Yes, that is me. The VP of fairies. Let's back up. Tarantino style.
I spent the last 2 weekends down on Long Island....ahhhhh Long Island...which really isn't as bad as I first thought. Or maybe I am just getting used to it all. The beaches are sorta nice, and there are some very good restaurants around. Very good in fact.
It isn't easy to be the only person in the room who doesn't speak the primary language of the others around you. It is rather isolating, and an odd sensation to feel alone in the middle of a crowd. But strangely, over the past 30-odd years I have encountered this very scenario time and time again. I will never forget sitting at Franco's mother's dinner table feeling nervous and out of place while she watched me with the eagle eye of a mamma bear protecting her cub from a predator. No, she didn't care for me much so it is just as well that I could never understand what she said to (about) me.
It's funny to think back to the four years spent in Amsterdam where I barely could string 3 Dutch sentences sucessfully together. Rarely was it a problem or an obstacle. But often I was out and about not understanding the majority of words passing over my head. You sort of forget and tune out after a while, I guess. You forget how fun it is to overhear snippets of other people's conversations.
This is my strategy:
1) Learn enough vocabulary in the foreign language to know at least what is being talked about. You might not know in what context or reference, but having some sense of recognition of what is being talked about is reassuring. At least you know they aren't talking about you. Well, maybe.
Example: last weekend I caught the following words while attempting to follow a conversation taking place around me:
Jorge = Jorge (that one was easy)
Pivo = beer
plage = beach
So, genius that I am, gets that they're talking about Jorge on the beach drinking beer. I don't know if they were saying he drank too much, or liked the brand, or got sick later and died, but they definitely weren't saying:
That's good. But then again, I don't know the words for "Horrible American" so I could be wrong.
2) Try to find at least 2 people who can talk to you. This often isn't possible, so you are stuck trying to look no-so-stupid, or not-so-bored. Luckily I always have one, Damir, but finding a second so I don't have to purely rely on him, and he doesn't feel like my babysitter or personal translator, can be a challenge.
Thank god for Selma.
Selma is the daughter of one of Damir's uncles or cousins, I couldn't follow which. She's five and bless her for speaking lots of english with me. The other night she latched right on to me as soon as she found out that swans are my favorite birds. She and I sat in a corner of the big leather sofa, surrounded by family, talking about birds, fairies, the color pink, what food she likes to eat, what school is like, and a host of other topics. We decided, since she owns purple wings, that she should be elected President of All Fairies, and that I, not having my own set of wings (but can borrow her pink ones) would be Vice President. Damir is not allowed to hold an office in the fairy cabinet because he is a boy, and boys can't be fairies. It's the law and everyone knows it.
I promised Selma to come visit and spend the night sometime. She's going to see that her mom makes some lasagna.
Thank heaven for little girls.