October 13, 2010

I Speak Fluent Venetian

How is it that after 22 years with the same man we still do not speak the same language?! Those of us in overseas work typically dedicate 1-2 years to language and cultural study (or more). We are not naive to think that we stop at that formal marker; it is a lifetime endeavour. Today I experienced that unfortunately all-too-common misdemeanour: trying to express a concern to my husband in Venetian (or was it Martian?). It produced a defensive front and I accomplished nothing except a linguistic faux pas.

When in language study there was an ebb and flow of "three steps forward, two steps back". There were good days and bad days. There were victories when I could rejoice in communicating a new thought, using a new word correctly or understanding a local joke. There were discouragements when I listened to someone, misunderstood and proceeded to make a fool of myself. Why did I think learning my husband´s "language" would be any different?

Oh how I yearn to be fluent in Venetian! I have studied my husband and we have many areas of understanding. We can even anticipate each other´s response on many occasions. But today was one big cross-cultural miscommunication. I choose to accept this as part of a lifelong endeavour in male language-learning. And I mean lifelong!

Extending My Life with Mate (mah-tay)

The other day a well-meaning friend sent me a link to an article on how mate causes cancer. He wrote, "it looks like a reliable source". I don´t want to appear arrogant or unteachable but if that were true, most Argentines and Uruguayans would be dead!

This test stated that if you were to smoke a pack of cigarettes per day from infancy into your 80´s, that would be about the equivalent of the mate phenomenon. Somehow, all tests are not created equally and all substances do not have the same effect on the body. I don´t care how many carcinogens they measured in a portion of yerba mate, the effects on the human gaucho body cannot be compared to smokers!

This reminds me in some ways of an article I read long ago studying what centenarians have in common. (The obvious goal being that we will learn how to live to 100 ourselves with their secrets.) The problem was that the secret of one (no alcohol) was in direct opposition to another (a glass of wine every day). Or No Smoking to smoking a cigarette per day. Or daily coffee to only green tea. While there were several areas of the world with concentrations of centenarians with several overlapping values in common (exercise, climate, hope, relationships, etc.) you still have conflicting information. In the end, we all do the best we can with the information we have.

So, what does this mean?

I´ll answer that as soon as I heat some more water for this mate......

photo by: dreizehn28

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