Playing With Words on a Saturday Afternoon






In Different Voices

When I worked as a customer service representative, part of my job was to be on the phone and assist people calling from all over Europe.

We would mainly speak English. Now, I think my English is good enough, but I have an accent, of course. The thing is that I still have to figure out what kind of accent I have.

From people’s reactions on the phone, I came to the conclusion that I have some kind of multiple accent disorder. 🙂

“Are you Dutch? You have a Dutch accent” Yeah, right…

“Are you from Sweden? You have a Swedish name?” Do I, really?!

“I thought you were from England. Your English is so good” Ok…maybe this one was being ironic.

“May I ask you something personal? Are you Russian?” Yes, you can ask. And nyet, I’m not Russian.

“I hear a French note in your accent” Oh lĂ , lĂ !

Hardly anyone had a good guess. Sometimes Italian callers would ask if I was Italian. I don’t know if they recognized something in my accent. When answering the phone, we had to say our name, so I think it was that. But hey, I’ve a Swedish name, so I don’t think they got it from my name!

Eventually the curious customer would ask where I was from.

“Oh, you’re Italian. Bongeornow, kome shtai!” Ehm, yes. I’m Italian and I speak Italian. But you don’t!

My First Two Months After Quitting a Crappy Job

Exactly two months ago, on March 11th, I quit my job.

I had been working for the company-I-shall-not-name since June 2010. Nine months. Not a very long time, but long enough to make me lose 5 kilos and almost get crazy. But even though I was getting crazy and crazier, more and more stressed, and even a little depressed, it took me quite some time to make up my mind and decide to leave.

I kept telling myself that maybe I could stay a little bit longer, it wasn’t so bad after all. Actually, it was! The team had been understaffed since before Christmas, the amount of work was getting higher and higher, and the amount of stress as well. The supervisor was a mess, and to be honest the salary wasn’t that great.

But I had a salary after all, didn’t I? That’s true. But was it worth almost getting sick for so little a salary? Having the privilege to choose and take some time off, I finally made my decision.

Eventually I told my supervisor that I didn’t like how the project was managed, that I had enough and in two weeks I was leaving. And after two very, very, very long weeks, finally the moment to say goodbye arrived. Freedom, at last!

It’s been now two months since I have left the company-I-shall-not-name. How is it going? Great!

Now I get the time to do all the things I didn’t have time to do while I was working.

I picked up some knitting projects, and I’m making some attempts at crafting. I’m trying out new recipes, and I’m baking cakes. I also eat them 🙂 (with a little help from M.) but I didn’t gain my 5 kilos back. Which is not a bad thing, after all.

Pear and ginger cake

I can also go shopping! When I was working either the shops where closed (in what country the shops close at 5 pm?? The Netherlands…) or I was too tired to go out. Now I can go out, even just for a walk, whenever I want.

I keep reading, the only difference is that I’m on the couch – with a coup of tea and a piece of cake – and I don’t have to stop reading because I have to get off the train. Or because I’m too tired after a day at work, and my eyes are closing.

I started gardening. I’m growing a sunflower and some herbs. I got celery, parsley, chives and basil. They’re still too small, not quite enough to season the new recipes I’m trying, but I’ll just have to wait a little bit.

Home garden

I also started this blog. Like my plants, this blog too will grow with time? We’ll see.

While I do all these things, I’m also taking the time to think what I really want to do with my life. So since a few weeks I’ve started a course on translation. Now it’s a good time to go back to something I studied and I like (and was good at. Let me brag a little!).

I’m still not sure where I will end up. What I’m sure of is that I’m finally trying to be the one who makes things happen, and not just wait to stumble upon them by chance.

Indonesian food and random thoughts about identity

On Friday night, M. and I decided to have dinner at the Indonesian restaurant.

We arrived and asked for een tafel voor twee. The waitress seemed a bit confused, but after a moment she showed us to our table.

Another waiter took our orders, two biertjes and two rijstafels. He then asked us something in Dutch. A moment of panic! Ok, let’s switch to English.

Then the other waitress brought us the food, and said something in Dutch. We didn’t get anything, and we asked her to speak English. She looked like “Hey, you were speaking Dutch earlier!”

After a while, she came again at our table to check if everything was OK. She explained that she tought we were Dutch, and she was surprised when we switched to English.

How she could think that we were Dutch, that’s a mystery to me!

Anyway, she was also non Dutch. And when we asked her where she was from, she said: “Oh, I’m from a lot of places. I’m from Canada, I’m from Hong Kong…”

At first I was tempted to reply: “Ok, but where exactly are you from? Canada or Hong Kong?”. But then, is it really that important? Do we really have to look for an exact definition? Besides, the most precise information is exactly the one she gave us. And more interesting too!

Not only we learned that she is from here and there (and since a few months she is in the Netherlands to study) but her answer made me think about one’s identity, roots and culture.

It also reminded me when, while I was in Canada, I was asked a similar question – where are you from? are you Italian, you don’t look like Italian? – and I answered: “My mom is from the Philippines, my dad is Italian and I am…me!”

Not very precise, but true.

In between worlds

I just realized that it’s been four years now since I graduated. I also realized that I’ve spent half of this period abroad. The other half I was at home – that would be Italy, even though I’m not that sure now where home is.

Six months in Canada plus one year and a half in the Netherlands make two years living somewhere else. In a place different from where I was born and grew up. A place where they speak a language different from my native one.

One, English, is a language that I have studied and learned. The other one, Dutch, is a language that I am, or was, trying to learn.

What’s the consequence of that? Does the fact of translating oneself from one place to the other (and from one language to the other) result in some kind of loss?

It happens, when you move, that you lose things. You thought that CD was in that box, but it isn’t. Or the corkscrew is not with the other kitchen stuff anymore (true story). Can this also happen to people as it happens to things? Is it possible that you lose part of yourself in the moving?

Maybe something does really get lost and you find yourself in a world in-between, not belonging anymore to the place you’re coming from, but not yet part of the place you came to.

A friend of mine was telling me that when she goes back to Brazil with her husband to visit family and friends, they say “Here’s the Dutch couple!”. But they’re Brazilian. Or they’re not anymore, after living in the Netherlands for many years? But if they’re not Brazilian, are they Dutch?

In between worlds for me means also feeling  in between languages. You translate your thoughts into words, but in which language?

In this confusion, I find myself thinking in one language, but speaking in another one. I sometime watch TV in English, read the Dutch subtitles and make comments in Italian about the program.

And it goes also the other way around, as new words of a new language start slowly to have a meaning.

I was at Rotterdam Central Station some time ago, and they announced something about the high-speed train to Paris. The announcement was given first in Dutch, then in French and finally in English. To my surprise, when they gave the announcement in English what I thought was “They said that already!”. I had understood the part in Dutch almost without even realizing. It felt strange. I guess the weird and guttural noises did not sound that foreign anymore.

I don’t think that there’s only a loss then, if there really is one, in this confusion, in this in-betweenness. There’s for sure also something to gain in experiencing life in a different country and in a different language.

Moving from one place to the other, I’m not sure if I lost or gained something. Probably both things.

What I’m sure of is that I need a new corkscrew.

Babel on my mind

I now live in the Netherlands, and my knowledge of Dutch is just enough to answer “een beetje” when asked if I speak Dutch. And that’s about it!

So, I guess I won’t be blogging in Dutch.

What language then?

Italian? It’s my native language, after all. Spanish, French? No, I’d better not use a language I’m not so fluent in.

English? I’ve started writing this post in English, so I guess I’ve already decided which language I want to use.

I might switch to another one along the way though.

You never know. Non si sa mai.

Hopefully, I won’t get lost in translation!