Saturday, November 15, 2008

Lost in Translation

Cultural differences are what makes travel interesting. They can also make it difficult, depending on the traveler's attitude. I've had to get in touch with my laid-back side. Didn't really know I had one, but I've cultivated one. In order to survive in Mexico, or any developing country for that matter, it's necessary to appreciate "good enough." Things don't HAVE to make sense. Often, it's better if they don't. Not perfectionism, but good-enough-ism. This is easy for me, having worked for the college district for 7.5 years, I long ago learned the phrase, "good enough for government work." And it's like that down here. For example: in my current hotel (I'm in a little spa town called Ixtapan de la Sal) I have the bargain of the century with my room. It's $25/night...including 3 meals a day. the bathroom, the toilet tank is rectangular. The lid to the tank is trapezoidal (with a big crack in it). Hey, it works! Good enough for government work.

Other examples that have left me feeling culturally Lost in Space:
An automatic vending machine from one of the biggest bakery companies in Mexico, Bimbo Bread. I like them just for that name. The company is the sponsor of one of the biggest sports teams in Mexico, the "Chivas" soccer team in Guadalajara. And the team jersey has the big word BIMBO emblazoned on the front. I bought one just to wear it. Hey, I'm blond and proud of my bimbo heritage. But I disgress....this vending machine had a full-length posterized illustration of a comic book black guy complete with Afro hair style. And the title was "El Negrito," which translates, Little Blackie.....or someting like Little Black Sambo. Now, in the U.S. that would be considered shockingly racist. But here, it's just fine. People call one another by names. Political correctness--thankfully--hasn't reached most of Mexcico. I once had some Mexican workers in my house in Phoenix. One was tall and the other quite short. The tall guy, throughout the day, referred to the shorter one as "Dwarf."

Other word items: did you know that the Spanish word for wife is "esposa." And the Spanish word for handcuffs guessed it, "esposa." Two eggs sunny-side up in a red sauce are called "Divorciados" (divorced). When you think about it, makes sense. The shampoo I bought down here is called Manzanillo (so far so good....that means "chamomille") Grisi. I have no idea what "grisi" means, but it sure sounds like "greasy" to me....not the best name for a shampoo. A major brand of cold cuts here is called "FUD." Instantly, I get a mental picture of the cartoon character of Elmer Fudd. But here, it's pronounced ¨"food." And a top brand of yogurt is "Soful"...pronounced "so full." Obviously, some marketing type is also having fun with Spanish/English translations.