The King was Marrying Elephants

While discussing the economic crisis at lunch the other day, my Argentinean colleague informed me that, “el rey estaba cazando elefantes en Africa.”  Hearing the z as an s, I heard, casando (marrying) instead of cazando (hunting) and translated even that poorly into, “the king was marrying elephants in Africa.”

I began to wonder if this meant that the king was conducting marriage ceremonies between elephants or was making a point by in fact marrying an elephant.  This distraction meant that I only tuned back in at the end of the conversation, and by then my boss was drawing a comparison between the king and the Spanish equivalent of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Image from The Telegraph

Both political figures had made headlines recently.  The king had hurt his hip in Africa, causing the paparazzi to highlight this particular hunting trip (apparently, the king hunts often).  Many citizens were frustrated with the king for taking such an extravagant trip during the economic crisis.  Therefore, the king apologized, and the headlines ended. Continue reading

I’m About to Pee My Pants

Me meo toa.  Or, “I’m peeing myself.”  Or, “I’m laughing [really hard].”  And finally, outside of immediate comedy, “I’m about to pee my pants.”  Me meo toa was the first colloquial phrase I learned here in Spain after a very long meeting back in February, and some form of this phrase seems to be the first thing I learn in any new country.

Hands down, my favorite aspect of learning foreign languages is the barrier-breaking interactions exemplifying that we are all actually part of one human race.  An example: me meo toa.  Everyone’s gotta pee eventually.

I doubt I’m unique.  In the first few days of travel most people likely learn to say, write, or show some form of these three things: I need food and water (¿Donde hay un buen restaurante?), I need a place to sleep (Por favor, me lleva a hotel turismo), and I need a restroom (¿Una casa de baño?).  Basic human needs.

I have always talked a lot, but when my parents divorced due to, in my opinion, utter lack of communication for years on end, I became fairly obsessed with effective and genuine self-expression.  My Peace Corps service in the education sector of Portuguese-speaking Mozambique fostered this interest, while graduate school professors have harped on the importance of communication skills as an environmental professional throughout this past academic year.

Therefore, communication seemed an obvious theme for this summer’s blog.  As a Center for the Blue Economy summer fellow, I am working in Madrid, Spain at a university in UNESCO’s UNITWIN program on a project regarding Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) of genetic resources in Mozambique.  Having never been fluent in Spanish and seriously out of practice in Portuguese, I can only imagine the confusion (hopefully followed by clarity — at least sometimes) to come.