Friday, May 25, 2007

Thoughts on Translation

If you’ve seen The Interpreter with Nicole Kidman, then you know what simultaneous translation is. This style of translation is very different from the stop and start style where the speaker takes a break and the translator then repeats what they have just heard. Simultaneous translation requires the translator to be constantly listening in one language and speaking in a second, lagging always just a few words behind. At the UN, people get special headsets linked to their translator, so all they hear is the translation. Last weekend, Andrew got the low-tech version, which involved me leaning over his shoulder, whispering in his ear for six separate two-hour sessions. All that whispering left me dizzy and on the verge of hyperventilation. But, despite the oxygen deprivation, it was a great learning experience.

Primarily and most obviously, my Spanish comprehension improved dramatically. In order to simultaneously translate a speech, you have to instantly know what you are hearing and then render it intelligibly into the second language. I only managed to get about 80% translated word for word, the rest of the time, Andrew had to settle for summaries of what was said.

Far more interesting, though, is what actually happens in the head of the translator during the translation process. While translating, it is as if you are channeling the voice of the speaker; their ideas pass through you, their attitudes, expressions and style, their goals and purpose for the talk. Although you are essential to the communication of the message, it has virtually nothing to do with you – it is all about the speaker. The translator’s only purpose is to bring the message into the language of the people. The spiritual parallel is clear. Ideally, we should be, through the Holy Spirit, translating the message of Jesus – that is, we should be completely out of the way with our own agendas, with only the ideas, attitudes, and goals of Jesus in mind as we translate his message into the language of our societies and cultures.

The other interesting part of simultaneous translation is what happens when the translator gets out of step with the speaker. At 80%, there were certainly times when I knew that I had missed something. Perhaps I yawned and got behind, or misunderstood a phrase, or forgot to translate giving Andrew Spanish instead of English, or perhaps my mind simply stopped for a bit, overloaded and exhausted. Whatever the reason, I had missed a beat (or several). When this takes place, you have two choices – one is to attempt to fill in the blank with your own ideas or understanding, the second is to simply pick back up with what is clearly being said in the given moment. Needless to say, the second option is by far the best – trying to catch the listener up by filling in ideas only risks missing what is currently being said, resulting in the listener missing even more of what the speaker is actually saying. Again, I have a lot to learn here spiritually. It is very easy to get caught up in the things that I’ve missed or done wrong, the theology that I have misunderstood (or still misunderstand), and the times when I have simply stopped listening to God, exhausted and overloaded. Perhaps, in these times, the best thing to do is to simply start up again with God, where I am now, with what I clearly hear and see in the present moment. As in translating, any other course of action only risk my mind and the message and person of Jesus becoming further muddled, confused, and lost in translation.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

road trip to San Felipe

Another joyful role we are both playing here in Ensenada is helping the ministries and ministers to harness the internet to help communicate more effectively to their supporters and the groups that come here. Read our latest post on a team-road-trip to San Felipe on the overhauled:

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

that all may be one ...

Last night, 40 Pastors and their spouses came together to worship, share, and break-bread together. This is no small feat in a town where denominational differences have, for years, kept pastors from being in the same room together. EOC’s desire to do all its work through the local churches brought some unity last night, as they stood upon the common ground of Jesuchristo and the issues that divide were left behind.

pastors dinner

Jesus’ final prayer:

“… that all maybe one Father, just as you are in me and I am in you… may they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me”

John 17:21-23

May Ensenada see God’s love through the example of these Pastors.
May we help answer Jesus’ final prayer …

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Lomas Bonitas

The colonia of Lomas Bonitas sits high above the valley, nestled against the mountain, with a panoramic view of the Bahia de Todos Santos. The mountains on the north side jut up from the Pacific Ocean, pulling back and east, before they crash back to the sea on the south side of the coast, revealing a long and somewhat narrow agricultural valley. On a clear day, the steep point at the southern end of the bay is clearly etched against the hard blue sky. To the north, the straight, dark lines of Ensenada’s streets’ pave the valley floor, leading to a cruise ship that dwarfs the port. Immediately below the village lay the well- ordered fields of corn, broccoli, onions, something that looks like anise. Baja comes in only two colours, brown and blue, and from Lomas Bonitas, it is clear that even the fields of broccoli, covered in a powdery loam, are really just another shade of tan, a khaki, but still brown. The crystalline blue of the Pacific mirrored in the sun-filled sky and the hard brown earth, a desert without water and only rock, wash out to white oblivion in photos, with perhaps a silhouette blocking out the blazing sun.

The drive up to Lomas Bonitas from the valley floor isn’t long, but it is best taken slowly. The roads are pock-marked and pitted from the occasional heavy rains and the inevitable spinouts that result. The road wraps around the back of the mountain and turns, insisting on an impossible trajectory straight up, passing through Las Flores and its two-storied weather-beaten church, and finally arriving at the crest of the mountain, an almost cliff ledge overlooking the valley and sea below. This is Lomas Bonitas.

Andrew and I are with Abram, a big, soft man with silver hair, black wrap-around sunglasses, and large paw-like hands. He has stopped his jeep and gets out in front of a small property, less than ten meters squared. In front of the jeep sits a small concrete slab, to the left of the slab is a long, narrow shelter with a clothes line and a small garden in front. The dwelling is made from the wooden flats used for shipping boxes of produce, which are nailed together and stacked so as to provide slatted walls. Blue tarps are stretched over a center beam and tied down, forming a roof. At the other end of the clothes line stands a small, partially open toilet. Along the side of the property is a small garden with a flower plant and some cactus, a common food in Mexico. Another small potted plant is nailed next to the doorway. Abram, who speaks almost no English, introduces us to a solid, dark woman from Oaxaca Sebastiana who is half my height. She and her two children, Rosio and Jidel, invite us into their small house.

Her sister is in today as well, visiting, and she and her four boys gather up three crates, placing them in the centre of the room and draping clothes over them to form chairs for us. Sebastiana, Rosio and Jidel sit on their bed. The inside of their house is clean and tidy. They have no furniture. The bed is a piece of plywood set on cinderblocks with a blanket over the top. Cinderblocks and plywood also form a makeshift table that doubles as a kitchen counter. In one corner, a third make-shift table forms the kitchen, with an old, portable two burner stove running off a small gas tank. Plywood and cardboard line the walls on the inside of the house, providing protection from the constant wind. Nails in the plywood hold a pot, a potato peeler, a ceramic mug. Next to the door, an empty soda bottle cut in half, is nailed to the wall, serving as a toothbrush and soap holder. The floor is hard packed dirt.

Sebastiana’s husband has died recently in an accident. They had bought the land, planning to build a house, send their children to school, provide for them a better life than theirs of working on the farms below. Now that he’s dead, she is trying to provide this dream for her children. She refuses to let them go off to work with her in the fields, even though Rosio is 13 and in most families she would be expected to help support the family. Instead, she puts most of her meager income toward paying about $200 a year for her children’s education, leaving very little for luxuries, like a bed or other furniture.

In the second week of June, a small house, with a floor, windows, and a shingled roof will be built for Sebastiana, Rosio and Jidel on the concrete slab in front of the jeep. The children are all smiles, in part for the house, in part because Andrew is taking their picture and they love the attention and the encouragement to perform. The Rosio and I chat about school; she enjoys all her subjects although at times the work is difficult. In a year and a bit, she will be starting secondary school, which is not free, as primary school is in Mexico. But Sebastiana is smiling, certain that God will provide, as he always has.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

a genuinely good day

Tuesday, May 8 started early - not usually a good way to begin! 5:50am out of bed to lead a team bible study at 6:00. Coffee in hand, I pray that God will reveal to us the heart of his message. It’s been a while since I have regularly led bible studies, so I’m a little nervous as to how it will go … I have only known these folks for a week - will anyone contribute anything? Will they connect with what I have to say? Will my new theological college insights mean anything outside of the academy?

We are working through the book, or “synagogue sermon,” of James, my passage is chapter 1:19-27. I’m a little concerned that we will get through this too quickly, I have about an hour to fill … but we didn’t get past the first verse:

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen,
slow to speak and slow to become angry

Lots of the discussion I directed, but I also learnt much from the team about the heart of what God is trying to say here … an hours worth of reflections, too much to share in this space. In an inadequate nutshell, I think this verse is about our state of being. Are we so wound up in self importance and frustration that when something is said or done, and we don’t like it, we quickly respond with rash words and anger? Or are we in a state that we seek further understanding through listening and thus loving those around us. From the Greek, a sense of the ideal being that we are slow to move into (eis – a preposition that describes movement into or among) words and anger as we are in (eis again) a good state to listen. The challenge to the team – this week, take a litmus test on your state of being by how you respond to others.

8am – EOC, where we are for 7 weeks, has traditionally done very little specific women’s ministry. So today is a first! 30 pastors’ wives arrive to be given a new outfit – shoes, handbag, make-up, smelly soaps for the road – the works! Coffee and fruit together, a bible message from a pastor's wife, a chance to get to know and encourage each other personally and in their ministries. A room full of women eating chocolate deserts is no place for a man! The constant women’s chatter was exhausting for me, even though I couldn’t understand 95% of it. Yet I knew a wonderful time was being had by all. Today I got to participate in ‘secret women’s business’ by ministering with my camera. I love it when ministry and things you are passionate about come together like this, it becomes joyful to do. Through my camera lens, I saw women dressed up in fine new clothes, looking and feeling beautiful and special – so important for a woman’s heart! More significantly, I sensed dignity being restored amongst these women who rarely get to be treated as special or have a day out put on for them. A great event! More photo’s on our Flickr.

In Mexico, you can't take for granted many of the things you did when you grew up in Sydney. You can’t drink the tap water, so drinking water needs to be trucked in and it runs empty. The roads where we are staying are dirt and horribly bumpy. There is trash everywhere, even on many of the beautiful beaches.

1:30pm – after hearing that the camp has to make an ‘exchange’ with the garbage man to haul the camp's extra trash away, and also that the camp is spending too much money in the kitchen, a lively bi-lingual discussion broke out in the kitchen with Jess working overtime to interpret both ways and contribute herself. For a country that seems to be covered in trash, I don’t see the logic in the camp having to pay money it doesn’t have for extra trash to be removed. The first step is to Reduce. Better purchasing for the kitchen, buy only what we need. Better communication with the campers: don’t serve what they wont eat; or serve too much; communicate that many people in Mexico don’t have enough food, so don’t waste food by taking what you cannot eat. Reuse - many boxes, cans and bags can be reused rather than trashed. Recycle and compost!

A fear that I have in my life, is that it is full of talk. Not today!
I researched, found cans, made signs, collected scraps and dug out a composting bin. It’s a start. It takes about 4-6 weeks to form a new good habit – that’s all the time we have here. It will be an uphill endeavor, but I’m going to try. As a result, maybe we will be able to achieve something: less Pesos spent, less trash added to Mexico’s pile; more healthy soil; education, awareness and new habits for our team and the visiting groups; operating with more integrity in a corrupted country; ushering in a bit of God’s good creation design by taking up his invitation in Genesis 1 to subdue his creation well. Small steps, but you have to start somewhere …

8:30pm – enjoyed Val Kilmer and Elisabeth Shue in The Saint