Monday, September 22, 2008

I am lost in translation

Well, you probably already expected this, but I was unable to resist the temptation of the fonda (party). I was trying to desperately to stay at home and recuperate from my cold and eye infection. But, when a friend of mine emailed me in one last attempt to get me to come out, I couldn’t help but think, this was my only chance to experience the true Chilean semana diezochera (week of September 18).

You may be wondering what exactly is semana diezochera. Well, here’s the background on this celebration. Diezocho (18) is their celebrated Independence Day. But their real independence day is in February. However, the guy who helped win their independence, Bernardo O’ Higgins, fell out of favor with the social elite. After they kicked him out, they changed the date when they would celebrate Chile’s independence day so it would have nothing to do with him (man, that's harsh!). What makes diezocho so special is that one day isn’t enough celebrating. So they celebrate the entire week with the main portion happening on the 18th, 19th and the 20th.

With one last thought about being mature and getting healthy, I said to heck with my cold and my eye and went out with my friend to a fonda.

The thing with the word “fonda” is that it means small party, but it also means restaurant that serves typical Chilean food. When used in plural, las fondas, it also means a fair or festival, much like you see at the county fairs in the states. But, interestingly enough, you can also use fonda to mean las fondas. (Below is a photo of what the fair-type-fondas look like--in this photo below they're playing Taka Taka, which is Fooz Ball. The days that I went out kind of blurred together but this was one of the evenings and one of the fondas.)

Anyway, I wasn’t quite sure which fonda my friend was taking me to. But I was prepared for anything. I was also prepared to be at one of these fondas all night, because the Chileans do not stop partying at 2am. In fact, it seems like most parties are just getting started at 2am.

We purchased rum (called ron) and Coca cola for the event so I was clued in that we were going to be attending the small-party-fonda, which look a lot like our parties:

I cannot express how much I both love and fear the Chilean fonda or carrete. The Chileans I have met have just been incredibly friendly and curious about who I am and where I’m from and what I think about Bush and Obama and Chileans. I always tell them I’m anti-Bush (they love that), pro-Obama (love that too) and that my favorite things I love about Chile are:

The variety of natural landscapes

The helado (ice cream) and the fact that rain or shine, Chileans are always eating it

The cadence of Chilean Spanish. This third item always gets the Chileans going because Chilean Spanish is very unique. It has been transformed by so much slang that it can be difficult for native Spanish speakers to understand Chileans. The Chileans often laugh when they hear that I like their Spanish with a proud, “Ah, Chilean Spanish is totally shit.” Though I still can only understand those Chileans who talk to me like I'm a small child, I love the sound of their Spanish. I do. It’s rolly poly.

But I fear these social gatherings too because the amount of modismos (slang words). So many inside jokes and phrases go zipping by my head without me understanding more than a word. Every time I go to one of these parties, I know I’m going to reach maximum saturation. It’s the point where I stop trying to understand, plaster a smile on my face and stare off into space for a while.

Me, lost in translation.

But what I fear more is that my personality is being lost in translation too. I told a friend this and he told me that when you’re learning a language, it’s important to only focus on communicating concepts. My issue with this is that I’m communicating to native speakers who are used to judging and assessing others based on HOW they say something.

Let’s face it, the words we choose are a reflection of ourselves and our upbringing, education, social standing, attitude. So, even though I’m a foreigner, and Chileans have been utterly, incredibly forgiving of my twisted Spanish, the Spanish words I choose will be assessed and judged and are a reflection of me.

Which leads to the big question that’s been tumbling in my head:

With less Spanish vocabulary, am I less of me?

I was dying to know what Chileans thought of me based on this limited vocabulary. I found out when two nights ago, my Chilean friend told me he liked me because I was simple...

...Okay. You can stop laughing now. Anytime now…

...Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. I can complicate putting on a sock.

So maybe that's it then? Maybe that's the answer. Maybe I'm not less of me. Maybe I'm just a simpler, more direct version of me.

Okay, this is all too deep for me because estoy con la caƱa (I’m hung over) from three days of fondas. Now for something lighter. I’ve come up with the next line of my poem.

“My eye is fat because I stared at the city too long….

...Viva Chile.”

Haha, I think it’s good!

Que te vayas bien!

C in C

*forgive me for any inaccuracies in this entry…please comment if I have. Please comment anyway. I love hearing responses.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hmmmmm...coming from a natural conservative, why the negativity about Bush? Being a simple person and open minded, doesn't that make the candidates all equal? It's what you believe they can do and their experience to do the job right that is the real telling sign. Mind you, I don't really like either presidential candidate, but if I had to pick one, I'd pick the smarter one with the most experience and she's not even running for president.