Monday, July 30, 2012

Anecdote: True but unreliable

Like my father before me, I often take notes about things that amuse me and like my father before me, I share them even if they are likely only interesting to me. No worries siblings, they do not deal with roadkill, the yard, or advertising slogans, but are vignettes of my life here.

Every day that I work at the Natural History Museum we eat at “Jardin de Pollos” which translates to either Chicken’s Garden or Garden of Chickens. I have pictured it both ways. The former I imagine to be a Willy-Wonka-esque paradise of Technicolor grass with cartoon chicken frolicking about. The latter is composed of flowers made of chicken fingers and trees with legs and wings for leaves.  I suppose you have to be there…in my head. (I also pass “Cheers: the sexy bar and drivethru” every day. I’ll leave that one to you.)

Chicken features in another recent incident. Before leaving for Bolivia I was commiserating with my girls about the weight we expected to gain over the summer, as a natural side effect of a diet composed entirely of potatoes and rice. They estimated that I would gain about five pounds. When I shared this information with my colleagues at the museum, they maintained that I had instead lost 3 kilos and bet me a chicken dinner. Then we set off on a three day odyssey to find a pharmacy with a working scale. As it turns out I did lose weight! (But not a full 3 kilos and therefore still winning the bet.) I blame the loss on two recent incidents of gastrointestinal distress (two! I no longer have a stomach of steel!) and ridiculous levels of mate consumption.

Wait! Gastrointestinal distress provides another segue!  But I’m afraid I’ve given away the punchline. While in the campo we only had access to one comfortable chair which we referred to lovingly as “el sillon del poder” or the lounge chair of power. When I went to visit A’s family he carried with him a bag which turned out to conceal… a new toilet seat!  I then took to calling my morning ablutions “reposing on the lounge chair of power” to no one’s amusement.  I just hope he didn’t bring the seat because he thought that I couldn’t manage the wobbly toilet-esque structure in the outhouse. Although, truth be told, I almost fell off of it twice.

In every international multilingual situation there is always a fair share of misunderstanding and idiomatic confusion. My friends in Camargo told me once, “We love hanging out with you Lenni. We have to explain everything!” This is unfortunately true. A in his infinite patience just sighs and says, “Fine. With drawings.” which has led to some still mutually incomprehensible games of Pictionary.

This is not unique to me, or even to conversations in Spanish. O (my fellow intern) has engaged in several interesting conversations lately, one with me and one with her French tango partner. First me. An exact transcript follows:
Me: Want a banana?
O: oooo. I like bananas.
Me: Everyone likes bananas.
O: No. Some people hate bananas.
Me: Also true.
O: Good conversation.
And regarding Bernard:

He kept speaking to me in French and I wasn’t sure what to do. Do I respond in English? Spanish? Or with grunts and exaggerated nodding?

So O. I think the only things that you need to know about her are that she walks ridiculously fast, is almost pathologically spontaneous, and very demanding in her purchases. The other day we hit about four markets trying to find a notebook that is spiral, hard covered, without a naked soap star, and with lines instead of graph paper. You may not think this is a tall order to fill…but you would be wrong. We did not meet with success. However, I was heartened to find that I am not the only super-specific-shopper. In fact, the other day I went to the market to find a pair of jeans that are dark, with pockets that open, and no rips or rhinestones. I settled for green jeans with front pockets that don’t open but back ones that do and teeny tiny rhinestones on the butt. We can’t have everything but we can still be content. In fact, on this same shopping trip I passed a beggar eating a gigantic piece of cake. He looked up at me and gave me the most beautiful smile.

The End.

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