From the 35mm slide archives: Antarctic Research Station of Chile

25 04 2012

I just found this image in my scanned slide archives. A Chilean Research Station was one of several zodiac boat stops on my Antarctica trip on the M.S. Disko back in February 1998. I was the only person in my zodiac who knew any Spanish (and mine is atrocious, but expectations were apparently not set so high at the time), so my boat-mates asked me to attempt to communicate back and forth. I did a decent job—I understood every three words this officer said (his name escapes me all these years later). When they unanimously crowned me to be the official translator, I just knew my father would have guffawed had he been there to witness that coronation. He is fluent in Spanish (he was a U.S. Customs officer on various Texas borders for more than two decades) and was always a bit ashamed that none of his three daughters ever excelled in the language.

I, on the other hand, do know how to ask the following things in Spanish: How much is this? Where is the bathroom? Where is the kitchen? What is your name? What kind of work do you do? What is your dog’s (pero)/cat’s (gato) name? I also know the names of many objects and can sometimes string enough words together to form an almost complete sentence. I can tell when someone is talking about me (good or bad). I also know my numbers (uno, dos, tres, quatro, cinco, seis, siete, ocho….), colors (azul, naranja, rojo, blanca, amarillo…) and way too many curse words (censored here). I know the words for family (familia), sister (hermana), brother (hermano), father (padre), mother (madre), aunt (tia) and uncle (tio). Point at a household object and most likely I can remember the Spanish word for it. I know the words for cold (frio—very handy when you’re in the South Pole!), hot (caliente—so not needed in the South Pole), eat (comer), work (trabajo), beach (playa), skinny (flaco), fat (gordo), pretty (bonita), ugly (feo), stop (alto), and so on and so on. Although useless on their own, I could conjugate some verbs in Spanish really well—stringing them together in a complete sentence was whole ‘nother thing. I can sometimes successfully roll my r’s. Not much of this knowledge was helpful when trying to communicate with a Chilean research scientist half a world away, but somehow I managed and we all had a good laugh at my efforts. I did manage the Spanish words for hello, how are you, my name is Cindy, what is your name, mucho penguins, seals, whales, lots of ice, very cold, water, where is the bathroom, thank you and goodbye. What more did I need, really?

When I look at this photo, I see how happy I was to be so far out of my comfort zone and my comparatively ordinary life. Traveling on my own (with 79 other new friends and crew), happy that the journey involved 30+ foot waves (The Drake Shake) rather than what sounded rather dull (The Drake Lake), camera in hand, bundled up to the nines for the Antarctic “summer” (I didn’t look too cold here, though, and I wasn’t bundled up that much as I recall)…Sigh…I think I need to start wandering the world again (once I find the funds with which to do so). Where on earth did that girl go? I so want to be her again.


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6 responses

25 04 2012
sallywoodphotography

Wow, what an amazing trip this must have been?

25 04 2012
cindydyer

It certainly was and I’m yearning for a re-do! You can type in “Antarctica” in the search bar on my blog and see other photos I’ve posted from that amazing trip.

25 04 2012
Susan

You definitely ought to find her again. Looks fun!

25 04 2012
al

Start again in SoCal and bring Miguel :)!

2 05 2012
cindydyer

We’re going to take you up on that invite, Al, I promise!

30 05 2012
thekingoftexas

Hola, mija!

In the last paragraph of this posting you referred to your “comparatively ordinary” life. I have been around much longer than you have and I can say without a trace of hesitation that your life has never been ordinary.

Au contraire—from the moment of your birth and extending to the present, your life has been extraordinary. When your gestation period ended, you insisted on being the one child in 25 of full-term births in the United States. Yours was a breech birth—you insisted on remaining upright throughout the pregnancy, and your mother presented you to the doctor in your upright stance several times in the week immediately prior to your expected entry into the world and into our family.

On each visit he used a hands-on approach in an attempt to change your mind as to how you would make your grand entrance. With both hands on the expectant mother’s abdomen he manipulated you until your feet were up and your head was down. When the doctor stopped manipulating and raised his hands, you immediately flipped back to the position you obviously felt was right for you and you maintained it rigorously.

For every 25 full-term births in the United States each year, only one is a breech-born birth—less than one-half percent—that places you outside and above 99.6 percent if babies born in the United States, a rather rarefied position. In the words of the poet Robert Frost you chose the path less traveled, or at least you took the same path others traveled, but you insisted on walking backward. I suppose you wanted to take a final look at where you had been since conception. I consider your exit from the womb, your entrance into the world and your life since then as extraordinary.

I could go on recounting situations that were other than ordinary, events such as you and your younger sister fleecing the neighborhood children out of their savings by selling them Oreo cookies, and those popsicles that I brought from Mexico. Neither you nor your sister liked them so you palmed them off to the kids next door. I believe the two kids ran out of money about the same time the popsicles and Oreos ran out.

While your elder sister allowed me to run alongside to keep the vehicle upright when she was learning to ride a bicycle, you insisted on learning on your own by propping the bike against a tree in our front yard and pushing off towards the street from that point. The first few times you flopped in the yard before making it to the street, and when you finally dropped off the curb you crashed in the street.

Every time you fell you arose, rubbed everything that hurt and stubbornly repositioned the bike at the tree for another attempt, and you have continued that stubbornness over the years, ultimately excelling at everything you have attempted—if there have been any failures I’m not aware of them—okay, perhaps you faltered a bit in your attempt to completely master the Spanish language, but that is insignificant in comparison to your successes.

Keep up the good work and continue regaling us with your adventures and accomplishments. You can even slip in a faux failure if it’ll make you feel better, but always remember John Jackson’s wise axiom:

If you done it, it ain’t bragging!

Comparatively ordinary indeed!

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