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 meet 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.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Colorblind: Day 1,204

I came to a realization a couple weeks ago as I was brushing my teeth in a hotel bathroom in front of a mirror.  First of all, you should know that no sink in my house has a mirror in front of it.  In fact, the two mirrors I have had have broken: one poorly packed in a move, and one as I slammed a door to escape someone.  Fortunately, I'm not superstitious. However, when I moved into the house I currently live in, the previous renters had left behind a dresser with a mirror.  They told me someone would be coming to pick it up; a year and a half later, I'm doubtful.  Anyway, since I don't touch it, the mirror is quite dirty after two dry seasons hitting it with dust; so it's not like I see much in it anyway.

Anyway, looking in this mirror in the hotel bathroom, I suddenly realized that I am white.  Admittedly, I have somewhat of a perma-tan going; although, compared to my friend Ashley who after just one year in Guatemala rivaled the skin color of our only mutual Guatemalan friend, I'm pretty pale.

But this doesn't really have anything to do with the physical color of my skin.  This has to do with the fact that when I wake up in the morning, I wake up like any Guatemalan.
When I take a shower, I take a shower like any Guatemalan...including, still, cold water.
When I wash my clothes, I wash them like any hand.
When I wash my dishes, I wash them like any hand.
When I speak Spanish, I speak it like any Guatemalan.
Most everything I do, I do like any Guatemalan.  So, when I look in the mirror and see a white girl, well, it surprises me.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Update (because I lack an original title): Day 1,201

I've been a little busy these last couple weeks; so I haven't taken the time to update you on some things.

First off, I went out to distribute school supplies in Solola (on Monday, January 13).  For the most part it went off without a hitch, but I've certainly learned some things for the next year.  For example, next year we'll show up wherever (but probably at the Bodegona unless I find something more cost-effective) with a single compiled list of what we need and then we'll put it in the bags ourselves.  At least one list got lost this year, and the Pastor whose house I stay in while in Solola and I spent about 5 hours checking bags to make sure they had everything they needed.  (I had already put in 2 hours before he and his wife joined me, bringing me dinner and staying to help.)  Also, next year we'll require that every list have the child's full name on it.  We still have 5 lists that we don't know who they belong to and no one to match them up to.

Then, I went back out to Solola on January 15th with the group from COTA to help get set-up for their clinic the next week.  We actually got on the news which is kind of weird and exciting.  (I'm in there twice, not that you nor I really care all that much.)

And then, just days after I got home as I was thinking about taking a break from traveling or doing anything that looked like work, I was told that Monday I would have my shower hooked up, Wednesday I would have to go back out to Solola (for a meeting which never happened...even though I traveled all the way out there), and Friday I would be picking up my "new" stove from a couple who is moving back to the States.  So, I hurried around like a crazy lady trying to get the house all cleaned up after two weeks of neglecting it first for the people who would be putting in the electric to my shower head and later for the people who would be bringing my stove over.  (All people from church; so it wasn't like it was just some stranger who I couldn't care less if they saw my house a mess.)

Besides all that, some mission friends of mine came down bringing my Christmas present from my mother and wanting to get together to network and toss around a few ideas.  So, I hadn't unpacked from the COTA trip when I received another bag even larger of stuff from my mother, and then Friday afternoon after getting the stove, I proceeded to eat lunch in town with the friends which then turned into dinner with yet another couple.  (I love them all, don't get me wrong.)

On top of the bag from the COTA trip and the bag from my mother, the people who sold me their stove also gave me a box full of supplies.  So, now I'm left with--please, God--a week to relax, put the house in order, and maybe work on my weaving or some random translation project.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Mission Moment: February

 I have good news, and I have bad news.

 The good news is that there are 48 children attending school this year as a result of the assistance which they received through this new program I have started. Also, because of some contacts which I pursued, one boy may be receiving a prosthetic hand, one boy may be receiving hearing aids, one girl may eventually be able to go to school once we get her seizures under control (she currently has 4-5 per day), and one girl, well, might improve a little. (The doctor really isn't sure what's wrong with her.) I am blessed to have access to the internet and have the ability to search for groups which can help the people I serve with their other needs. I know the families thank me, but really I'm just trying to make things more accessible to them. Those resources already existed; they just didn't know know it.

 The bad news is that there is even more reason to be concerned about Maria (the mother of the 10- and 11-year olds). She did not attend the meeting, and when we showed up at her house later, she did not want to let us in. In fact, she hid and pretended she wasn't home. (I had already seen her, though, so we were persistent.) If you remember from when I talked about her in August, her husband committed suicide about three years ago. Based on a few things—including her behavior when we showed up—we are highly concerned that she is on the same path. She is not sending her children to school this year.

 The rest of January, I'll be here in Solola translating for Children of the Americas (COTA). I'll not only be translating, but I'll also be helping them work with and understand the local communities. I feel really blessed that they were able to come here this year as there are so many people with a great need and the Kaqchikel are fairly distrustful of outsiders.

The Care and Keeping of a Missionary
While here with COTA, I'll be talking to a woman who has an NGO to see if my program could fall under the umbrella of her program. If not, I'll be working on achieving NGO status myself. Please keep myself and that process in your prayers.

 Obviously I am asking your prayers for Maria. She is obviously in a very dark place and is unwilling to seek or accept help. I pray that some very loving and stubborn neighbor intervenes.

 I'd ask for prayers for the four children who will ideally be undergoing some very drastic health changes in their lives. Even though these changes will have a positive effect on their lives, such a change can be highly stressful as we already know from the two girls who had to get blood work done.

 Finally, I ask that you pray for those 48 children that their lives be enriched through school, that they study hard and make the most of this advantage which has been given to them, and that they are good stewards of their education.