Thursday, May 31, 2007

Meetings in Spanish

So we had a meeting yesterday at work that could end up reconfiguring my position more towards an outreach/communications direction. While a lot is still up in the air, one thing that this program clearly doesn’t do very well is market its successes and it looks like they’re planning on addressing that, at least internally (there are security concerns with external marketing). I would consider this a positive development as I am interested in writing (obviously) and it could actually get me into the field every now and then to conduct interviews and things of that nature.

We’ll see. Given how things are organized around here, I’m not holding my breath. But at the least, it’s a glimmer in the near distant future of something positive.

Anyway, meetings in Spanish are always fun and my comprehension varies depending on who attends. For example, on Tuesday I went to a meeting (by semi-accident) that I wasn’t really supposed to be at, but I found it to be interesting and I feel that I understood probably 80% or more. Of course, when there is a USAID guy at the meeting, the Spanish is more formal, people wait their turn to speak, and it the proceedings are better organized and easier to follow.
Yesterday, however, was an internal meeting. That means everyone yells over everyone else (a bit of a madhouse, really), things are less organized, and there is much, much more colloquial Spanish.

For example, yesterday at one point the boss said, “como un sanduche” or “like a sandwich”. I was a bit confused. What’s like a sandwich? How does that metaphor fit in this context? Hmmm. What type of sandwich? I’m thinking roast beef and Munster on rye with a bit of mustard, lettuce, and tomato. Or perhaps a chicken parmesan sub. That would be delicious. And then I’m jolted back to the conversation, completely lost, and suddenly hungry and desiring a sandwich.

Well, little by little, right? Maybe someday I’ll have sufficient Spanish that my mind doesn’t wander so much during our “meetings”. Wars, morelike. Internal meetings are a cacophony of voices and noise that drowns out reasonability. I know that the fights are evidence of a cultural difference, but I find it rude all the same. Let people speak, let people finish, then make your point. Of course, I fault the manager. He doesn’t take control; he’s way too laid back. Cultural learnings.


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