A la Guerilla Pacífica en Argentina

The weather smelled the same, the colors sagged as before, the sound of the words as they became language–igualito. I was for sure in Argentina, and so very excited to be there. Having left Brazil and thereby shorn the Portuguese strait jacket I had voluntarily worn, I was relieved to be speaking Spanish and enjoying the false sensation of a homecoming to a place that was not my home by any stretch of the imagination. Asking what was the slowest way into the city, I was instructed to take the colectivo number 8.

Lauren and her gorilla visitor.
Lauren and gorilla get intimate

One of my motives for coming to Argentina was to be reminded that Argentina-land words like colectivo, remis, and boludo exist. Because I’m an interpreter, I have the distinct privilege of pouring mounds of time and energy into the various regionalisms within Latin America. And I don’t believe I’ll ever grow tired of it. As I contemplated the Brazilian origin of the Argentine quilombo, I headed off, in the loving embrace of colectivo number 8, to San Telmo where I would soon check off a second motive for coming to Argentina: an unannounced, two-week visit with dear friend and Cucuyo collaborator Lauren Stephenson. Wearing a gorilla mask. Suffice to say the surprise went well and Lauren took me in as we made plans to take on Buenos Aires.

Cervantes Ticket
Free movie at the Cervantes National Theatre

Being in Buenos Aires is like superfood for an interpreter. The city has such a grand literary legacy and enough culture to make your heart bleed. In my short time here we’ve already seen three films, eaten chorizo from a street stand, been to an artists’ market in San Telmo, and paused in the cobblestone streets of Villa Crespo to eavesdrop on an evening opera lesson. I am in lust with Buenos Aires–it’s like being in Gotham City minus the oversized bats.

My third purpose in coming to Buenos Aires was to talk with someone in the interpretation world about the market in South America and the availability of educational programs. The blogosphere and our friends at google had given me a couple of leads.  I went to visit two agencies which also provide in-house courses: Excelti and McDonough, and then on to the towering UBA–Universidad de Buenos Aires–to inquire about their Master in Translation and Interpretation.

UBA facultad de derecho
Lauren and I in front of the Law department of the Universidad de Buenos Aires which houses the Master’s of Interpretation and Translation.

The folks at Excelti didn’t really have much time, the UBA doesn’t really train conference interpreters, but McDonough was receptive and helpful and referred me to a veteran Argentine conference interpreter who happened to be–guess where–right back home in New York City! This was the ultimate case of going around your elbow to get to your nose and after meeting with her upon my return to the states over tea and tartines, I can easily say it was well worth it.

I didn’t ask her permission to use her name in this blog so we’ll just call her Jane. Jane was super down to earth, willing to answer all my questions, and so experienced that she was able to give me sound advice. She was the second conference interpreter with which I had ever sat down, and the second who got her start in the industry by being thrown in the cold, wet pond and told to swim. The beautiful thing is that it seems she liked it so much that everything in her demeanour said, “come on in, the water’s fine…”

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