I feel as though my contributions to this blog have been primarily divided between two themes: twisted moments of paraguayan zen, and my adventures in a language that is not my own.

But I’m willing to embrace that.

Another observation:

Spanish is an unbelievably, often absurdly dramatic language when translated literally into English. Allow me to translate (literally) a recent text message interaction:

friend: andrew, if we cannot meet for me to give you my farewell, it is my desire that you have a good trip and i will miss you.

me: “thank you, raquel. but I am not very busy in this week before I leave – if you would like to meet…”

friend: “Do it, Andrew. Just tell me and I will already be there.”

Is anybody really surprised that this language gave birth to the telenovela?

Although I fell short in the above interaction, sometimes being a non-native speaker can actually enhance your dramatics, in that a void in vocabulary is filled by a hyperbole born of necessary yet poetic generalization.

For example, this past weekend my elbows got a little scrapped up playing soccer. Somebody at the office asked me what happened. Intending to respond “oh, just an injury from a soccer game this weekend,” I drew a momentary blank on the Spanish word for “injury,” and all I could do was generalize on the theme:

“oh, just an injustice from a soccer game this weekend.”


I know that Australians speak English, but as is well known, they have their own nicknames, accents and phrases. However, while I was still stateside, I didn’t know that these minordifferences could actually render some Australians incomprehensible. It is also extremely difficult to learn names. Example: When a guy whose name is actually Arvid is introduced, it sounds like Harvard. (A long discussion ensued amongst a few Americans last night over this exact name… turns out I won the debate on what his name actually is because I had one Australian spell it for me… foolproof method for these such situations!)

So as I’m meeting all of my new Australian neighbors since they’ve now moved back into college, I’m learning to think quickly, take things in context and sometimes just stay confused a bit til I figure out what they are saying. When in doubt follow how they react! Here are some of the new English language words I never used in conversation before, or never even knew existed:

heaps = a lot

ta = thanks

How ya going? = How are you?

lift = elevator

winge = complain

jelly = jello and jam = jelly

Seppo = American (after septic tanks because we talk a lot of junk… nice huh?)

More to come! Cheers all!

Hey Andrew, English says to tell you that she put your stuff into a cardboard box, and that you should send somebody over to pick it up soon because it’s cluttering the living room. She says she’s keeping the dog, though.

But seriously: I learned more about English from foreign language than I ever did in an English class. Enjoy losing English, Andrew. When you find it again you’ll be that much wiser.

These snippets you all are sending of life in other cultures … well, frankly, they’re making me feel bittersweet. Today marks exactly one year since I was standing on top of Mount Kilimanjaro, both a physical and temporal culmination of my summer in Tanzania.

As unbelievably excited as I am for my upcoming adventures, part of me is kind of bummed. The entire time, I’ll be hanging around North American scientists. Arguably, that’s a culture all of its own … but one with which I am quite familiar. I love the awkwardness of sticking out, the discomfort that comes with making a new culture your home, because it forces you to be at home in yourself. I will miss finding new families and friends who have such a different perspective on what living is all about, because it forces me to reconcile what I think living is all about.

I might be going to the ends of the Earth, but I’ll be closer to home than any of you. Lucky ducks.

Green with envy and red with sunburn,
Zena Cardman

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