Friday, June 17, 2011

Every now and then I fall apart.

You probably already know this, but I don’t like Mathematics. My distaste for the subject was only cemented Freshmen year after two semesters of barely passing grades in Calculus. (Thank you Mom and Dad for understanding!) That was also right around the time I gave up on the idea of Med school. No big loss, I only wanted to be a doctor because of ER. That’s when Clooney was still on. And that was a LONG ASS time ago.

Which brings me to my story. Despite my anti-aging success with Neutrogena, I’m still 10-12 years older than 85% of my fellow PCVs. (How many plugs does a girl have to make to get some product!?) Truth be told, most of the time, I don’t really feel differences between us. In part, because the experience of moving to a foreign country among a bunch of strangers is a great equalizer. In part because I’m continually impressed by their ambition, courage and tenacity that surpasses my own. And in part because I’m hip, I’m cool*, I can hang….or so I delude myself.

But from time to time, there are subtle reminders. Most often related to music. You’ve all been there. A great song comes on and someone says, “This song reminds me of grade school” when you are thinking “This song reminds me of my college boyfriend.” Oo… ouch. But at least in that case you can filter...keep your thoughts on the DL. However, it’s much more difficult to lay low when you are moved by those 4 magical words… Turn Around, Bright Eyes. And that’s when my youthful castle crumbled beneath me.

I was with my training site mates at Agroni’s Restaurant when Total Eclipse of the Heart began to play. The first note hit me and I couldn’t contain myself… in my mind, Agron’s turned into the Annual Mingioni Memorial Day Picnic/Karaoke Party. And if I do say so myself….I NAILED it!

I may have had a glass or two of wine… its difficult to say. Mid-way through my soulful rendition, it was becoming apparent that my sitemates weren’t becoming my back-up singers,as one would naturally expect. (sans Laurie who joins me in the 30's!) But for the rest of them….WTF is wrong with these guys?

Yeeeaaaaa… it’s about how they didn’t know the song. Or at least not well enough to sing along. I was dumbfounded! So I promptly dug out my iPod to discover that Bonnie Tyler released her chart-topper in 1983. At this point, I was a wee bit fired up at their ignorance and yelled… “this song was out in 1983….at least SOME of you were born by then!” To which they responded…..”Ummm, no Melia, we weren’t.” And again…. THIS IS WHY I HATE MATH!

So…I face the cold hard truth. I’m old. But actually, I’m diggin’ it. What else is there to do? You can’t stop time. But you can enjoy every step of the way, and that’s exactly what I am doing. And I’ll say that my training mates, (those young bitches) are truly the best. Now that we at our own sites, I miss them daily. But my heart is warm each time I look at my Bishqem/Pajove Superlative Honor: “Most likely to translate all late 70’s/early 80’s songs into Shqip before the end of service.” Well deserved, of course. I’d better get busy!

Peace, Love and Powderkegs

PS: Memorial Day 2013… get yourself to Upton Circle and Harm me with Harmony.

*Who picked up on the Dr. Evil reference? Scott, if you are reading… that one was for you!

Boys will be Boys

There have been many moments in life where I’ve thought….Oh, I wish there was someone here with me for this. For example…I wish someone had been in the car with me that one time (yes, it was only one time) that I drove away from the gas pump without removing the nozzle from my gas tank. No…those pictures you saw online were NOT PhotoShopped. It happens. Even to smart(ish) people! And its pretty embarrassing, but more so hilarious and I was sad to not share that with someone!

And yesterday, I had another moment where I really just needed somebody, ANYBODY to have been seeing what I was seeing! I was heading to lunch on the Boulevard of Elbasan (AKA the Xhiro). I’m walking toward a wedding dress shop (only because they are unavoidable) and when, what to my wondering eyes should appear???

A little boy, maybe 5 or 6, peeking under the dress on display. Now, some may call that peaking early. Hey Oh! Anyway, I imagine he was disappointed when he realized the mannequin was not anatomically correct. And equally disappointed when his mortified mother snatched him away. But this kid was on a mission! Not two seconds after she let go of his arm, he moved on to the next gown clad mannequin and felt her up! And this kid was good….it was as if there target and he hit the bullseye! All I could do was laugh. Alone. (heavy sigh.)

Part of me wanted to console the Mom and just say… “I wish I could tell you he’ll grow out of it. But it’s doubtful.” And then I thought of all my friends who have boys and just laughed in the delight that you’ll be swatting your sons’ hand away from mannequin breasts for years. Soak it up because that’s the good stuff! Much love and respect to Moms out there. And a special shout out to my Danny Boy because… well, Boys will be boys. Love you, buddy!

Peace, Love and Curiosity

Lost in Translation, Part Dy

So just a quick humbling story! I’ve been working with three interns, economics students from a local University. I mentor each of them in grant and proposal writing(fascinating, of course.) Sometimes we work in English, other times, we work in Shqip. Fortunately, I have a great colleague who helps me translate documents to use in our sessions.

So the other day, he’s helping me translate from English into Shqip. So he speaks, and I type. It’s a great way for me to practice listening skills. And I was doing GREAT! So great, in fact that I was typing every single thing he said…including “hapësirë.” That’s essentially the word in Shqip for space… as in hit the space bar. And all along I was just thinking…wow, this “hapësirë” sure is a common word, I should probably ask what it means. Do’h!

Peace, Love and Spacebars.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Lost in Translation

I imagine it will come as no big surprise that sometimes our American expressions/shprehje don’t make much sense in Shqip when it is a literal translation. And vice versa, of course/sigurisht! In my first week of volunteer service at the Bashkia Elbasan, I’ve discovered just how often I used expressions to communicate. The following are only a few examples that earned me cocked heads, questionable stares and some “Çfarë?’s…What’s or Huh’s?”:
• You are rubbing off on me.
• Let’s take the bull by the horns.
• I’m just been flying by the seat of my pants. (This one was exacerbated by my wearing of a dress that day. And then, my first attempts at clarification of shooting from the hip or winging it did little to help!)

And now, the flip side:
• As mish, as peshk. LITERAL: Not meat, not fish. FIGURATIVE…eh, today I’m neither good nor bad. It has other neither/nor meanings too, but that is the simplest.
• Bën një urimë në ujë. LITERAL: To make a hole in water. FIGURATIVE…wasted effort. I see it as the Shqip version of “herding cats!”
• Fishkelle fort. LITERAL: Whistle hard or strongly. FIGURATIVE: Getting nowhere!

Thanks to some kind-hearted Shqiptare souls, other pearls of wisdom…or rather advice on words to avoid, have come along the way! The English sounds of “car” and “peach” refer to anatomy. Use your imaginations! So saying to someone… “Watch out for this car!” is either ridiculously alarming or a REALLY bad pick-up line! Oh, so the word for car is makine. I’m running some drills on that vocab right there! Also, I was recently told that when I say, “I’m excited about that” it is perceived as “that turns me on.” So, yea….um, I’m regretting telling people about how excited I am to work with them. No wonder everyone is so nice! Do’h! Luckily, I value laughing at myself over embarrassment. Besides, all I can do is to keep learning.

Another thing that keeps me laughing is even with experienced translators….sometimes things just seem a little misunderstood. Take this advertisement for a rental car company* not far from my house. Whoa! Really? I mean…if this doesn’t make you want to rent a car…..I don’t know what would! Hey Oh! I remember my first time, and it was actually pretty awkward. First of all, I wasn’t old enough to do it legally and since my parents were across the country, my uncle had to give permission. YES…I AM, IN FACT, TALKING ABOUT MY FIRST CAR RENTAL! What were YOU thinking??? (well, to appease some dirty minds out there, THAT first was pretty awkward too.) And well... whether it was awkward or fantastic, whether it blew your mind or your gasket, whether it cost you some money or some integrity, whether it was simple or complicated, the truth is….Ju nuk harroni asnjëherë me pare juaj/†You never forget your first!

Peace, Love and "Come again?"

*OK…so I can’t take credit for the discovery of this little nugget of pure joy! Kudos to Kristine and Vjollca for calling my attention to it during our blvd xhiro!
†Special shout-out to J. Matty and any of my other “firsts” out there!