The Whiskey Chronicles (in Buenos Aires)

The Whiskey Chronicles (in Buenos Aires)

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

More photos are now online!

Click on the link to the right for some shots from our first few weeks.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Where's the Toilet Paper?

By my count, this is the ninth time Dana and I have tried to learn a new language. Since high school, she's tried her hand at French, Swahili, Russian, Indonesian and, now, Spanish. I've gone through Spanish, Portuguese, Indonesian and back to Spanish.

If being able to order a beer or have a taxi drop you off in your neighborhood is any measure, we've been enormously successful. If carrying - or even understanding - an interesting conversation is the standard, however, we're pretty unimpressive (even in English, some would say...).

That fact hit home this weekend, when Dana and I headed into downtown La Paz to see "The Incredibles". The ticket seller warned us that the cartoon film was dubbed in Spanish, without sub-titles, but we figured that would give us a great opportunity to test our listening comprehension. Unfortunately, it turns out we don't have any. After about 45 minutes we left the theater, brains turned to mush, to commiserate about our pre-kindergarten Spanish vocabulary over hot chocolates at a nearby cafe.

After 14 years of failing to become bi-lingual, I've realized that my language skills plateau very quickly. Usually I learn a few basic phrases like "I'm sorry", "Please", and "Why isn't there any toilet paper in this bathroom?" before my brain fills up. As a result, I just say these same few phrases over and over again in any situation.

In Brazil last year, I found myself saying "obrigado" (thank you) with alarming frequency. When I clumsily knocked over a display case in a CD store in Sao Paulo, I turned to one of the clerks and said, quite enthusiastically, "Thank you very much!" before turning to leave.

I've also become convinced that it's hard to translate anything with complete accuracy. One of Dana's Spanish teachers recounted her horror at being told to "enjoy herself" by an American who found out she had just arrived in the United States. In her mind, "enjoy yourself" translated into something slightly more personal and far more offensive than any pleasantries she thought two strangers should exchange.

But despite a dismal history, we're optimistic that our track record in linguistics will finally change. As we travel around this diverse country, make Bolivian friends, and immerse ourselves in the often-uncomfortable reality of a completely different culture, our ability to understand and appreciate life here should improve. Keep checking back to our blog regularly and you should be able to see that evolution in our posts. If all goes well, maybe you'll even enjoy yourself.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

What's the Capital of South America?

Ok, so no one has actually asked us that, but here's the transcript of a real-life conversation Dana had in Utah...

Anonymous: "So I heard you're moving to Bolivia. Where is that?"
Dana: "It's in South America, bordered by Brazil, Chile and Peru."

Long pause

A: "Ok, so if I flew to Spain, would I be close?"
D: "Uh, that's in Europe."