Thursday, March 7, 2013

Then & Now

An unfinished post from January 2012 -

Lost in Translation - or Simply Just Lost

When I first arrived here in Jamaica, I thought that it might just be my lack of knowledge of the language, Patois, or Patwa, as I like to spell it because I think that more accurately reflects how Jamaican's actually say it (emphasis on the "pat" part, not so much "wa"), was the reason I was so lost all the time when "participating" (more like observing) in a conversation between Jamaicans.  Also, you don't speak Patwa, you "chat Patwa".  But I digress, I thought this might be the reason that I couldn't really understand much, I thought I was missing words here and there, but what I have found in my 7 months on the island is that it's not so much the spoken language that I didn't get, but the unspoken language that exists here.

Don't get me wrong, it has been very useful to learn the language here, and to speak it with the locals if you can (and dare).  But even if you do this, you can miss a lot, because a lot of what is being communicated can only be understood because you live and grew up in Jamaica.


I decided to post this unfinished because, whoa!  What a difference a year makes!  20 months on island now (whoo hoo!) and it's not that I don't feel the same way as I did when I wrote that, but I am certainly worlds away from where I was then.  Everything is so much more comfortable now.  Uh-duh, of course after a year I'm much more comfortable, but it's just that I never thought I would or could be this confident with the language, even with the "unspoken one".

The "unspoken" language that I was referring to is the small intricacies of communication, that no doubt exist in all cultures, but is intensified when you are cluelessly submerged in it while trying to figure out what the hell is going on.

However, no matter how confident I am, there is still a good percentage of the time that I can't understand half of what people are saying, but I sure as hell can fake it a whole lot better.  And it's a lot more fun.

I used to dread the days when someone would say "Miss Wingate!  Yuh cyaan chat patwa fi wi?" or something like that.  Oy, so embarrassing!  Which if you are an PCV here for any amount of time, you will inevitably be asked that.

But now....I almost revel in it!!!

Why, you ask?  Well, I've done it so many times, I have a routine, a "go to", if you will....

(Drum roll)

And now I present to you:

 Aly C Wing's Short Guide to Chatting Patwa for the Jamaican Peace Corps Volunteer

When a local asks you to demonstrate your patwa skills.  Offer them up a - "No sah!" which always gets a roaring laugh from the crowd of Jamaicans that has no doubt congregated.  It's funny because it means no, but it's a contradiction because you are in fact speaking patwa. (Did I really have to explain that?)

And if you're feeling a little saucy that day, you can opt to add in a "Mi nah chat no patwa fi oonoo."  Which means, I won't speak patwa for you all.

But Remember!  It's all about the attitude.

It's more of a "Noooah sahh!" Which you must to exaggerate a lot, perhaps with a head toss, and raise your voice a couple of octaves on the 'sah" part".

And if you are going to add in the next part, it's all about the swagseration - (coined!)

"M'naaaaahhhhh chat noooah patwa fi oonoo."

The first part is the most important.  By the 'fi oonoo' part you won't really have to do much because you've already killed it with the "No sah" and no one will be able to hear you over the hysterical laughter.

For extra Jah points, you can put your hand on your hip and maybe kiss your teeth too.

Now your done, so run away really fast while they are still laughing so you can get out of having to suffer any further embarrassment

For all other occasions, here are your options:

1.  "ahhhright", accompanied with a casual hand wave.
2.  Stare at the ground and pretend you didn't hear.


Amendment to my "New Fear's Resolution" Post -

My good friend Jamaican Brandi informed me about something that I had failed to mention in my fat post.

That while many people in the community like to comment on how I've gained weight, by telling me I'm fat, it really is a compliment.  In no way are Jamaican's trying to make me feel bad, but they are really telling me that I look good, they like my shape.

It's also because they have a lot of pride in their country, so if they see a foreigner gaining weight they look at it as a compliment to them because we love the food so much here, we can't stop eating it and we are enjoying ourselves.  It's a way of saying you are looking hot and showing their Jamaican pride.

So to combat those misplaced compliments, she gave me some great advice.  When someone tells you that you are "fat", rather than letting it crush your self-esteem and ruin your day, just translate it in your head to "you're hair looks amazing today!"  Then it's easy to slap a big smile on your fat face go about your day feeling great about yourself!


Things I'm thankful for today:

My hair looks amazing today!
Cool weather
Ride to and from school today
Mom's visit
1st world goodies
Potato chips
My room is big enough for one-lady zumba
Computers at school
Dunkin Donuts Coffee
Fresh veggies in my delicious dinner
Date night tomorrow
And these little guys who put a smile on my face everyday...

Some Grade 2 Students and me in the improved computer lab

And thank you for all the wonderful comments too!