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.