Friday, May 16, 2008

La Compu

A couple of days ago, Primo climbed up on his chair at the dining room table, made himself comfortable in front of my MacBook and then yelled:

"¡No! ¡La compu no! ¡No toque el monitor! ¡Hay que esperar! ¡Bájese de ahí!"

(Translation: No! Not the computer! Don't touch the monitor! You have to wait! Get down from there!)

Then he looked at me expectantly.

Me: Dude, I was going to let you use the computer. Sheesh.

I wasn't sure if I should be impressed that he strung so many phrases together, because really, it was nothing more than a perfect impression of Mama.

[That boy loves my computer, my cell phone (though I have to be careful because he racked up $20 in cell phone charges one month), calculators, the digital camera, and, needless to say, the iPod Touch. Both of the boys love looking at photos on the Touch and especially love flicking them back and forth on the screen. I got them toy cell phones in an attempt to reclaim mine, but they were not fooled for an instant.]

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

My day in bullets

(Is it true that a blogger that blogs in bullets is a lazy blogger? Because if so, I’m afraid I might be one. There will be non-bulleted posts later, but not tonight.)
  • I’m finally out of the house again. Today and tomorrow I’m interpreting, and my colleague is a good friend who gave me a ride home, brought a bottle of wine for us to drink during American Idol, and proceeded to swoon over David Cook with me. We didn’t even ask to work together, it just worked out that way. I wish it always worked out that way.
  • We drove around practically the entire Beltway (and then some) to get from meeting to meeting today. It was a long day. In Fairfax, we noticed streets with names like Random Wall Street and Random Hills Way.
[Keen:] Is this for real? Whoever named these roads apparently just couldn’t be bothered.

[Colleague:] Oh, I’ll bet they were just drunk.
  • We were given wireless interpreting equipment by the organization we were working for. The best kind, the kind I’d like to invest in someday, so kudos to them. But they get points deducted for neglecting to include earphones. I get points for remembering that both my colleague and I had our iPods with us, and fortunately, only two people needed our services. It kind of cracked me up each time I looked over at one of our visitors and saw the white Apple earbuds. But hey, it worked.
  • I usually open this program on my MacBook (invaluable if you have a Mac and toddlers who like to bang on your keyboard, I say) so the boys can play on it, but this morning I forgot. Thus, a job report I was working on was edited by Primo to read: “I believe that the perceptual changes can be summed up by 098765hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh” I’m sure my program officer will be pleased.
  • I had to get out of the house really early today and take the Metro way, way out west. So early that P and the boys were still asleep when I left. So early that I didn’t have time to make coffee. In fact, today was the first day in approximately two years that I hadn’t had coffee. Not a good thing. We were each then given a nice travel mug as a gift at our first meeting, which I planned to fill up at the first Starbucks I came across—and I didn’t see one all day. When has that ever happened? I mean, seriously.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Mother's Day

P is out of town visiting his parents. He'd been looking forward to leaving me alone with the twins, since I travel for work occasionally and have left him to hold down the fort with the boys many times. I was looking forward to being alone with them for a weekend, though not so excited about the fact that I had to finish up some editing for a project due tomorrow. In fact, I underestimated how long it would take me to do, but the turnaround time on the project was pretty short, so there wasn't much leeway. I was up until one on Friday, and last night I finally threw in the towel at 4:00 and distracted the boys with stickers that they had received in a care package for an hour or so this morning so I could finish up my work. That worked incredibly well--I don't recommend it, but thankfully, it worked.

So I spent a good portion of Mother's Day feeling really tired, and yet it was the best day ever. I made myself a strong latte and some pumpkin waffles for all of us. By the time I got breakfast--or brunch-- on the table, it was 10:30 and the boys were so hungry that Secondo ate 3/4 of a Belgian waffle and Primo ate a whole one, and then I had to give him another quarter when he stole mine off my plate. Damn. Secondo and I played with his trains on the floor and he chatted up a storm and used all kinds of phrases I'd never heard him say before, in the right context. Primo played "The Yodeling Veterinarian of the Alps" over and over again on the CD player just so he could giggle hysterically when Mama showed off her yodeling skills. I paid no attention to the mess in the kitchen, or the mess in the living room, for that matter. We never even got out of the house today, because I was too tired in the morning, and it poured in the afternoon.

I put them down for a nap at one and took a nap myself, even after the latte. When the boys nap, they nap HARD, hard enough that I have to wake them up if I want them to get to bed at a reasonable hour, but today we all slept until five. They woke up before I did. I napped hard myself, so hard that when I looked at the clock, I was so disoriented that I thought it might be morning. We had dinner, read from their favorite book of poems, and Secondo, as usual, insisted on sleeping in his brother's crib with him. Bedtime wasn't until nine, though I usually don't mess with their 8:00 bedtime, and I heard them read books in their crib until over an hour after that. And my 35-pound boys are now one sweet, snoring tangle of limbs in a crib that is really too small for the two of them to share.

I don't set much store by Mother's Day. Today didn't even really feel like Mother's Day--I didn't even think to call my own mother, because in Costa Rica, it's celebrated on August 15th, so that will always be the real Mother's Day to me. But I can't imagine a better one. And I think that ten, twenty years down the line, this is one that I would probably give anything to relive.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A Little Break

It's been a pretty productive few days. I stuck to my schedule, most of the time, and I've gotten a lot done. My biggest problem is that sitting at home working on translations in front of my computer is seriously boring me. In the past few days, my only original thoughts have been:
  • These new lounge pants from Costco are super comfortable. Hey, I think I'll wear them again tomorrow. Because I can.
  • I'd forgotten that run-on sentences in formal Spanish documents can go on for a page and a half. Wow, making sense of those is challenging.
  • I'll bet that frozen burrito I just ate for lunch was really, really bad for me.
  • I'm so glad I invested in a couple of really good legal dictionaries.
  • Do not, do not check Google Reader. Bad Keen. Wait for your break.
  • I sure wish I remembered how I did my page numbering on my last translation. For a translator, I sure can be an idiot when it comes to Microsoft Word.
  • Since I'm not spending money out this week, and instead am spending so much time inside listening to my music collection, I think I'll buy a couple of albums from iTunes. (Jeremias. I'm kind of hooked. And I'm obsessed with Jarabe de Palo. Why hadn't I heard of them before?)
  • I can't wait to go to the store and buy milk. Just ten more minutes until I get to go downstairs. And two little boys are waiting for me.

Monday, May 5, 2008


I’m going to consider this a public service announcement, since this is something most people don’t know: Translation and interpretation are not the same thing. The difference between the two is simple. The written word is translated, the spoken word is interpreted. (If there are any translators or interpreters in your life, they will likely be very, very impressed if you know this.) Thus, there is no such thing as a court translator or simultaneous translation. When I work in court, I am interpreting for people all day, not translating, and when I’m at home translating documents on the computer, trust me, it is anything but simultaneous. The fact that so few people know the difference is kind of a pet peeve of mine, although I suppose I can’t really fault them, since I didn’t know the difference myself until I decided I wanted to get into the field and began researching graduate schools.

My first year, I studied both translation and interpretation, and my second year, I was faced with the decision to specialize in either one or the other. I chose interpretation. This was partly because I couldn’t see myself in front of the computer doing translations all the time, and partly because my professors advised that I would really benefit from the specialized training in interpretation that my school offered and that I would be unable to find anywhere else.

But mostly, it was because I loved interpreting. Once I started interpreting, I was hooked, quite simply. I love the adrenaline rush that I get from interpreting. When I interpret, every speaker is different and it’s like I’m on a ride at the amusement park—I have no idea if it will be the equivalent of the merry-go-round, predictable and kind of boring, or if it will be like one of those insane roller coasters with all the loops that will make me feel nauseated and regret I ever got on in the first place. I love the variety of jobs I do, and the fact that virtually no two days are the same. I love that I’ve interpreted in the strangest places, at conferences, on shooting ranges, for weddings and during births, during trade negotiations, at a hootenanny in the Ozarks, the World Trade Center, in jail, in court, hospitals, museums, for people who are household names and for countless others who are not. It requires a specific set of skills, including diligent preparation and the ability to think on your feet. And there are many advantages, such as getting out of the house (don’t laugh, I’ve been stuck in the house for days at a time), but mostly the fact that once you’re done, whether you were absolutely brilliant or merely adequate, you’re done. You can go look up the things that gave you trouble later (and if you’ve made an embarrassing mistake, trust me, that word will be burned into your brain forever and EVER), and you can correct things on the spot if you have a colleague to help you out, but usually once the words are out of your mouth, you’re done and you can’t go back.

Translation, I’m discovering, is an entirely different animal. I’ve only started doing more of it in the last year or so. And it requires a completely different set of skills than interpreting does. It requires the ability to sit at your desk and stay on task, and the ability to move on when enough is enough, because really, if you’re earning cents per word, spending one hour obsessing over one word, a word that may not even be all that important in the grand scheme of things, does not make much financial sense. Even though I feel like I’m never quite done with a translation, I’m always working against a deadline and at some point I have to turn it in. (Though I’ve always been happy with the work I’ve turned in, I think that you’re never really done with a translation). And though I think every translator has his or her own style, I’ve discovered that I need to just finish my translation and take a break and do something else for a while, make sure there’s a clean mental break, because when I go back and edit my work later, the distance between the translating and the editing makes a huge difference and a lot of things become much clearer the second time around. There are many advantages as well, such as the fact that I can sit at home and translate in my pajamas, I don’t have to rushrushrush in the morning and run to catch the bus, I have no commute so I get to spend more time with my kids, I can work less during the day and more at night if I have to (and often I have to), and I can work translations around interpreting jobs.

The whole reason for this post? I’m looking at an entire week of translating, without a single interpreting gig to break it up, for the first time in my career. I’m working on an interesting project, so I’m looking forward to it, but as I said, I’m new to the hard-core translating. I feel like I need to set some goals for myself. I am not the most disciplined person, so I think this will help.

I will treat this as my full-time job for this week. I will manage my time well. I will start at 8:00 a.m. I will stop at 5:00 p.m. I will limit my use of the Internet to work-related sites for research purposes (oh, this is a hard one). I will take a break for lunch, and I will take two 15-minute breaks during the day, which I will use to go downstairs for coffee, check my e-mail and aimlessly surf the Internet. This all may sound obvious to full-time translators, but I need to get this all straight so I can stay on track tomorrow.

Maybe I’ll post an update tomorrow. During one of my fifteen-minute breaks, of course.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

If you buy a box of drinking straws...

My boys are so different that I sometimes find it hard to believe they're brothers. Primo inherited his father's looks and his scientific mind. As for Secondo, well, to hear my family talk, he's a lot like me. And although they can't quite have long, involved conversations with me just yet, I watch them play and have fun imagining what's going on in their little minds. I brought a box of drinking straws home the other day for them to play with, and I think their thought processes went something like this:

Primo: Oh, cool, straws! Hmm. I'm going to line them all up on the floor. Nice and straight. First, I'll sort them all by color. Wait, but first I have to count them all. First in Spanish, then English. Hey, I think I'll use them to make letters. Look, I made an M! But if I walk over to the other side, it's a W. And if I remove a straw, it's an N. Oh, and if I remove one more it's a V, but if I put one across the V, it's an A. How cool is that???

Secondo: Oh, cool, straws! Hmm. I think I'll chew on them.