Friday, July 18, 2014

Affordable Care Act and Foreign Living: Day 1,465

The Affordable Care Act (or "Obamacare") is something that has sparked a lot of controversy in the US.  "Every American will have health care!"  I get it.  I do.  Everyone has the right to life.  But what about us Americans who live outside of the country?  What about those of us who live in countries with health care so inexpensive that we just don't bother with medical insurance?  Don't worry...they thought about that.  Americans who spend over 330 days per year outside of the US do not need medical insurance.  (I'm still not sure how they figure that out.)  But what does this mean for me as my parents get older?  What does this mean for me if there is some emergency in my family and I need to go to the US to help take care of things?  So, from over 2,000 miles away--and with the help of my mother--I registered for Government Health Care and was accepted.  I am not proud of the fact that I now take your tax dollars just so I can be in the country for more than 35 days of the year.  I'm actually quite ashamed...that the United States is denying their own citizens the right to be in their own country.  As my own mother recently said (in reference to something else): "They can't really keep you out."  Maybe not, mom, but they sure can make it difficult to be there.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Things I Won't Say...And What I Wish You Would Part 1: Day 1,428

I recently took a trip to the US to visit some of my family and friends, and as always happens, people inevitably say stuff that I have no clue how to respond to.  Sometimes it's just a question without an answer, but sometimes it's somewhat hurtful as well.

You say: How long are you home for?
I think:  First of all, I'm not home.  Some days I'm not sure where home is or, rather, if I have one, but this is not home.  Second of all, it's really none of your business how long I'm here for.  You weren't making plans to hang out with me anyway.
I say: I'm here for two weeks.

You say: It must be nice to be home.
I think: Again, I'm not home.  And while it is nice to catch up with people, I have two cats and a dog who I worry about while I'm here.  I have people who might want to meet with me.  And I have much better downtime activities in Guatemala than I do here.  I have numbers to crunch and projects to stay on top of.  Really, this trip cuts into my life, but the Guatemalan government kicks me out ever 180 days.  I wouldn't be here if I didn't have to be.
I say: It's nice to see people.

You say: I really like reading your newsletter articles.
I think: Yeah, well...I haven't written one in two months.  People haven't been scheduling the meetings like they were supposed to. I'm frustrated, and I feel like a little bit of a failure since I don't have news to share with you.  So, I just don't write.  I mean, what do you want me to tell you?  That I've spent the last two months learning to cook Guatemalan food and weaving? Do missionaries even do that kind of thing?
I say: Thanks.  You know, I write more posts on my blog as well if you want more to read. (Er, sometimes.)

You say: It must really be different being back.
I think: Whew!  At least you didn't say 'home.'  But I'm not really 'back' either.  I'm more of a traveler passing through.  And of course here is different from there.  I mean, you throw your toilet paper in the toilet here!  Your food comes out of cans and boxes!  I'm staying in a house with insulation, two freezers, and a television!  When I'm here, my parents fund my stay; they let me use the car and they buy me food.  Here I live with people instead of animals.  Here my neighbors are far away while there I have a neighbor who calls me to come over to her house by yelling over the wall.  Here I drive, and there I use public transportation.  Here I speak English and there I speak Spanish...and sometimes the few words of Kaqchikel that I know.  Here I hardly walk anywhere; there I walk everywhere.  I mean, YES!, it's as different as night and day or black and white or any other opposites you can think of.  Okay...maybe not opposites, but different, very different. I don't even know where to start explaining the differences to you.  But DIFFERENT ISN'T BAD...just different.
I laugh and say: Well, yeah, the language for one.

You say: So, you meet anyone yet?
I think: Well, sure, I meet people all the time, but that's not what you're asking here.  I just don't know how to explain to you that while there is someone super important and special in my life, that's not why I'm down in Guatemala.  That's not why I prefer there to here.  That's not related at all.  And I know you're thinking that I must be getting old.  And I know you're thinking that a woman like me shouldn't stay single.  But with my relationship track record, it's not something I'm really comfortable talking about until I know it's going to happen.  I can be as sure as I want, but until the documents are signed, I kind of figure it won't work out for me.  So, while I'd love to tell you all about him, I won't...because it's complicated being in a relationship with someone from another culture.
I say: All in God's timing.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Explaining Myself: Day 1,290

I never give more than I have, but I never run out of things to give.  There is a reason for that.  Many people when they talk about giving, they are talking about giving with their wallet.  My wallet is quite small.  To give with my wallet would end quickly.  Instead, I choose to give with my heart.  When a person has a healthy heart--not talking about medical health here--it is a font of love; it has no end.  It doesn't run out.

Do you give?  How do you give?

Yo nunca doy mas que tengo, pero nunca acaba lo que puedo dar.  Hay una razon.  Muchas personas, cuando hablan de dar, estan hablando de dar con su billetera.  Mi billetera es muy pequeña.  Dar con mi billetera terminaria rapido. En cambio, yo elijo dar con mi corazon.  Cuando alguien tiene un corazon saludable--y no estoy hablando de salud medica aqui--es un manantial de amor; no tiene fin.  No acaba.

Y usted da?  Como da?

Friday, March 28, 2014

Getting Better! Day 1,255

As I very briefly mentioned in January, we took some of the kids to the doctor.  I'm very happy to share this update with all of you.  I get to see her probably next week, and I am THRILLED!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Bilingual: Day 1,219

I had a thought the other day that I really love hanging out with other Spanish-English translators.  We don't have two languages in which we communicate; we have three.  People think that Spanglish is for amateurs, but I tell you that it is for the pros.

I can't think of any examples right now in English, but there are some things in every language that just are awkward to say; however, since we don't know any better--we don't know they are awkward--we just keep saying them.  There are also things that we used to say in English which were more efficient but now we don't say them that way because the word has become antiquated.  In Spanish, it's easy to give an example off my head:
My father's mother's mother's father's mother was Native American.
La mama del papa de la mama de la mama de mi papa era indigena de los EE.UU. ("The mother of the father of the mother of the mother of my father was indigenous of the U.S.")  All of those "of the" is just ridiculously complicated if you ask me.
Then there are words that exist in English that don't exist in Spanish such as siblings and grandparents.  Sure, you could say "hermanos" for "siblings," but it could also mean just "brothers."  The same goes for "abuelos" which could mean either "grandparents" or "grandfathers" (most people have 2).

I guess the best examples I can think of in English off the top of my head have to do with verbs.  In English, you need to have a pronoun (or name) in front of a verb to explain who the subject is.  In Spanish, because the verbs are constantly changing--probably the hardest part of Spanish to learn--you usually don't need to explain who/what the subject is because it's included in the verb.
Quiero dormir.
I want to sleep.  You could say "Yo (I) quiero dormir," but it's completely unnecessary.
Necesitas lavar los trastos.
You need to wash/do the dishes.

So, when we speak Spanglish, we can come out with this:
"Tengo que lavar los trastos y la ropa, pero les encontrare at John's house at 3." instead of
"I have to wash the dishes and the clothes, but I will mean you all at John's house at 3." or
"Tengo que lavar los trastos y la ropa, pero les encontrare en la casa de John a las 3."

Some of us fall in and out of languages easier than others.  I'm not sure I'm bilingual at this point.  I think I just have one language with a very large vocabulary and two sets of grammar rules.  Just as when you use English and modify your vocabulary based on your audience, I do the same thing.  However, it's not so much based on how advanced the words are as it is the "type" ("language") of vocabulary.

Just some idea that has been floating around in my head for a couple of weeks...

Monday, February 17, 2014

Two Degrees of Separation: Day 1,216

Today I found out that there are two degrees of separation between myself and Olympic gold medalist Charlie White; one of my friends is his former classmate.  I also realized today that there are two degrees of separation between myself and the Guatemalan president, Otto Perez Molina.  If you're not sure what I mean by "degrees of separation" it comes from a theory that everyone is connected by 6 degrees of separation in which it states that everyone through six friendships/connections knows everyone in the world.  (After reading that Wikipedia link earlier today, I'm convinced that this is why Facebook doesn't want you to friend people you don't actually know; it's screwing up their data.)  I'm also connected to President Obama by two steps; I feel so political now.  But it's not the people who I'm connected to by two degrees of separation that this entry is about; it's about the people who I'm connected to by one degree of separation.

Sometimes I feel like all I do all day is sit around and send out e-mail to people:  "So-and-so, this is Other-so-and-so.  You two could do a lot of good together.  This is the contact that you can use."  "So-and-so, have you heard of this organization?  I've worked with them before, and I know they can help you out with your problem."  "So-and-so, if you want, I have someone who can take a look at this for you."  "So-and-so, I know where you can buy that at a fair price."  Sometimes I feel like I do nothing, but sometimes I understand that I am that link. I am the bridge. I am that degree of separation who is willing to take herself out of the equation.

And, yes, if you hadn't noticed, I'm trying to get better about frequent updates.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

An Observation on US Culture: Day 1,210

(A continuacion en español)

There is something about US culture which I might have not noticed if my boyfriend hadn't brought it up.  He asked me, "How can parents care more for other people than their own children?"  (This is, of course, his way of looking at it as a Guatemalan.)  You see, here in Guatemala, it is common for children to live with their parents, their grandparents, their great-grandparents, whoever.

In the United States at 18 to 20 years of age, it is common to shoo one's own children out of the house, to make them live on their own.  We call it "growing up."  In reality, it's "sink or swim," and if they don't swim?  This is an even bigger problem with the male population.  They are constantly bombarded with a cultural stigma which tells them "You'll never get a girl if you live at mom and dad's house."  And girls are told that a guy should not live with his parents if he's going to be "date-able." (They start believing this very young.)  I lived with my folks until I came to Guatemala at the age of 25, and my mother had mentioned the idea of me paying rent more than once.

However, this US cultural "standard" has me baffled.  An older generation present helps to keep their kids in line.  The possibility of acting irresponsibly is lessened because there is almost always supervision.  Shared expenses are lessened expenses. You don't need two housing payments, two internet hook-ups, two electric bills (although the one would be higher than usual, but not equal to two), etc.  Also, as I was buying a rolling pin the other day, it made me think about life with my folks.  My parents have a rolling pin; I don't know if my brother does or not, but when our parents pass on, what will happen to their rolling pin?  I don't need it anymore; I have my own.  So, living away from one's family creates more unnecessary consumerism which, is really great when one has extra money to spend because it helps the economy, but for a young single person or a young couple, it's pointless spending.  Young singles don't need to spend money on stuff like rolling pins; they need to save it to build a future or spend time together or whatever else...or on things that have a short life (in comparison to rolling pins) such as computers or cars or washing machines.

Finally, there is the simple fact that people living in large groups is more effective and efficient than small groups (or alone).  A young couple will have the advice and assistance of previous generations.  Perhaps grandma's eyesight isn't good enough to weave or sew, and perhaps she can't stand over the fire cooking anymore, but she can rock the baby.  So, why, in place of shutting her away in a nursing home somewhere, don't we let her continue to serve a useful and valuable place in society?  She will receive her meals from people who know her and love her, and she will watch their children and pass on stories of times gone by.  And when, at last, she is no longer able to contribute anything to the family, they will care for her as she did for her children when they were babies, still too little to contribute anything.

I wouldn't say that my parents care for me any less than my boyfriend's parents care for him; they simply express it differently.  However, the excessive spending heaped on young people combined with the lack of support makes life unnecessarily difficult.


Hay algo de la cultura de los EE.UU. que tal vez no habia logrado notar sino por mi novio.  Él me preguntó, "¿Como pueden papás alla quieren mas para otras personas que sus propios hijos?" Aqui en Guatemala, es muy comun que hijos viven con sus padres, sus abuelos, sus bisabuelos, quien sea.

En los EE.UU. a los 18 o 20 años, es comun sacar sus propios hijos de la casa, hacerles vivir solos.  Lo llamamos "madurando."  En realidad, es "hundir o nadar," ¿y si no naden? Es un problema mas grande con la poblacion masculina. Siempre estan atacados con un estigma cultural que les dice "Nunca ganaran una chica si vives en la casa de mamá y papá." Y las chicas aprenden desde pequeña que un hombre no debe vivir con sus papás si vale una cita. (El enlace en la version ingles contiene una foto de un listado de treinta reglas para un novio. La cuarta es "no vivir con padres."  Ese listado esta escrito por dos niñas de 6 y 9 años.) Yo vivia con mis papás hasta que vine a Guatemala a los 25 años, y mi mamá habia mencionada la idea de pagar renta mas de una vez.

Pero este "estandar" estadounidense me tiene confundida.  Una generacion mas grande ayuda a asegurar que la siguiente se porta bien.  La posibilidad de actuar irresponsable es menos porque casi siempre hay supervision.  Gastos compartidos son gastos mas pequeños.  No tiene que pagar pagos de dos casas, dos conexiones de internet, dos recibos electricos (aunque el uno seria un poco mas costoso, pero menos que los dos), etc.  Tambien, mientras que yo estaba comprando un rodillo de cocina el otro dia, me hizo pensar en mi vida con mis papás.  Mis papás tiene un rodillo de cocina; no sé si mi hermano tiene uno o no, pero cuando nuestros papás se mueren, que pasara con su rodillo de cocina? Ya no lo necesito; tengo el mio.  Entonces, vivir aparte de su propia familia crea consumerismo innecesario lo cual es muy bueno cuando uno tiene dinero extra para gastar porque ayuda a la economia, pero para un joven o recien casados, es un gasto ilogico; necesitan ahorrar para construir su futuro o pasar tiempo juntos o lo que sea...o en cosas que tienen vidas cortas (en comparasion a los rodillos de cocina) como computadoras o carros o lavadoras.

Finalmente, hay el hecho simple que personas viviendo en grupos grandes es mas eficiente y efectivo que vivir en grupos pequeños (o solo). Una pareja joven tendran los consejos y apoyo de generaciones previas. Tal vez la vista de la abuela ya no esta suficiente para coser o tejer, y tal vez ya no aguanta estar parado por el fuego cocinando, pero puede cuidar al bebe. Entonces, ¿porque en lugar de ponerla en un hogar para ancianos, no la dejamos seguir con un lugar util y valoroso en la sociedad? Ella recibira sus comidas de personas quienes la conocen y la quieren, y ella cuidara a sus hijos y contarles las historias de tiempos pasados. Y cuando, por fin, ella no puede contribuir nada a la familia, todos la cuidaran como ella los cuidó cuando eran bebes, todavia demasiado pequeños para contribuir nada.

Yo no diria que mis papás me quieren menos que los papás de mi novio quieren a él; solo que ellos lo expresan diferente.  Pero los gastos excesivos en personas jovenes en combinacion con la falta de apoyo hace la vida innecesariamente dificil.