Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Perils of Fluency.

I was sitting across a desk from an immigration officer the other day (because it’s my favorite time of year: Time To Renew My Immigration Document!).  Happily, the trio of women who made me cry during this process (both last year AND the year before) were gone, but now I was faced with the task of explaining various funky aspects of my immigration status to a new person, all of which boil down to the fact that the good folks in Pachuca, Hidalgo, who originally issued my FM2, messed it up. 
I began, “It’s that the people in Pachuca…” and stopped short, because the ONLY Spanish words that I could come up with to complete that sentence were “me chingaron”—they f***ed me over.  Obviously not something you really want to say to someone who has the power to deport you.        
I started again, “It’s that they…” and came up with “hicieron un desmadre”—untranslatable, but call it “they made a f***ed-up mess.” 
I made one more run at it: “The ones in Pachuca, they…”   There was a long pause while the guy looked at me oddly.  Finally I finished, “They didn’t do it right.”
“Ah,” he said, and continued shuffling through my papers. 
I started paying attention, after that, and realized that, damn, Ibis and I have some filthy mouths on us.  The difference, of course, is that he can come up with non-filthy synonyms when the occasion calls for it (just as I can control my English cursing), but my proper, college student, I’m-reading-the-works-of-Sor-Juana-NOT-in-translation Spanish has gone directly down the tubes in the last few years.   
And, well.  We have an almost-two-year-old child.  One day his four-year-old best-amigo-neighbor was watching Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron with him, and called out to me, “Doña Tere!  Este pinche caballo se pone bien chingón!”  Which we could roughly translate as, “This goddamn horse is a real badass!”  I confess that I laughed.  But I’m pretty sure that if that had come from MY child, I would have felt like a terrible mother.    
Something else to work on.  Yesssss!

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