lost in translation and loving it.

It’s hard to believe I’ve already been here in Mendoza for a week. Although I can by no means call myself a Mendocina,  I feel a lot more comfortable than I did a week ago when I took my first breath of the brisk Mendoza air. I no longer feel awkward staying in bed until 11:30 (sometimes later), I no longer feel like I have to sneak into the kitchen for a cup of cafe con leche or a spoonful of dulce de leche. And, although I am still somewhat annoyed by the constant stares, honks, whistles, and smooches from strangers acknowledging the fact that I am a ‘rubia‘ (BLONDE.?!), I have come to take them as a compliment and always do my best to overcome these calls of ‘admiration’ by responding to their broken “Hel-low, how rrr you?”‘s and “We hab great pasta here”‘s in NOT so broken castellano, “Gracias, señor pero ya hemos comido”. You should see the looks on their faces.

It’s hard to keep track of all of my painfully hysterical language acquisitions, but they happen quite frequently here. Thankfully, Susy is not shy about correcting me so I’ve learned quite a bit (it’s la sal not el sal when you ask someone to pass the salt, it’s soy yo not aqui estoy yo when you are talking about yourself in a picture).  I can’t help but laugh as I think of the countless times we’ve been sitting at the table and I cannot come up with the words to describe something that seems so simple in English. The other night at dinner, for example, I was trying to explain to Susy ‘common sense’. I couldn’t, for the life of me, come up with the words to describe this seemingly elementary concept. I tried to give her an example, explaining how someone without this ‘thing’ may not think twice about going home in a car with someone they just met while someone with this ‘thing’ would never get in a car with a stranger, especially in a foreign country. What did I learn after I grabbed my Spanish dictionary after 10 painstakingly frustrating minutes? The Spanish equivalent to ‘common sense’ IS in fact it is a DIRECT cognate; sentido común.

This morning at breakfast Susy and I were having a deep life conversation (this happens a lot here, I haven’t figured out if it is just because of the fact that her novio recently passed or if that it just how she is all the time) and I was trying to tell Susy about me being a hopeless romantic. I thought it was going well until I realized that she was calling me just hopeless. Although hopeless may just be the perfect word to describe my life, that’s not exactly what I was going for.

There have been countless other conversations like this where what I have been trying to say has been lost in translation. I try to be funny and that backfires. I try to be sarcastic and I just sound rude. When I try to be serious, they laugh. One of the things that frustrates me most is that I can’t seem to come up with the words show people how sincerely thankful I am. I am truly so appreciative of all that Susy has done for me, but I just can’t seem to find the words to truly describe how thankful I am that she has let me into her house and made me part of her family, especially during such a difficult time  in her life.

I’m sitting here in front of the fire with Susy and her neighbor Celia (one of the most calming people I have ever met in my life) on one of the coldest days of winter here in Mendoza. The temperature hasn’t been above 40 in a few days. They are both knitting and I was, before deciding to finish this blog, working on a friendship bracelet I started back home. I can’t help but think that a short 5 months and 5,577 miles from now, I may likely be doing the same; sitting in front of the fire trying to warm my toes in the middle of a brisk Minnesota winter. It’s amazing how different yet how similar my two lives seem to be. For what I know will not be the last time, I am again somewhat lost in translation; I’m writing this blog in English and speaking with the ladies in Spanish; struggling to converse comfortably in my second language, and sometimes struggling just as much to find the proper words to describe my life here in Mendoza for those of you back home.

It’s been tough, but I LOVE it. What gets me every time is when I seemingly forget BOTH languages. With this, I know I am truly LOST IN TRANSLATION, and may very well be for a long time.

foto del día – 7.28.11

Today I learned…

1. Finding an ATM at which I can actually get money is just short of impossible.

2. My brown hair and green eyes make me a rubia (blondehere. What does that mean? I get constant whistles, smooches, and stares.

3. I am incredibly thankful for central heating. It is supposed to snow this weekend. I definitely should have packed a warmer jacket.

And lastly, I LOVE cafe con leche. A few of us girls found a cute little coffee shop/bakery this afternoon called Clementine!

las chicas tomando cafe.

life is fragile in any language.

Less than twenty four hours ago, I stepped off of a small plane with two suitcases, two carry-on bags and a boat load of anticipation and excitement. Our program director, José had prepped us for the ‘esliding glass doors’ of the small Mendoza airport, where we were to be ‘birthed like babies’ into the arms of our Mendocino host families. Nothing could prepare me, however for the rollercoaster of emotions that I was about to experience. After making my way through the ‘esliding glass doors’, I was greeted by Sabrina, the secretary at the IFSA office here in Mendoza. She told me, as I did my best to listen intently to each Spanish word she spoke, “You’re host mother’s novio or boyfriend had an accident this morning. She is not able to come and get you. My mom  is a good friend of hers and so I will take you to her house.’  We arrived, about a half an hour later, at my new home; gated and heavily locked, yet incredibly cozy. I walk inside to a table of 5. I cannot help but feel conflicted as I remember that these people are gathered not for celebration, but instead to mourn. From the small amount of medical terminology I could understand, Norberto, el novio, had suffered a stroke early in the morning and had not made any monumental progress during the day. As I try my best to keep collected, I sit quietly and listen contently as they tell stories of Norberto and their lives around Mendoza. Throughout the night, family members and friends came by the house to check on Susy (my host mother). For Susy, who has no close family members; no siblings, no children, and no living parents, friends are her life. Despite all of the grief, the importance of relationships for los mendocinos (the people of Mendoza) was incredibly prevalent. Dealing with death is not an easy feat in English and it was quite a struggle to come up with the words to comfort Susy who was about to lose the love of her life; a man, she said, who always cooked delicious food, took her on wonderful trips, and always treated her incredibly well. Before bed, we take out a small book of prayers, and together, we recite Ave Maria. As I sit beneath the covers in my upstairs room, I understand clearly only one thing; WE ARE FAMILY, somos familia.

This morning, just as Susy and I were about to sit down for breakfast; cafe con leche (basically milk with a little bit of coffeeand pan tostada con dulce de leche (basically toast with caramel) she received a call, and was told that Norberto had passed away. As I sat there, hugging her as tight as I could, I couldn’t help but shed tears. Bilingual drops of water for someone I have never met. Here are a couple of things I have come to better understand  within the last day.

La vida es tan fragil.//Life is incredibly fragile.

Lo que llevas contigo cuando vas no son cosas, son recuerdos.//When it is our time to go, we bring with us only memories, never things.

Despite all that has happened in the last twenty four hours, Susy has provided me with a phone, cooked me a wonderful dinner, served me dulce de leche (my new favorite food) and cafe con leche for breakfast this morning, and made me feel like I am at home – the most important thing I could have asked for.

It is amazing to me how quickly people are willing to take me under their wing. This afternoon, Sabrina came to the house to pick me up so that I could have lunch with her family. They not only cooked me a wonderful meal (during which I tried to explain American eating habits and failed to find the Spanish words for bagels (for which there IS NO WORD.) and cranberries (arándano)), but made me a part of their family. This afternoon, Sabrina and I went to visit a friend of hers who lives near downtown and has a 3 year old daughter. Again, in her small apartment, I felt like family, playing with the little one, chatting with the girls about their lives, and trying mate, a bitter Argentine tea and an integral part of Argentine culture. I feel so at home here, and despite all that has happened this is going to be the best five months of my life. I’m staying here at Sabrina’s house tonight to give Susy a little bit of space as she grieves, but was again comforted by the fact tha she wanted to see me tomorrow; I’ll be heading back to her house for lunch tomorrow and will spend some time with her and Topito, our dog before I attempt to take the micro (the local bus) to orientation tomorrow night.

Tell your loved ones you love them tonight. And every night; for although we must live for only today, we never know what tomorrow may bring.

Besos.  ¡Hasta Pronto!