Language, My life, Translation, Travel

“So you’re also from Chihuahua?”

I had an intepreting gig in Miami last week. I drove down instead of flying so Alicia could come with me. We stayed in a ritzy hotel on the waterfront. The event was held at another ritzy hotel around the corner.

I’ve interpreted for a few high-level people before, but this time one of the speakers was a political figure all of you would recognize. That was pretty cool.

It was an international conference, and the Spanish speakers came from all over Latin America and Spain. I always wonder how much gets lost in translation; while Spanish speakers can usually understand each other, there are differences in terms and accent from one country to another just as there is between English-speaking countries. You don’t realize how much you don’t understand until you have to translate it, as I discovered the first time I did simultaneous interpretation back in 2006; I had to interpret presentations given by an English woman and by a Spaniard, and some of their terms left me completely baffled.

The other two Spanish interpreters in Miami were considerably better than I, from what I could tell. They have better vocabularies and are more fluent in Spanish. The one time I got to be a hero was when a New Zealander was speaking; they couldn’t understand his accent, and I could catch most of it.

Possibly the weirdest moment in the conference was when one of the Mexicans came up to me and said, “So you’re from Chihuahua too?” I have no idea how he came to that conclusion; I used to have a Mexican accent, as the result of twelve years translating for Mexicans in Dallas, but since I got reacquainted with Alicia in 2010, I’ve resumed the Colombian accent and vocabulary I grew up with.

While we were in Miami, we had a brief visit from Doña Herlinda and her daughter Doris, who lived down the street from me in San Cristóbal (just outside of Medellín) back in the 1970s. Doris now lives near Palm Beach and Herlinda is in the US for a visit. Doris’s brothers Uriel and Chicho (real name Hildebrando, I found out decades later) used to play Kick the Can, soccer, or whatever else was in vogue (tops, kites, slingshots, yoyos) with me and my brother Danny.

Doña Herlinda and her husband once owned a well-known scenic restaurant, Los Pinos, overlooking Medellín. After her husband died, Uriel took it over and ran it for several years, until a local gang started charging him ‘vacuna’ (“vaccination”, what the Mafia called “protection”). He shut it down and turned it into a house. Herlinda now lives there, and Alicia and I visit her nearly every time we go to Colombia. Back in November 2010, when we were just getting reacquainted, we spent a lovely evening together on her balcony, so it’s a pleasant pilgrimage to remember the beginnings of a great love story.

And now we’re back in Tampa. It looks like we finally have a buyer for the Texas lake house I co-own with my ex. Getting rid of it will be an enormous relief; it has been a crippling burden for the past year and a half since the renters moved out and I had to change the septic tank and put it on the market.


15 thoughts on ““So you’re also from Chihuahua?”

  1. I am happy to see you get to be in so beautiful places abnd in an imprtant conference and that you are able to translate in various forms of English!
    Compliments .
    I suppose Alicia was with you at this conference of high level
    In friendship

  2. I’ll wait to congrat you {selling the house} until closing ceremonies, having recently watched a ‘looks like a buyer’ frustrate one of my clients.
    Hey, a niche market? Kiwi to English?
    As usual I just ‘got’ SWH’s reply, duh… Haven’t to date read one of his comments which didn’t conceal a delightful surprise.But a 6’3 chihuahua is probably a rarity.
    And as usual, I so envy your job I’d take it up but I ‘m dogged by a German Shepherd accent…

    • In one of my previous gigs, I was the one who leaped into the breach when a Boston cop was one of the speakers. He was actually harder than the Kiwi. To be fair, at the Miami event, I was handed the mike during a workshop and sat there speechless for a sentence or two, then handed it back to my colleague because I had no clue what that guy with the German accent was saying…

  3. Yay for a buyer on the Texas house! Hope it all works out smoothly!
    I love reading about your job…it’s so interesting!
    Hmm…now wondering about the political figure you translated for!
    Tis weird…the man wondering if you were from Mexico…I don’t have a good enough ear to tell where people are from by their accents. Well, except a few blatant ones like Australian or Irish. 🙂
    Glad you got to visit with a dear “old” friend! That is always so enjoyable!
    Glad you are home once again!
    HUGS to you and Alicia!!! 🙂
    PS…I didn’t know anything about Frankie Valli until I saw the movie…he had a very interesting, but sad life.

  4. How very wonderful! =) I enjoy reading about your life. It’s somehow encouraging to know that even after all the work and experience and upbringing you’ve had, that you still are learning and fine-tuning your skills. I am nowhere near approaching fluency even but it’s frustrating at times the many differences in regional vocabularies; perhaps it is my poor memory that makes it difficult – but I still forget which country considers bizcochos a bad thing, and which ones consider them cookies. hahaha.

    I am so glad to hear good news. I know there are still struggles, but I know you will both persevere and overcome the obstacles somehow together.

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