lost in translation

The true test of mastering a language is having to translate what someone is saying into English WHILE they continue to speak in their native language. This I realized last week, while I was interpreting for a Mexican woman named Elva in a video interview done by a local aid organization, CIR. Here’s what the whole situation looked like:

Interviewer: Ask her, “What is the biggest challenge you have faced since the tornado?”

Me: “Cuál es el reto más grande que has encontrado desde el tornado?”

Elva: “Lo más difícil …emm, pues, lo difícil es…”

Me (AT THE SAME TIME): “The…most…difficult…thing. Well, what’s…hard…is…”

Elva: “Ha sido difícil encontrar trabajo, pero también fue difícil vivir sin hogar por ese tiempo después del tornado…”

Me (again, at the same time, struggling): “It has been…hard to find….a job, but also…it was hard living…without a…home…after the tornado…”

It was challenging, to say the least. But, it was also a really great experience and excellent practice translating. To think that this time last year I could barely get through an interview in Spanish, and now I can translate other people’s interviews — that’s pretty cool. Thanks to all the Mexicans and Ecuadorians who helped me out with that!

Because I’ve been studying Spanish for so long, and I now consider myself somewhat fluent, I sometimes forget what it was like to not be able to understand the language. Then I listen to something like this:

Oh yeah, now I remember.


i discovered ecuador

It’s already been two months since I got back from this wonderful little country called Ecuador, so of course I was excited to see this pop up in the news recently.

Even if you don’t understand Spanish, you can still probably tell that the Ecuadorian Tourism Ministry just launched a new campaign to promote Ecuador and bring more foreigners to visit there. There are these cool video billboards in Times Square that list different awesome things to discover in Ecuador. Here are a few of them:

I discovered a hummingbird the size of a bee in Ecuador — Hmmm, can’t say I saw any of those, but I’m sure they were there!

I discovered 4,500 different butterflies in Ecuador — Check. The beautiful little town of Mindo has a butterfly farm!

I discovered 14 different Amazonian trees in Ecuador — Check. Our school trip to the biodiversity station in Tiputini gave me the chance to see probably about 159,348,058 different Amazonian trees!

Amazonian rainforest

Now those are some Amazonian trees.

I discovered mountain biking down volcanoes in Ecuador — Check (kind of). I might not have biked down a volcano, but I did hike down a volcano, ride a horse down a volcano, and ride a chiva (an open-air party bus) down a volcano. So, that counts.

I discovered 15km of wild surf on one beach in Ecuador — Double check. I spent Carnaval in a beach town called Montañita, which is one of the best spots to surf in Ecuador. And then, one of my favorite places in Ecuador, and where I learned to surf, a little town called Canoa. Plenty of wild surf there.

Surf in Canoa

See that surf in Canoa? And the view's not too shabby either.

I discovered an avenue of volcanoes in Ecuador — I saw quite a few volcanoes while in Ecuador. There was Cotopaxi, the highest peak in Ecuador, which I never actually climbed but drove by a few times. There was Tungurahua, a volcano in the town of Baños that was actually erupting when I took my sister there in May. And finally, Sierra Negra, a huge volcano on the Galápagos Island of Isabela that is 6 miles long and 5 miles wide and hasn’t erupted in 6 years.

Volcan Sierra Negra

Volcán Sierra Negra in the Galápagos

And finally, my personal favorite: I discovered beach parties until dawn in Ecuador — Check, a thousand times check. You can’t go to a beach town in Ecuador and not find a party going on until dawn, usually at a tiki bar out on the sand or, as in Canoa, at a dance club right below your hostel.


This guy didn't last until dawn. That's what'll happen to you during Carnaval in Montañita

something new

Most of the things you hear in the news about Mexico are either about 1. their soccer team, or 2. the violence. The first time I traveled there was in 2006, and since then, I feel like I’ve been a Mexican at heart; my friend who lives in Monterrey even calls me a “honorary Mexican.” The violence in Mexico is something I’ve always denied to friends and family, maybe so that they wouldn’t be nervous all of the 11 times that I’ve been. But to be honest, violence is a reality in Mexico. It’s not something I’ve experience there, but it’s something that exists and that affects thousands of Mexicans on a daily basis.

In a Ted Talk from this month, Emiliano Salinas, son of former president Carlos Salinas, suggests that the situation in Mexico is not something to be denied. It exists, so let’s face it in a peaceful manner, he says. Although it’s directed at people living in Mexico, I think Salinas has a lot to say to everyone that has an opinion (or not) about the violence there. And, it was the first talk posted on Ted in a language other than English! Go Spanish!

“Mahatma Gandhi, uno de los más grandes luchadores civiles de la historia, dijo: “Debes ser el cambio que quieres ver en el mundo”. En México hoy se buscan Gandhis. Necesitamos Gandhis. Necesitamos hombres y mujeres que amen a México y estén dispuestos a tomar acción.”

“Mahatma Gandi, one of the greatest civil fighters of all time, said: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Today in Mexico, we are asking for Gandhis. We need Gandhis. We need men and women who love Mexico and who are willing to take action.”