Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Lost in Translation

I’m sitting in Deseo’s cafe, the coffee shop across the street from this exciting new place in my life, my “grafeio,” my office... and yet, for the fifth time since we’ve officiated the place, every member of my company is here.

Greece is a social country. Business more often happens in the coffee shops. And coffee shops here are not like coffee shops in the US with every nose in a laptop, every table an island amongst islands. Stools are pulled around the bar and everyone, bartender/barista included, is deep in conversation with a few common subjects: sports, politics, women. (Even the women like to talk about women.) Sometimes the result is an argument that gets so heated you would swear a cup of scalding coffee is about to be thrown in a some poor soul’s face, but no, it always seems that there is one guy sitting in the wings with a wisecrack that melts the tension into easy laughing.

The problem is I don’t speak the language. I spend 3/4 of my time watching transitions of emotion, not having a clue about the context. Sometimes people look at me as if eye contact is a form of inclusion in the conversation. I have to admit it is, but I don’t know that I prefer it to the alternative which is often being completely ignored.

Imagine, spending 29 years of my life developing my character, only to spend most of my social life in a role similar to wallpaper.

This is probably not an accurate portrayal; more likely it is a projection of how I’m feeling right now, sitting in a corner with my nose in a laptop. I’m a well trained American. On the other hand, it’s a way to avoid the blank expression of not understanding what’s going on or being said. Looking busy, even if it appears I’m antisocial, is an excellent alternative to looking dumb. But there are some advantages of not speaking the language! I don’t get offended at little things. I see more clearly than most that everyone talks and nobody “DOES.” Besides, sports and politics bore me. (Though I do like to talk about women.)
Oh, also, when someone switches to English I know that the conversation is being directed at me. Unfortunately the subjects usually stay the same.

“Paige, what do you think of Obama?”
Well to be honest, since the man was elected while I was here and I don’t watch television, I’m again without context.
"He's a handsome man and I like his voice."

It’s that fuzziness I was talking about before. I spend a lot of my day being fuzzy. I’m like a f’ing koala bear I’m so full of fuzzy.

I usually end my blogs with something positive, but I’m taking a cue from my friend. I’m telling the truth, and the truth is right now I’m really frustrated.

after an ice cream and a good two hours of people watching:

"Problems are an important part of maturing--meet them straight on. Work them out. It's like the chick in the egg. It has to break through the eggshell on its own. That's how it gains its first strength. If you break the shell for the chick, you end up with a puny little runt." (Mark Tobey to Wesley Wehr)

I'm gonna bust out of my shell so hard...