Our Newest Adventures

Our new friend is from Libya.  He just got here tonight.  He’s staying for a month.  We’ve never had anyone from Libya or anywhere near there.  He speaks Arabic.  He’s pretty.  He looks way younger than 24, which is his actual age.  He’s a tennis player and dentist.  Remind me not to let him see me anywhere near a tennis racket.  Or smile.

He seems overwhelmed and tired.  Which I imagine he is.  I mispronounced his name badly enough that he had me repeat it, then he spelled it out for me and said “Sanad. You can just say Sanad, no like SANAAAD” with the most obnoxious american flat nasal short a sound I’ve ever heard.  He was imitating me.  I’m afraid to say his name again.   I’m serious.  I’m afraid of him imitating me.  Dang.  I can’t say his name.  We may be in trouble.

I’ll let you know.

I might be in trouble in lots of different ways.  I am in a program at the University of Minnesota for translators and interpreters.  I didn’t have time to do the oral proficiency exam before the class started, so I just jumped in. Although I understood that the the second half of the class (the discussion section) was in Spanish.  My comprehension is pretty decent, and what better way to test it than to take a class that’s partly in Spanish, right?  Right.

But I was mistaken.  The minute Sra. Giannini walked in the door, she was speaking Spanish and everyone in the class was responding in Spanish.  The whole thing is in Spanish. Everything but the readings. The first thing we all had to do was introduce ourselves and say why we were in the class.  I was so busted as a person imitating someone who can speak Spanish.  My voice shook, my vocabulary went out the window.

I actually did something I’ve never done in Spanish before.  I spoke gibberish in Spanish.  You have no idea how humiliating this was.  I meant to ask, “are we going to use…” which should be “Vamos a usar…” but what came out was “Usos a vamar…” which is like saying “Using to go we…”  Worse than that.  I swear,at one time I spoke Spanish that was not baby-talk.

I understood the class fine.  I understand the teacher and all the students except the Spaniards, whose accent sounds like they’re doing it on purpose.  That’s an unacceptable bias on my part.  I’m working on it. I will keep you posted.  It’s going to be hard work.  But translating is really, really fun.  It’s like doing word puzzles.

The teacher said to be a good translator, which is completely different from being a good interpretor, you have to be a good writer in the receptor language (what I used to call the target language, which means the language you’re translating into) and like to play with language, be creative, be a perfectionist (which I’m not in an obvious way).  We’ll see.  I know how to work hard, but I’m worried I may have bitten off more than I can chew at this hardened phase of my brain’s life.  A ver.

I’ll let you know.

Before a Fall

I thought there wasn’t anything more humbling than having people ignore my stuff at the neighborhood garage sale, but that was before I went over to trim the brush growing along the fence at our rental property. It’s a house with a vacant log next door to it. The lot is on the corner, so if you’re working there, you’re pretty much the entertainment for the whole neighborhood and anyone driving through. I brought over my little garden bag with my foldable Fiskars saw, my rose pruner, my small nipper (like a hook shaped branch biter) and my big nipper (more leverage). I brought a couple of other tools as well. I brought Andy’s little Toyota pick-up (Hey, they don’t know it’s not mine). I got to de-brushing along the fence like the She-rah that I am and within 10 minutes I had two different neighbors offering me the use of their way cooler tools.
One thought his band-saw would work lots better than my Fiskars thing, and he started sawing away at the volunteer trees. Yeah for me, but I was mortified. Was I that inept? The other had a big nipper that had never been left out in the rain and he thought that might be better than mine. I tried it out and truth be told… it was better than my rusty one. But I gave him his back and said thanks, but I felt better trashing my own tools than his. I see two possibilities for personal embarrassment here: either I looked so clumsy and ineffective at brush trimming that they took mercy on me, or they thought my tools were too girly, even though I thought I was being very competent and dude-like. Woe is me either way. Wait. Am I whining about this? No. It was kind of cool.
And I never would have met the guy who I used to just call the cat-guy, but who I now call Sean. I can’t remember the other guy’s name but he’s moved from a nobody in my mind to the ‘long-haired guy with the nice big nipper’. I’m just guessing that’s an acceptable moniker for almost any guy.

Don’t You Even Get to Wonder?

In my defense I say that everybody thinks things that are ridiculous. At least I think that’s the case. Everybody has curiosity about other people, observations and questions.

When I was in England this summer (oh doesn’t that sound nice?) I noticed something. Something I had never heard about before. Something that apparently many other people have noticed for years. That something was that the English have bad teeth. Maybe bad is too strong of a word. What they seemed to have a lot of is uneven, crooked, yellow or gray or brown teeth and quite a lot of empty spaces where teeth used to live.

The people don’t seem unhappy as a group. Not stupid as a group, not unclean or backwards. They just have teeth that look nothing like what I see here in St. Paul. I can honestly say that I had no idea that this was a stereotype. Shows what I know.

You can’t just go up to one of your British comrades and ask why so many newscasters, archeologists or grocery store clerks are missing teeth. You just can’t. It made me terribly curious. So I went to look it up when I got home.

What I found out is that if you ask a question like, “Why do the British have such bad teeth?” you will have to wade through a thicket of people chastising and berating you for asking such a bigotted question. “You might as well ask why Americans are so fat!” I don’t have to ask that question, because I pretty much know the answer. I also know the premise of the question is true. Americans are fat because we eat too much crap and watch too much TV. Oh that and the corn syrup subsidies.

But the answer to the British Dental Situation (BDS) has escaped me as yet. I found pages and pages of people who wanted to attack the question, but only a few serious answers. Here is what I found out. I’m still looking for more data.

What I found out was mostly this: 1)Flouride is in almost all the drinking water in the US, not so in England. 2)In America your smile is a class marker, not yet so, but this seems to be changing. In this generation of kids in the US, braces are common for any middle-class kid with teeth that are out of plumb. A missing or chipped tooth in the US is almost always repaired or replaced. In England dental work is generally reserved for things that prevent you from eating or cause you great pain.

They think we’re kind of shallow in our insistence on straight, complete sets of white teeth. I guess I agree. Lately I’ve been thinking about getting braces. My teeth are moving around in my mouth of their own accord. But I eat OK. I’m solidly middle class, so I don’t care that much what people think I am. But a neighbor of mine commented on my wandering teeth last year and it unnerved me. “Have you always had that, sort of, snaggle-tooth, there on one side?”. Hell if I know. I think so….

I started looking around at people my age, people older, and people younger. People my age generally have teeth like mine, not ungodly crooked, but not perfectly straight (except this neighbor of course, whose teeth are unimpeachable). Middle class people younger than me have perfectly straight teeth that are impossibly white.

I get the straight, but the blue-white glow-in-the-dark teeth kind of creep me out. To be fair, the gray or yellow ones jump out at me, too, but they don’t strike me as wrong. I may straighten my teeth, but you won’t see me bleaching them.My American Teeth

Whose Space?

Oh yeah. Today I got on the Facebook. I have no idea how it really works, or why a person would need to do it, but I was told by a young lady that I absolutely had to have a faceboook page if I wanted to be able to communicate with people like her. And I do. So I did.

It wasn’t hard. But it’s kind of humiliating. You go and fill out all the stuff. And you get a page. It has your profile, you fill stuff in, like your favorite movies and books and music. That part is fine. But then there’s the real reason people do myspace. Friends. You have to ask for them. It’s like third grade all over again, where I had to ask Diane Sorenson if she’d be my friend. In the end, she liked kerri Pregler better than me, anyway.

Then I ask my buddy Dave to be my pal, and hey says yes, which I find out because this little deal pops up. Which is great, but when I click on it, I go to Dave’s Facebook page where he has like a kajillion friends, and I have 1. By the end of the day, he’s got a kajillion and 10 friends and I have 3 . They’re quality people, don’t get me wrong. But I know I have more friends than that, don’t I? And Cassie, who said I have to get on the Facebook? She hasn’t replied to me. Yeesh. That hurts. It’s been, like 2 hours since I “asked” her to be my friend.

I also have this recurring problem.  I can’t seem to keep track of which networking site I’ve ventured into.  I keep calling it myspace.  I guess the Myspace is only for really hip young people who would find it creepy of me to have my own page.

Flying Drug-free

I am a phobic flier. I am armpit-pricklingly sure I am about to die.

I start to get nervous before I leave home. One way I cope with this is I do not look at my itinerary until the last possible moment. I’ve never bought my own plane ticket, usually a man in my life takes care of that (isn’t that old-fashioned and cute?). That man knows my schedule and tells me the day and approximate time of day I will fly.

It doesn’t seem weird to me until people start asking me, “So when do you leave on Monday?” and I have to answer, “I don’t know, it’s in the afternoon.”

When the car hits the exit for the airport, my stomach starts to hurt and I have to pee. I ignore these warning signs. I know it’s irrational, I’ve read the books. I know the whole the-drive-to-the-airport-is-the-most-dangerous-part-of-your-trip deal. I’m phobic, not stupid. All that ever did for me was make me nervous about driving.

In the airport my face starts to feel numb, and my hands and feet start to sweat. It’s weird. I feel like I’m about to be in really big trouble, and there’s no escaping it. And once I’m at the airport, there is no escaping it. I kind of like going through security. Kind of like being scanned, taking off my shoes, etc. That feels to me like a sort of momentary reprieve from my ugly fate. I suppose I’m the ideal customer. I actually hope they find something dangerous on me. Hope they pull me into a room and strip-search me. Hope they pull up my dossier on the all-seeing-bush-o-tron and deny me entrance onto the plane. But they never do. This is about the time I like to take my Ativan.

On the plane, I still have to pee, even if I already went in the airport. And my stomach is full of prehistoric butterflies from hell. My feet sweat more, my hands get clammy. Once the Ativan hits my system, I feel like I’m going to die, but well, aren’t we all? And probably I’ll be asleep. I doze and stare into space. I shop the sky-mall and find things I really, really need. It seems unfair that such important and wonderful things are only available on a plane. Aside from some pestering little terrified homunculus whining in my ear about tin tubes carrying people way up in the sky, and what a long way it would be to have to fall, I’m pretty calm.

My last flight was drug free. Jodi from Normandale (who is both brilliant and kind) offered to sit next to me and hold my hand. She hardly had to at all. We talked a little about our kids and schools. I warned her that I would be counting while we took off and for a while after that and would only be able to answer questions with numbers.

There were only a couple of questions she had to answer about , “What was that noise? Why is it doing that? Are we on the wing? ” Jodi was a trooper. “No, we’re not right by the wing. That noise was the blahblah system, they were just testing it, they do it all the time. Doesn’t it sound kind of like a dog barking?”

She lied about the wing. Probably figured I’d obsess about it if I knew. I had way more important things to obsess about than the wing. I counted to 400 while we took off. If I lost my place, I had to start over. It got me through take-off without blubbering. I wanted to write on the computer while I flew, but every time I went to bend over to get my laptop, I’d get hit between the eyes with dizziness and nausea. I had to sit back and close my eyes.

Eventually I was able to get the laptop by reaching down without lowering my head. I pulled up some photos of my last trip. Jodi had me tell her about my trip, my kids, my neighborhood, my schooling. We talked politics and religion and the demography of the suburbs and the city.

I used the bathroom once, whereupon Jodi said I was very brave. She was way afraid to use a plane bathroom because she was afraid she’d get sucked out of the plane. Thanks a lot Jodi.

As we approached the (lovely and wonderful, sweet-smelling and wholesome) Twin Cities, the pilot announced that there were “A few thunderstorms in and around the Twin Cities area. We’ll be shifting our approach just a bit on account of those storms. Flight attendants, I’m going to ask you to be seated and fasten your seat-belts.”

I started deep breathing (in through the nose, out through the nose as well) and counting with my eyes closed. I did these things while holding on to my seat. The back of my seat. I had my hands on the back of my seat, my head bowed, my elbows bent. I was covering my ears with my arms.

It turns out those pesky storms were in the process of eating Hugo and a pieces of suburban MSP. Andy says he was watching the plane on the computer, so he’d know when to come and get me. He saw it heading for the airport one minute, then turn 90 degrees, and 90 degrees again. We were avoiding tornadoes.

It was so, so loud. And so vibratious. And so long. I breathed. I counted, but backwards. If I lost my place, I had to start over at the last number I could clearly remember. This time I have no idea how far I counted. I think I started at 400. I couldn’t tell exactly when we landed, it was all so bumpy. But eventually we slowed and Jodi patted my hand.

That’s when the trembling started. I couldn’t get my hands or legs to stay still. I should have been elated to be on the ground, but I was upset. I was sure I was going to cry. Jodi asked if I was OK and I nodded. The guy across the aisle from me kept looking at me like he was worried. I tried to be busy gathering my things, but the more stuff I had on my lap (purse, laptop) the more obvious it was that I was not at all OK.

Cassie (also from Normandale), two seats down from the worried guy looked over and said, “Hey Lisa, you did it! And you seem much better than before we left.”

Worried man looked at her and said, “Are you you kidding? Look at her. She’s shaking all over. She’s not better than anything. Are you OK?”

I nodded, but I was afraid I might cry. People being nice when I’m upset always makes me want to cry. Then where would we be? “I, I, I don’tliketofly.” I told him quickly.

“Oh well, you did fine.” He insisted I get off the plane before him. He was very nice.

I didn’t cry until I got into the truck with Andy, but I only cried like, two tears. I don’t have a good theory about why I didn’t get really upset until it was all over. I suppose there’s a technical reason. Since I am never traveling again, we have no need to think about what I will do next time.

In case you forgot, “It Is OK, Many Things Do Not Fly. Rocks, Trees, Sticks…” Me.

Atta Girl (not Ativan)

Hells bells. The reason I leave up that sick post that I wrote while under the influence of Ativan is to remind me of what can happen. Being told of my behavior, and even having snippets of it come back to me through the fog was not enough to keep me on the wagon while in the air (that’s not altogether clear, is it?). But seeing the phrases, “I am a nomad but not the kids…” on my own blog is, I think. I like to go back and read it when I’m feeling pale and need some color in my face. What a dumb-head I am.

Zach (my oldest) was in charge of me on a flight to god-only-knows-where when I took an Ativan, then got nervous, thinking it didn’t work, and took another one. You have no idea. I have no idea. But Zach does. He says I was bad. Like a little devlish kid bad. Andy had put him in charge. I do remember the stewardess having jewelry that was sparkly (my weakness) and matching. I reached out to touch her bracelet and Zach chastised me harshly, “You do NOT touch the flight attendants. It’s a federal offense.” I wasn’t really touching her. I was touching her bracelet, and only just a little.

While she was serving the other side of the aisle, I reached for something and zach slapped my hand. “You do NOT touch the cart or the flight attendant.” He turned away in exasperation. I reached out with both hands and touched the tops of all the little baby pop cans, keeping one eye on zach. He turned around at the same time as the flight attendant. He didn’t think I was funny, but the flight attendant smiled at me. He’s not the boss of me.

That’s about all I can remember from that flight, which was, if I ‘m not mistaken, to Ecuador. There should be way more to that story, based on how long it takes to get to Ecuador, but I have no recollection.

Andy likes to describe me as some kind of pack-animal when I’m drugged. I can carry things, I can walk, I can follow direction. I will stand in one place if he tells me to. For hours. And when he comes back, we move on.

The second time I used the ativan on a flight home, I was sleepy but I didn’t feel too dopey. I came home, got a good night’s sleep and called my sister in the morning. “Hi. Just wanted to let you know I’m home and I’m fine.” She paused. “We had this conversation last night, Lisa. You don’t remember calling me?” Nope.

I guess that’s why Ativan is sometimes called the amnesia drug. I can’t for the life of me figure out why anyone would take Ativan recreationally.

Drugged dialies, drugged fondling of flight attendants and pack-mule status weren’t enough make me fly drug-free. But by god, the sentence “I am meant to be a nomad, but only the kids that travels by foot. no wheels or boats or wings.” sure as hell is.

Later I will tell the tale of how my drug free flight went.