothing else to do but watch telenovelas.


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uberdionysus
uberdionysus
Troy Swain: Black Box Miasma
Fri, Jun. 9th, 2006 07:09 pm (UTC)

As usual, a fucking laugh-out-loud, kick-ass post.

I'm a stereotypical U.S. citizen and speak English only. I know a lot of people from other places, but my U.S. friends typically only speak English.

BTW, you should read the 'graphic novel' Perdita because it's about spoiled white Americans searching for authenticity (which is what I'd say the backpacker thing is all about, and not really about decadence (frat boy Spring Breaks in Cabo are about decadence, not the wooly-haired pseudo-hippy who reads Zinn, wears native made sandals, and 'keeps it real' in Uruguay)).


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inertiacrept
inertiacrept
The Musty Man
Fri, Jun. 9th, 2006 07:40 pm (UTC)
Could be code for shoving yer head up yer ass.

I would LOVE to read the graphic novel Perdita. First of all, I'd love to look at pictures since I read documents all fucking day, and second of all, that sounds just about right. I'll see what I can do to make that happen.

On decadence:

I would say that dressing like a poor and homeless person who is all Zen and Zinn'd out and "keeps it real" is very much about decadence, it's about the splendor of poverty and "larger human/spiritual connection" through the categorical bashing of one's mother culture and rejection of materiality.

I see it all over the place, and I fucking hate those people. If the local women won't bare their legs, much less not bare them without shaving them, those wooly-ass stems you're sporting really ain't about connecting with anything outside of your own head, are they?


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moosemonster
M. Monster
Fri, Jun. 9th, 2006 07:19 pm (UTC)
Dog poems are the best poems, but everyone knows that.

Well, this is all very interesting, because I don't think any of it's about Spanish.


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inertiacrept
inertiacrept
The Musty Man
Fri, Jun. 9th, 2006 07:41 pm (UTC)
Just ask anybody

No, like everything I write, even things that seem abstracted or theoretical, this is about MY EGO.


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disorganization
disorganization
stay still
Fri, Jun. 9th, 2006 09:31 pm (UTC)

I took eight years of French, graduated a class shy of a minor in it, and have retained maybe two years' worth of knowledge? well, they say Alzheimer's runs in the family ...

good to hear that you are doing well!! and we miss you. and I bet Meegs and I can find a Spanish version of "When Doves Cry" for you.


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inertiacrept
inertiacrept
The Musty Man
Fri, Jun. 9th, 2006 09:33 pm (UTC)

French is really only useful to bang American girls anyhow, and you're all done with that phase of life.

Oh, and re: you, Meegs, "When Doves Cry", Spanish?

ON.


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inertiacrept
inertiacrept
The Musty Man
Fri, Jun. 9th, 2006 09:46 pm (UTC)

The internet doesn't give a shit about where we are, duder. Giving you advice ain't no kind of problem. You drop me a line on the E-Mail and we'll hook that up. I'm not worried about it.

Why'd you drop the weed, tho? Related to LSAT or just generally done with it for awhile?


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maria_sputnik
maria_sputnik
The Ambidextrous Chicken-Monkey's Spaghetti Feed
Fri, Jun. 9th, 2006 10:35 pm (UTC)

Give it six months, you'll be funny again. In a year you'll be nearly normal, just with strange holes (like I still can't say "spoon" in Italian and was vexed by the lack of emotion-based terms: no cranky, no grumpy, no grouchy!)

I wrote a formal essay about some of this stuff: http://spaceoctopus.livejournal.com/30488.html

Anyway, it sounds like you're having fun. DOOD, GUATEMALA! Aside from the poop issue, I'm jealous!


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inertiacrept
inertiacrept
The Musty Man
Sat, Jun. 10th, 2006 05:50 pm (UTC)

Yeah, Guate itself isn?t bad at all, and the poop thing comes and goes, you know_ You can?t poop all the time. Truth be told, I only really had the poop issue on the day I wrote this thing (which wasn?t the day I posted it), and maybe today too... it?s still too early to tell. Like I?ve said elsewhere, I have days where I wonder what the hell anyone would have to be thinking to move to a place like this voluntarily, but those days are far apart, and I invariably come back to the old and weary conclusion that I had VERY LITTLE ELSE TO DO.


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herrdoktor
NULL.
Sat, Jun. 10th, 2006 07:51 am (UTC)
all i'm sayin

is that i have no fackin clue why i never read through yr lj, added you to my frenz list, and wonder in amazement.

you're the friend of everybody: the one who everyone wishes they could be, to do the things you do, but can't manage past last items on a grocery list.


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inertiacrept
inertiacrept
The Musty Man
Sat, Jun. 10th, 2006 06:00 pm (UTC)
Re: all i'm sayin

You gettin´added right back, then. That´s some high praise you´re droppin and I´m blushing a little, but besides I feel like I know you already. When I was living in D.C. and MZA would tell a story, he´d sometimes say ¨blahblahblahthat´sHerrDoktorblahblahblah¨... so I know you fit into the social latticework of that area somehow but I ain´t sure quite where...

Wait, are you Eran´s doctor friend and coconspirator?

Either way, well met and right back atcha.


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chocolatebark
chocolatebark
Barcosa
Sat, Jun. 10th, 2006 01:29 pm (UTC)

Ride that lawnmower, papi!


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inertiacrept
inertiacrept
The Musty Man
Sat, Jun. 10th, 2006 06:02 pm (UTC)

Is this an oblique reference to a famous picture of my dad mowing a field of Jamaican marijuana in the 1970´s or am I missing the point?


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ohsnap
ohsnap
trouble
Sat, Jun. 10th, 2006 03:58 pm (UTC)
we don't know each other

But basically I've been considering cutting out of NYC and getting my ass to Guatemala (or Cuba) and getting my Spanish (among other things) on.

How'd you do it?


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inertiacrept
inertiacrept
The Musty Man
Sat, Jun. 10th, 2006 06:04 pm (UTC)
Re: we don't know each other

Letsee... how did this get done...

First of all, the biggest and most important thing is that I´m here working, which changes the whole vibe a fuckload. Backpacking has many varied merits, but I ain´t getting my Spanish on except in sort of abstract furtherance of this work concept that actually justifies my existence down here (the particularities of who I´m working for will probably be my next post). So the trick, if there is a trick, is to find a halfway interesting job in country whatever, which gives you access to coworkers and etc.

If you got questions, mang, I got halfanswers.


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tasteetriceps
TundraBat
Sat, Jun. 10th, 2006 06:02 pm (UTC)
haha and lol and all that

Thanks for articulating, with your usual hilarious knack for detail, so much and more of one of the million posts i didn't write. I ain't been this delighted by LJ in a long time.

Too fucking bad i couldn't wait around for you down there! How long are you gonna be around, though, because i can still fly like a puta madre.


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inertiacrept
inertiacrept
The Musty Man
Sat, Jun. 10th, 2006 06:07 pm (UTC)
Re: haha and lol and all that

Yeah, I somehow lost the tail end on your personal history, sister. You made some sort of massive 180, but it came around at a time where I wasn´t internetting with my usual zeal and lustre, and I think I missed it. You don´t have to rehash, though, cuz I can check that stuff out on my own.

Yeah, I´ll be here through at least August, I´m thinkin, but Coban is, for all its subjective workplace charm, a pretty dry place to visit.

¨Hey... I´m in a sleepy, charming provincial capital in the middle of buttfuck nowhere. How about that.¨


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gweet
gweet
stanzie
Sat, Jun. 10th, 2006 06:03 pm (UTC)
ngo work in farsi

wow, i don't know what to say. i've been in vienna for three months,doing sorta lawyerly work in farsi and german ( i speak neither). but that's not what i wanted to say at all. when i was 17 i picked up and moved to israel, and even though i was speaking hebrew since i was born and had no discernable accent (more on that in a minute), for the first three or four years of living there i still felt like i was entirely misunderstood, that my wit and sarcasm had been drained from my being etc. whatever.

a number of things made it better though - the fact that some people just get your essence and you know they see you despite your inability to make any truly funny jokes in their language, or the fact that no matter what - your spanish is better than their english. though elitism is never a way to make friends.

anyway, i know that these ain't pearls of wisdom but since i'm in the same situation (other than the frijoles-arroz induced searing stomach pain) i felt this childish urge to comment. y siempre recordaras - can't get freshed pollo than running after one on the street!


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inertiacrept
inertiacrept
The Musty Man
Sat, Jun. 10th, 2006 06:10 pm (UTC)
Re: ngo work in farsi

You´re telling me to start chasing chickens, then? That´s a new angle on the well worn topic of cultural integration, and I give you accolades for your innovation.

But yes, I´m discovering that my frustration with my lack of a sense of humor is, in many cases, not so much a problem that people have with me as it is a problem that I have with myself. As I was explaining to a coworker who was trying to tell me that my Spanish was just fine and totally comprehensible... it isn´t a funciton of not being able to communicate as not being able to say the things I want. No one else can tell the difference and I´m not any sort of social pariah or notorious dummy, but I know that I´m capable of a lot more, so I get frustrated with myself, and it never really leaves my own brain, you know?


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inertiacrept
inertiacrept
The Musty Man
Sat, Jun. 10th, 2006 09:09 pm (UTC)
Re: all i'm sayin

Yup yup. You remember in... say... Novemberish, Eran gave you a ring about his ?Time of Troubles?, and you gave him some advice about some documentation and he said sumtin like ?Yeah, I got my lawyer here and he said the same thing??

Well fuckin met. You wanna pro-bash though we lookin at some real commutes.


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gweet
gweet
stanzie
Sun, Jun. 11th, 2006 06:51 pm (UTC)
Re: all i'm sayin

"well fuckin met"?
or, for that matter, "pro-bash".
mmm. perhaps my english is progressively getting as bad as my spanish :-(

about the maracuyas, though, i guess you're right - i think i had them in nicaragua. on the other hand, nicaragua was perpetually 35 degrees and as humid as a vc tunnel.



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inertiacrept
inertiacrept
The Musty Man
Sat, Jun. 10th, 2006 09:11 pm (UTC)
Re: ngo work in farsi

I don?t know if I?m far south enough for maracuya, but here?s hoping for REAL (cuz that stuff goes with ANYTHING YOU PUT IN IT)


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lowinchen
lowinchen
lowinchen
Sun, Jun. 11th, 2006 12:52 am (UTC)

Oh god. This post gave me flashbacks of my year in Germany... German is like the opposite of the Romance languages, all the cognates are the basic words (Mom, house, dog, ice cream) and then German and English go off two entirely different deep ends. On a good day I was a precocious third grader and we all know how much fun it is to make small talk with third graders at cocktail parties. I think it is more difficult for people who base a large part of their self-esteem on their ability to amuse people with their wit to live in a foreign language. People like you and me for example.


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inertiacrept
inertiacrept
The Musty Man
Sun, Jun. 11th, 2006 07:40 pm (UTC)

I hear the real fun with Germany is in the word order and sentence structure and things like that. You end up getting the words right, but it comes out saying stuff like ¨I ice cream want mom have.¨ Well, who wants teh fucking ice cream, you or your mom? I can pretty much handle the sentence structure in Spanish, though I still like to feminize the masculine (legacy of Patrick at work, no doubt) and toss indefinite articles around because my life IS awfully indefinite feeling right now and this is more a PROFOUND REFLECTION ON THE HUMAN CONDITION than an oft-repeated and basic grammatical mistake.

How´s stuff on your end?


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scienter
scienter
Scienter
Sun, Jun. 11th, 2006 05:48 pm (UTC)
Que pasa calabaza

Slamming the Irish is a guaranteed laugh nearly everywhere.

Good to hear from you, by the way. You really do need to get your address posted here pretty soon; I've never mailed anything to Guatemala and I'd really like to give it a whirl.

With regard to the Spanish, I'm sure you're coming off much better than you think you are. Immersion really is the only way to go. My four years of N0rt Dak0ta Spanish have allowed me to communicate somewhere between
"Restaurant Spanish" and "Pointing and gesturing to things I want as I say the word very loudly and slowly in English."

Stay in touch, amigo.


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inertiacrept
inertiacrept
The Musty Man
Sun, Jun. 11th, 2006 07:44 pm (UTC)
Re: Que pasa calabaza

There´s some speculation in these parts that relatively higher levels of cultural isolation combined with substantially higher levels of free time will lead to a greater output of LJisms than we are traditionally accustomed to from a one Mr. Me.

And yeah, my Spanish is fine... it´s just the whole practice of law wrinkle. It don´t matter how many years of Spanish you´ve had, you ain´t gonna know the word for Torts until you ask.


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