Lost in translation

It was another hot and sticky day in our corner of Africa today so a swim with my training buddy (H) seemed like a good idea. I rode our school bus to the International School with the kids and deposited everyone at their respective classrooms before hopping onto a different school bus for a ride to another compound to use their pool.

When we first arrived in Angola, in a vague attempt to maintain my swimming fitness, I spent some time looking for swimming pools. Finding suitable swimming facilities in Luanda was and still is challenging. The pool on my own compound is more for recreation and, when the local amphibians aren’t spawning in it, can be a great spot for a refreshing dip if you ignore the spawn and other small pond life. If I swim diagonally I can get a 20 metre length but its not ideal. I ve tried swimming in the 50 m pool that Luanda (surprising) has but its a drive through heavy traffic and, as my maid informed me, has been the sight of lots of drownings as it is deep and people jump in it without knowing how to swim. It was built some time ago and, as with so much in this city, has fallen into disrepair.

The pool that H and I are swimming in today is 25 m long, has no pond life that we can see (although the visibility is terrible) and has so far remained open. Unfortunately the pool tiles and grout are all the same colour which makes it difficult to distinguish where the walls are so we often swim into them. The water level is so low that the filters don’t filter anything. To compensate for this the maintenance men throw lots of strong chemicals in (often just as we are changing into our swimsuits). The smell of chlorine stays in my nostrils for most of the day. I am an (almost) natural brunette when I get in the pool and fully expect to be blonde by the time I ve completed my workout. The most disturbing characteristic of this particular pool, however, is the way that the dilapidated pool lights fall out of the walls and lie face-down on the bottom of the pool with the wires curling back into the sockets from which they fell. I ve never been comfortable with electricity and water in such close proximity so I always let H get in first.

I went for a mooch around the supermarket for a few items on the way back and was greeted by a row of newly stocked soy milk that has been unavailable for months. It was £5 ($8) a carton but when you re desperate for something you ll pay it – although I did see it for £12 ($18) in a shop recently but couldn’t bring myself to pay that much for a 1 litre carton of milk. I immediately claimed 30 cartons and may go back for more. I know it must be hard to understand my elation over soy milk but we all have things that are necessary to our happiness and this is mine. I intend to be reckless with it tomorrow and may  fill my cereal bowl to the brim to celebrate.

This afternoon DT and I had a game of ‘guess what DT is trying to tell me using my broken portuguese and sign language‘. My side of the conversation went like this:

“You have a problem with your face?”

“No? Oh, your eye, you have a problem with your eye”

“You have to go to the doctors tomorrow?, No, oh, now, you have to go to the doctors now”

“The doctor wants to operate? No, the doctor wants to just look at it”

“And you need to get a transfusion??? Oh you mean a prescription?”

This is the abridged version by the way. The actual conversation lasted much longer and I m still not entirely sure what she was saying.

Sometimes I use Google Translate when I feel as though misinterpretation could lead to someone getting hurt or me having to pay someone a lot of money. It’s translation accuracy is not always reliable. Recently, DT told me that one of her family members was sick and did I have any appropriate medication that she could take to them. I felt that it was important to determine the exact nature of the complaint before I rummidged around in the medicines cabinet and prescribed something that might inadvertently kill them. I handed DT the keyboard and she typed in the medication, in portuguese, that she needed. When I pressed ‘translate’ the translation read ‘Drugs for queers’. I paused for a moment and thought about where to go from there. Eventually I explained that the translation said ‘drugs for homosexuals’ at which she got very embarrassed and told me not to worry, she’d try the pharmacist instead. It turns out that her relative had a stomach ulcer and I don’t have anything for those anyway.

Most of the time she just laughs at my portuguese which isn’t very encouraging but I let her off as she spends so much of her time elbow deep in our dirty laundry.

I ll finish here as I want to go and enjoy a glass of my new soy milk.


2 thoughts on “Lost in translation

  1. Cracking read Jane!

    Out of curiosity, you said you didn’t have anything in the medicine cabinet for a stomach ulcer…. does this mean you did have some “drugs for queers”?


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