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The interpreter's diary (Part I)

by Barbara Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 11:18:10 AM EST

Since October, I've been working as a public service interpreter in London. This kind of work won't help you earn the most Kudos in the interpreting world; it's quite at the bottom of the interpreters' foodchain, so to speak. Conference interpreters (making anywhere between 300 to 500 pounds a day) are the sharks, public service interpreters are the plankton. Police and court interpreters (highly qualified public service interpreters) are, say, the jellyfish. Or the baracudas.

Promoted by Colman ... read on for the social commentary.


But enough of marine similes. For me, PSI is a place to start, since I'm still working on my diploma and need to build up some experience before I take a leap to the higher grounds. I get crappy treatment from hospital staff and the payment process is a royal pain in the rear. I never get briefed on what problem I will be dealing with... I'm lucky to know the language combination. My pathetic sense of orientation is constantly being challenged as I frantically scramble to find the right tube entrance, bus stop, hospital, surgery or job centre, and also sometimes the loo. I get to sit there and listen to gruesome details about vaginal discharges(and usually twice, since it normally takes a while to be called into the ofice and the patient is eager to bare her soul in the waiting room as well), difficult intercourse, troublesome kids, irritable bowel syndrome etc. I see people sitting on a chair half naked who are being pumped full of water through their urethra (she's decent, you can come here now!)and have to convey the meaning of their unhappy grunts.

But there's the better side of things, too. I get to chat, travel and read my books for money. I don't have a boss to answer to, and can say no to an appointment anytime I want. Sometimes I even get a piece of chocolate or some candy from my compatriot who's happy he's not alone, at last, and shares his goodies (a minor violation of the code of conduct... bribe and loss of impartiality danger!!!, but what the heck). But most of all, I'm learning first-hand about the poorest of London's society, so I take it as a personal lesson in humanism, or whatever it may be called. Personal growth, and feeling I can be helpful, at least a little bit.

The people I usually interpret for have mostly a pretty tough life. I interpreted for a Czech woman who was waiting job from a job centre. She had about 11 pounds total for the next 2 weeks to live on. When filling her form, she put £7 as her available cash in the bank account. But then she asked me: "I put four more pounds there today, do you think I should change it?" Or the Colombian woman who had a baby, an older boy, a rent of 815 pounds plus another hundred of council tax, and a husband who made £700 in a full-time job. She just sat there with this happy seven-month-old on her lap, and was very composed all the time. The social workers were amazed at how the family manages to survive and enraged at the slowness and inefficiency (in their case, anyway) of the social system. She just shrug her shoulders. But when they told her how they spoke to her son and how he said he knew they had no money and that he was scared they'd have to live on the street and his dog would die, she broke down in tears. At the moment I just wanted to empty my pockets and take my clothes off and say, here, and come for dinner, too, and I will teach you English for free, but as an interpreter, you just have to sit there, you are just the voice. You can offer no solutions, no help, no nothing. It's frustrating sometimes, it doesn't seem enough.

I've encountered some serious ignorance as well -- I found out that the British social workers and hospital staff can be equally poorly informed about the rest of the world as the American ones are. An Ecuadorian couple was seeking accommodation, and put on their application the term "Latin American" for their ethnicity. The social worker was convinced they spoke Latin, and requested that I spell for her the word Ecuador, since she'd probably never heard of the country's existence. Another doctor was certain his diabetic Venezuelan patient came from Spain because he spoke Spanish, and expressed his surprise at his condition, saying that the meditteranean countries have much fewer cases of this disease thanks to their good diet. For many Brits, there is Britain, continental Europe and the US, and everywhere else "sunt leones", just like for many Americans. This was an important cultural lesson. We're seriously considering alternative education for Jonathan, at least as long as we're here in London.  

I've been informed (guess by whom!) there has been a discussion on gypsies in Eastern and Central Europe. Well, today I interpreted for one Roma lady. I asked her if she was planning to go back home. She said no. I asked why. She said that she feels much less oppressed here than there. She told me she used to be followed by security guards in any store she'd go to at home. Treated like a thief all the time. She said, how come people come here and find work right away, and at home they couldn't do anything for years? Good question. I think we still have a long way to go as a nation.  

Anyway, enough for today. I'll be playing a shark next week at the European Forum Conference in Athens, so I will report from there about my new interpreting experiences. Keep your fingers crossed for me that I do well... Speaking, processing and listening at the same time does not usually come natural to humans. Only to sharks :).

Display:
If anyone's got any experience with the Social Forum and what's usually discussed there, I'd be happy to hear about it. I have very short time to prepare, only until next Tuesday, and they haven't sent us a list of speeches, so I don't want to leave absolutely everything to improvisation.

Thanks!

"If you cannot say what you have to say in twenty minutes, you should go away and write a book about it." Lord Brabazon

by Barbara on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 11:14:18 AM EST
Wish you success & a good free time (if you're granted any) in Athens!

I asked her if she was planning to go back home. She said no. I asked why. She said that she feels much less oppressed here than there. She told me she used to be followed by security guards in any store she'd go to at home. Treated like a thief all the time. She said, how come people come here and find work right away, and at home they couldn't do anything for years?

Two stereotypes blasted in one go - thanks.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 11:14:35 AM EST
There's also something in there about "the dynamic UK job market", we will have to grudgingly admit.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 11:16:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks DoDo for your wishes... I hope to see some cool stuff and other things beside the interpreting console. I'm advised to bring a radio, since this will be the main way to get connected to interpreters :) if you just want to listen (how swanky!), and apparently there will be a severe radio shortage in Athens next week.

Anyway, hoping to eat some good olives and gyros, and buy an amphora for our new house, and also see the Parthenon, that's for sure. I've been trying to learn the Greek alphabet but the lower case is confusing as hell, so I'm not sure how to go about it.

"If you cannot say what you have to say in twenty minutes, you should go away and write a book about it." Lord Brabazon

by Barbara on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 11:44:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
...and you may want to go down to the sea at Pireus with the new tramway (you already know about my obsessions :-))

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 12:04:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...Or take a trip to Sounion (Cape Sounio) where the Temple to Poseidon watches over the Aegean.  Absolutely beautiful...


We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars. Oscar Wilde
by Sam on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 04:53:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Great tip, Sam, thanks! I like the picture, too! :)

"If you cannot say what you have to say in twenty minutes, you should go away and write a book about it." Lord Brabazon
by Barbara on Fri Apr 28th, 2006 at 03:46:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You could also make the one-hour trip to Coryth on the new express railway, nice ruins there, too - and the Corynth canal.



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Apr 28th, 2006 at 06:43:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Dodo true to himself never misses an occasion to highlight a nifty train! ;)
by Alexandra in WMass (alexandra_wmass[a|t]yahoo[d|o|t]fr) on Fri Apr 28th, 2006 at 09:08:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, DoDo, I think you should meet my son. He, too, will share your affection for trains.

BTW, this is a lovely picture. I have one great picture of a train that I took while waiting at a crossing in the Arizona desert... quite beautiful. I need a scanner, though!


"If you cannot say what you have to say in twenty minutes, you should go away and write a book about it." Lord Brabazon

by Barbara on Fri Apr 28th, 2006 at 02:15:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Today Barbara was watching a webcast of a Czech TV program and apparently they were talking to a 6-year old who gave the following summary of the theory of evolution: "and from the monkeys came people and gypsies".

Whoa.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Apr 29th, 2006 at 08:22:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The doctor doesn't surprise me all that much, especially if s/he was young. But the social worker? Good grief.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 11:15:16 AM EST
The doctor was around 55, I reckon. However, even from a doctor I would expect at least a vague idea of the fact that Venezuela is not a Spanish province.

"If you cannot say what you have to say in twenty minutes, you should go away and write a book about it." Lord Brabazon
by Barbara on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 11:25:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Some frazzled kid I could understand. A senior one has no excuse though.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 11:28:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd worry that somsone who knows that little about the world might not know any more about being a doctor.

I suppose that's not entirely fair. But is it unreasonable to expect highly paid professionals to be widely read enough to know the basics of world geography?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 01:05:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
With an educational system that specializes strongly in secondary education (A levels, anyone?), it's hardly surprising.

In continental Europe you're supposed to get your "well-rounded education" in secondary school. In the US you're supposed to get it in the first two years in college. But in Britain? When are you supposed to get it?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 01:49:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Interesting diary, Barbara, thanks!! Another world out there...

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 11:20:59 AM EST
For many Brits, there is Britain, continental Europe and the US, and everywhere else "sunt leones", just like for many Americans.

And for these Britons, even Continental Europe only consists of the Fritzs, the Frogs, Spanish and Greek beaches, and mafia-ruled Sicily; as for the rest, there be dragons.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 11:24:16 AM EST
Amen! :D

"If you cannot say what you have to say in twenty minutes, you should go away and write a book about it." Lord Brabazon
by Barbara on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 11:25:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah dear, it is sadly true. Hard to feel proud to be British.

What is strange is how the ignorance is distributed. There are the expected pockets of ignorance in those the education system (and society generally) has failed, but beyond that it seems almost random sometimes. There are sets of people of every social class who display this terrible insularity and ignorance and others who do not.

Of course, the worst thing is an individual failing, the willingness to say "I don't know" and learn is what is most shocking when it is absent, especially in "caring" professions.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 11:35:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The only nationalities I know people are proud of is Polish and American... But there are surely others.
I am proud to be a Pole, as most of my compatriots, and hope to be proud to be American when I'm granted the citizenship. Regretfully, not that proud of being French, so it is not easier this side of the channel, Metatone.


When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 11:45:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
CEE is full of proud nationals, if only there would be less.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 11:58:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have to say that pride and nationality was always a difficult issue for me. I was never really proud of being Czech, partly because it was not "in", but also because I felt like I didn't really do anything to be proud of... I was simply born there. The trip from the uterus to the doctor's hands is surely a commendable achievement, so I can theoretically be proud of being alive and of having made it into the world. But whether it was in the Czech republic or in Lapland was really out of my control.

The American pride was one thing that seriously irritated me, because it seemed to me to be a way of saying I AM BETTER THAT YOU, than everyone else. I think national pride can place obstacles among people where there otherwise wouldn't be any.

Erich Fromm speaks about this subject in his Sane society. I'd need to find the page, but his message is this: we need to wean ourselves from the breast of our "motherland" and grow up to be able to embrace the rest of the world.

But I must say national pride is very cultural, and agree that the Poles have an advantage over us in this sense... they were always stronger and more autonomous as a result of their national awareness. The Czechs would often "spread their buttcheeks", so to speak. Not all pride is bad.

"If you cannot say what you have to say in twenty minutes, you should go away and write a book about it." Lord Brabazon

by Barbara on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 12:03:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Based on today's situation, I'd say Polish national pride aint' no good either, on the other hand, ex-pat national pride and at-home national pride is different.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 12:07:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ex-pat national pride is sometimes pathological, especially when it's the pride of a whole expat community  rather than that of an individual.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 01:08:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The way I sense the national pride of my Polish co-citizens is that it another way to say "we have survived against all odds as a nation so who are you to teach us how to behave" and this sometimes prompts them to be short-sighted, or taking the wrong sides because they know better.
Take the the F16 transaction "affair, just after their negotiating access to the EU. The French, among others, were appalled at their lack of EU consciousness for going Boeing instead of Airbus. The Poles were exasperated to be told what they should do. But future proved their choice wrong, as the Americans failed to keep up with the technology transfer commitment, so the Poles are worst off with their F16.
National pride is a good thing, as long as it does not underpin arrogance.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 12:19:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I may be biased, but in my impression, one can't come without the other [in at least a significant minority of the prouds of the nation in question].

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 12:26:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is sad, but you're right again. Not sad that you be right, sad that you are right on that. ;)

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 12:38:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As Barbara says, I've always found pride in location of birth to be a bizarre thing. Certainly you develop cultural affinity with your compatriots, which can be mistaken for pride but it's remains a loose tenuous thing.

The only time I ever positively identify with being english is when we play (invariably losing) at football.

That said, I'm equally confused by the idea of adopting anotyher nationality. It just seems such a silly thing to care about. Mind you, I do have the advantage of being an EU resident, I might feel different if I had a less-desirable passport.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 12:34:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, adopting another nationality may be the consequence of circumstances (as my being French) or opportunistic choice (in my case, made by my husband not me, as having a US G.C.). If I could chose, I would go for Ivory Coast, but the concept of nationality is rather pointless back there.
Anyway, this is an interesting debate, and we owe it to Barbara who prompted it.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 12:42:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Exactly: I may be typically Spanish in my lack of national pride, but I cannot imagine adopting another nationality. Spanish is the one I'm born with, but gatting another one would require things like pledging allegiance, citizenship exams, citizenship ceremonies... Ugh!

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 01:11:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I may be typically Spanish in my lack of national pride, but I cannot imagine adopting another nationality.

This is wonderful to read.  I have always felt ambivalent about the relationship of culture & community versus nationality & state.  Your statement furthers my hope/belief that we can have the former without the latter.

things like pledging allegiance, citizenship exams, citizenship ceremonies... Ugh!

I grew up in the U.S. for more almost 30 years before I decided to get my U.S. citizenship for matters of pure convenience.  (I had always scorned "nationality" as a necessary bureaucratic evil, but in this case had no choice but to obtain an American one, or else risk losing my green card.)  When I went into the swearing-in ceremony, I brought a small book by Serb poet Milos Crnjanski, thinking I could probably finish it during the 3 hour ceremony we were promised and be able to report back to my girlfriend what I thought of the book by her compatriot she had given me.  The incongruity of reading poems by a Serb anarchist at a U.S. citizenship swearing in ceremony struck me.  I looked up and noticed the anticipatory tension and small-town pomp and circumstance of the affair.  Next to me was a middle-aged Vietnamese woman who asked me to help fill in a form to request or renew a social securituy number -- one last, innocuous piece of red tape between the limbo of permanent residency and the promised land of U.S. citizenship.  She was very excited, and very happy.  It turns out she had not seen her daughter in something like 20 years, since she emigrated from Vietnam to the U.S.  Now that she would be a U.S. citizen, she could immediately start procedures to bring her daughter to the U.S. and see her again.  I put away the Crnjanski poems.

Then the ceremony commenced.  A small military band came in and played the requisite patriotic songs.  I thought about taking out Crnjanski again.  Then, on a big screen hanging over the stage, we were treated to a congratulatory video by our President.  My hand was riffling through the pages of Crnjanski poetry, still tucked away in my pocket.  But the speech by the Mayor of San Antonio (I believe it was), himself the child of immigrants from Mexico, was very good; he spared us the patriotic propanganda and shared with us in a very sincere manner the experience of his immigrant family, and the path that he took to his current station in life.  Hearing what he had to say, I felt, "He is like us, he is one of us."  Not so much because of the obvious immigrant background connection, but because his humanity came across so clearly, and honestly, in his speech, and it was not a "Made American" talking to "About-to-be-made Americans", but rather, one person working hard and trying to be a good neighbor speaking with a whole bunch of other people who have been working ahrd and trying to be good neighbors, neighbors of a commmunity that we had already joined, except for this last piece of red tape called "Citizenship".  I appreciated deeply his lack of pretension, his simple, completely uncondescending, welcome.

At the risk of being considered a naive and uninformed sentimentalist, I can say that after my conversation with the Vietnamese woman and this speech by the mayor, one other moment made a strong impression on me.  It was when each applicant for citizenship was asked to stand as the name of her or his country was called out.  I believe they started with "Albania" and ended with "Zimbabwe".  The process lasted a good ten, maybe fifteen minutes.  As the number of people standing grew, I looked to see where the Albanians and Serbia-Montenegrins were standing, or the Israelis and Arab countries' citizens, or the Pakistanis and Indians, etc., my residual cynicism and contempt at this notion called "nationality" searching for signs of awkwardness or discomfort among those people.  Of course, I saw none whatsoever; in any case, they were all spread out throughout a large auditorium.

The feeling that gradually grew in me, as all those people were standing up, and as the genuinely joyful roar of applause erupted throughout that auditorium when the last person from Zimbabwe stood up, and, yes, even as the representative of the Immigration and Naturalization Services finally, formally declared us citizens of the United States of America and offered his congratulations, was this:  pride, and happiness.  I was puzzled at my emotions:  Why did I, someone who despises nationality, feel so proud and happy after that ceremony?  Why did I feel so lonely that I had invited none of my friends or family to be at the ceremony with me (while almost all the other applicants had brought several of theirs)?  Why did I feel sad that I could not immediately share this occasion with somone?  Why did I feel silly, and even a little fearful, at the prospect of trying to explain these feelings to my worldly-wise European and Latin American friends who I would see later that evening?

Here is what I could come up with, though I knew it to be ill-formed and incomplete, as I'm afraid it still is now:  On the one hand, the pride and happiness and thrill that I felt at that ceremony were due to a feeling of acceptance, that no matter where I came from, I was now recognized as an accepted and welcokmed part of a community.  On the other hand, what augmented this positive feeling, was a perception that dawned on me that day, that the ideal of the United States of America was a noble one, and extremely rare -- I believe -- in the history of humanity: that of a community not based on shared ethnic heritage or history or geography or, god forbid, religion, etc.  But rather founded and based on shared values, shared aspirations, a shared recognition of the humanity of all current members, and all potential members, that is, people who are not Americans but who might some day want to become Americans.

I sense scorn and nausea mounting up to the throat at this point in anyone still reading, so let me jack that nausea up even further.  Lapsed Catholic that I am, it occurred to me that this feeling of "acceptance" into a community recalled the notion, as it was catechized to me in Sunday school, of "Jesus loves and forgives all sinners".  And it makes me wonder, whether the attractiveness of this very fundamental principle of Christianity -- the acceptance of all humans does not have a lot in common with the appeal of being accepted into the community of the United States.

I know there are innumerable caveats, "but how about"s, and reality-checks about all this.  Not the least of which is the arrogance, hypocrisy, and violence of American foreign policy in the community of nations; the refusal to give visas to some classes of immigrants, even refugees and political asylum seekers; the crass economic motivations for keeping generous citizenship/immigration policies in place.  Also,I know that many other countries accept immigrants, refugees, political asylum seekers.  I am aware of all this.

But these do not, in my mind, negate the fundamental greatness that I felt in the ideal of the United States of America, in particular, the notion that a community of human beings can be based on their shared values, their shared desire to create a better life for themselves as a community, and that their fundamental value lies in their humanity, not in their ethnicity, place of origin, social class, income, etc.

I smell nausea.  But that idealistic view still remains with me.  And I also believe that this idealism is actually not American at its root (though in the U.S. it may find its most obvious manifestation), but, for want of a better term (and a better term sure is needed), Western.

Point n'est besoin d'espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer. - Charles le Téméraire

by marco on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 08:32:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I managed the nausea and it was worth the read. Thanks for sharing these impressions. :-)
by Alexandra in WMass (alexandra_wmass[a|t]yahoo[d|o|t]fr) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 10:02:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You should definitely post this as a diary. It's a very nice and moving story.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Apr 28th, 2006 at 03:29:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you very much.  But I wrote this before I read this and this.

I knew these things to be true, mostly based on articles by/about Kevin Philips, but for some reason, these diaries/articles drove it home much harder this time.  I think it was the comparison with European countries.

I am stunned and aghast.

Point n'est besoin d'espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer. - Charles le Téméraire

by marco on Fri Apr 28th, 2006 at 04:38:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
All the same, please do post your story as a separate diary. (Though I realize lots of people have commented on it here).

Why should there be nausea?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Apr 28th, 2006 at 05:30:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes yes please post as a separate diary for more to read!
by Alexandra in WMass (alexandra_wmass[a|t]yahoo[d|o|t]fr) on Fri Apr 28th, 2006 at 09:13:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Do post it.

Remember Clinton: "there is nothing wrong in America which cannot be fixed with what is right in America"

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Apr 28th, 2006 at 10:12:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A great comment... thanks for putting all this here. I agree with you. Nowhere else in the world was I so warmly welcome as in the US, and made felt at home. I will never forget that. I might have objections to the American culture and way of thinking, but it is true that the normal folks you meet are prepared to share with you whatever good thing they have... they loan you their car, let you live in their house, collect donations in their church to help you with your hospital bills... in many ways, we Europeans might be "cool", but the sense of community is a lot weaker here, alas...

 

"If you cannot say what you have to say in twenty minutes, you should go away and write a book about it." Lord Brabazon

by Barbara on Fri Apr 28th, 2006 at 03:59:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
They are also appalled at, almost offended by, cannot fathom, the idea that you might want to go 'back home' (let alone to somewhere else which is not your home). Not every other country in the world is war-torn, disease-stricken, crime-ridden, impoverished...

As we were getting ready to leave in 2004, people asked us 'is there anything I can do to help you stay' as if leaving Riverside, CA for London were an unbearable hardship.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Apr 28th, 2006 at 04:16:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you are a former Yugoslav and old enough to have lived in the US for 30 years, you're in an entirely different situation. The nationality you were born into no longer exists.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Apr 28th, 2006 at 04:19:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Like Seinfeld said, essentially you are cheering for the clothes, not the people.
by Number 6 on Fri Apr 28th, 2006 at 12:25:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]

The only nationalities I know people are proud of is Polish and American... But there are surely others.

French.


I am proud to be a Pole, as most of my compatriots, and hope to be proud to be American when I'm granted the citizenship. Regretfully, not that proud of being French

This you have to explain instead of letting your insatisfaction drip through in every thread.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 02:23:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
On the other hand, not every Briton who doesn't know does so arrogantly; as I said a few months back, my experiences with rural Englishmen and Scots were all positive.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 11:56:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, that confusion was buried in my post.

I've worked with my Dad in healthcare in an ex-mining area in Yorkshire. The interaction with foreigners and locals is sometimes as Barbara describes it, but very often much better and it's hard to know what makes it so, beyond the individuals involved.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 12:06:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You forgot the Krauts and the Wogs.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 11:52:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Dang, I actually confused the Hungarian slang for German with the British one.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 11:57:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To be fair, Rule Brittannia and all that did away with most of the Sea Serpents.
by Number 6 on Fri Apr 28th, 2006 at 12:21:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Speaking, processing and listening at the same time does not usually come natural to humans
Sad truth.
Anyway, good to see you posting again, I love your diaries (didi I miss something since Sharon Stone)?
When a 10-year old, my dream was to be become an interpreter. Things did not turn out the right way, but my fascination for your profession remains as vivid as in the old days.
I saw "the Interpreter" 4 times just because of that. Well, also because I too am a blonde considering Africa as a bit of motherland, but still...
Best of luck in Athens.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 11:42:24 AM EST
Dear Agnesa,

No, you haven't missed anything since Sharon Stone.. I haven't written anything, I'm still kind of holding a grudge thinking that Miguel is using the entire ET allowance of our household, so he usually has to prod me to write something. But I have lots of ideas in my mind, so maybe they will find their way to this forum.

I'm still not sure whether being an interpreter will be my profession in the future... I want it to be, but at the same time it's such a closed circle and it's very hard to break in. It all depends on who you know... and there are not many jobs. So I don't know how much I will actually be doing... I like conference interpreting, it's challenging and really a brain workout, but again, where to work? I'm not giving up, though. One must be very versatile, though, and do other work in his languages. I translate, too, and that seems to bring in the most money now. And there's also yoga... Miguel said you used to teach, too, or is that someone else? What do you do?

Take care and see you soon in Paris, it will be great to meet you!


"If you cannot say what you have to say in twenty minutes, you should go away and write a book about it." Lord Brabazon

by Barbara on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 11:51:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Dear Barbara,
Both my parents are university teachers, so I guess this kinda put me off when choosing an occupation came to the agenda.
I do investment banking for a living, which sometimes (like now) is beyond boredom, but I tend to think it's the only thing I am capable of doing properly, so I carry on.

Spotted the yoga thing in your fist diary and was glad to hear about it. Have been into yoga since for 15 years now, and try to do at least 3 hours ashtanga a week, it's a wonderful way to let the pressure out.

Looking forward to meeting you too. And also to seeing more of you on ET ; there are quite affordable laptops at Tottenham Court Road...;)

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill

by Agnes a Paris on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 12:02:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We already bought B a laptop last summer so she could work while traveling in CZ, but that didn't turn out so well... I don't know how the availability of laptops near my office is relevant, though?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 01:15:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think Agnes is under the impression that you occupy the computer all the time so that I have no chance to contribute... I said you take up the entire ET allowance... as you can see that can be interpreted in various ways.  

"If you cannot say what you have to say in twenty minutes, you should go away and write a book about it." Lord Brabazon
by Barbara on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 01:24:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yep, I think so too... The laptop does allow both of us to be online at the same time, too (and I'm the one who ises it mostly).

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 01:26:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
when I registered, I forgot the spaces between Agnes, -a and Paris.
As a consequence, many people like you or Drew, to mention only the last I recollect, call me Agnesa, instead of Agnes.
I definitely musk ask the gnomes to do something about it. They are supposed to have special powers...

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 12:06:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Can do, if you want.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 12:07:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No you can't. (Anymore.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 12:09:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why isn't life always such a bed of roses, where each wish is instantly fulfilled...

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 12:21:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Make sure to check your links at the top work.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 12:27:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
(I mean top of the page, not the ET pecking order :-))

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 12:28:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That I had understood... :))

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 12:36:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I thought I always called you Agnes.  If not, sorry.  I must be throwing in the "a" without thinking about it.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon May 1st, 2006 at 02:13:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm still not sure whether being an interpreter will be my profession in the future...

How about writing books, articles, screenplays?

In the advertisting/sitcom world where 20-somethings who work at Starbucks live in huge apartments in Manhattan, where does the sheltered middle class get any clue about an apparently growing underclass?  I am not sure we need an Uncle Tom's Cabin or a The Jungle just yet.  (Katrina did a bit to wake some people up, though probably not enough.)  But soon enough such pieces as yours may need to circulate more commonly in the mainstream media, so that enough attention is drawn to these problems, so they can be addressed, before the pressure mounts to high and the levees are broken.

Point n'est besoin d'espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer. - Charles le Téméraire

by marco on Fri Apr 28th, 2006 at 10:41:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll try and convince Barbara to post excerpts of her "How to survive in America" book manuscript...

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Apr 28th, 2006 at 10:46:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wow.  That's fantastic!

Point n'est besoin d'espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer. - Charles le Téméraire
by marco on Fri Apr 28th, 2006 at 11:00:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's in Czech, though... ;-)

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Apr 28th, 2006 at 11:02:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Compelling diary, Barbara. That's a very special (if uncomfortable) place you occupy as interpreter. You have to be extremely present yet sort of theoretically absent. And you bring the people you met in this way alive. (You should write about it... :-))

I don't know anything about the Forum, but fingers crossed.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 04:29:35 PM EST
Thank you VERY MUCH for sharing this great diary with us.  I am definitelyy looking forward to Part II.

Point n'est besoin d'espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer. - Charles le Téméraire
by marco on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 08:38:36 PM EST
Wonderful evening reading. I saved it and it was well worth the read. I'm repeating myself but I have to say I really love you writing style and analogies!

Good luck in Athens. I've been around interpreter both in CZ, the US and many years ago at the ILO and always found the work amazing. Having been bi-lingual all my life I've had many translation opportunities but always find that the two languages seem stuck in different parts of my brain and am awed at translator's ability to do simultaneous cabin translation.

Don't eat all the plankton but enjoy being a shark for a change.

by Alexandra in WMass (alexandra_wmass[a|t]yahoo[d|o|t]fr) on Thu Apr 27th, 2006 at 10:19:53 PM EST
Alexandra,
thank you very much for your kind comment, I just discovered it now... I don't have that many opportunities to check feedback of my writing, so hence the delay. What languages do you speak? And have you considered yourself becoming an interpreter? Just curious.

"If you cannot say what you have to say in twenty minutes, you should go away and write a book about it." Lord Brabazon
by Barbara on Sun Apr 30th, 2006 at 05:27:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Barbara,

I just wanted to tell you that this is an absolutely wonderful diary. Thanks so much for writing it. Helping people communicate is such vitally important work.

Thanks once again. I look forward for your next diary about this.

by gradinski chai on Fri Apr 28th, 2006 at 12:32:49 AM EST


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