11 August 2013

No Dying in Spanish

Several years ago, my wingman/stylist/partner and I went to Spanish school in Costa Rica. Home base was the complete opposite of a tourist town. Dusty roads, roaming cattle, cinder block houses. No English menus, not even a beach.

Rush Hour
The aim of our vacation was to immerse ourselves in a tropical climate while engaging in some mental stimulation. I wanted to shake up my brain. At the end of our stay we’d accomplished a lot. I could write a one-page essay in Spanish, and Jim, who had become the honorary mayor of the town, could go into the store and ask for a coat hanger.

But here’s what I really loved about being forced to speak a different language – it really makes you choose your words carefully. Each syllable is precious, and stringing together a tiny sentence involves a lot of focus. The point is to get the message across, rather then get lost in wordy drama.

This is experience came to mind while I was at the airport. The travellers were tired and thirsty , and nobody seemed to want to be there but me (I like airports). ‘I’m dying for a drink,’ I heard someone say. I looked over at this seemingly healthy man and he didn’t look remotely dehydrated, let alone dying. He just looked tired & crabby, with a little pee stain on his chinos.

Moments later I heard it again. ‘I’m dying to get home’.  And again, ‘I’ll die if the flight is delayed’. In fact, this is something I hear many times during the day. People are ‘dying’ over very small things. ‘Dying to meet you’,   ‘Dying to see your new boobs’. In my Spanish school in Costa Rica we would have said this -  ‘We am eager to go home.’  Or, ‘I are wanting look the new chest.’

But in our world we confuse the word ‘dying’ with desire. And this couldn't be further from the truth. So the one place where I don’t want to hear this coming from is my own lips. I am not ‘dying’ to do anything! After being around hospitals for the last two years, I can’t confuse dying with being eager. Especially after hearing the word ‘dying’ in context, and seeing the face of the person who is speaking the word in fear. And even more especially, when you’re surrounded by people whose one single goal it is to live.

After three weeks in Coast Rica, Jim had only had a small arsenal of words. ‘Percha’ was one, 'AraƱa' was another. He had to ration his words carefully, and each one had to convey something great.  

So when Jim walked down the dusty streets as the unofficial honourary mayor of our little town he would raise his arm in greeting, and as is the Tico custom, pump is fist and call out  ‘Pura Vida!’

Translation - ‘Pure Life'.

There's living, rather than dying, going on there.