More notes on a translator

Wake up early so you and N can get a head start on your day. Head to the market via the “taxi stand” at the main crossroads downtown. Stand by and look uninvolved as she grilles the drivers for rates and times; you don’t want them to raise her rate because of you. Sweep the market, buy some foods–her for the ride back to UB, you for your last two days in Kharkhorin.

On your birthday, stop by a shop in town for a bottle of vodka. Your family will serve you a special meal: öökhgüi buudz and khuushuur (Mongolian dumplings and fried meat pastries without added fat!!!! a travesty!?!). Thank them. You are truly touched. They have forsaken fat for you, what could be more touching? Reflect on what this says about Mongolian cuisine. Or don’t.

Laugh knowingly when they pull out a bottle of vodka. Realize it’s going to be a long night. But this is your chance, the last hope of drawing N out of her awkward shell. You will be wrong. She will refuse the birthday vodka. Be confused, who rejects vodka in Mongolia? She said she drinks, but just “doesn’t feel like it.” On your birthday? Disagree, and let the two shots you’re ahead do the arguing. Engage in a debate. Wonder if its worth the fight.

Meanwhile, your host mother lobbies for opening the second bottle. You tell her _only if N drinks with us_.

Finally, she relents, in principle. Yet she continues playing with one of the kids’ videogames in the corner of the kitchen. Seeing her from afar, she is moping like the seven-year-old owner of the toy would. Her drink sits on the table unattended.

If she drinks, you miss it, and she is none the jollier. Find her sleeping in your shared room.

The next morning be cheerful. Hope _that she had fun last night_. Don’t be shocked if she replies, flatly, _No_. After all, _you made her drink_. Don’t bother trying to explain that it was her choice to make. _You made it impossible for her not to drink_.

Be amused that you have, apparently, just peer-pressured a 30-year-old into drinking on your birthday. Ponder the moral implications, and the hilarity of the situation during your frigid walk to town. Hopefully the thoughts will cloud your mind from the tingling of your stinging face and numbing extremities.

Be thankful you brought _expedition-weight_ long underwear. You never knew such a glorious thing existed.

Try not to think about the fact that you’ve been wearing the same pair for the last two weeks.

___On Rapport___
Try not to complain too much about the cold–even if your translator seems to sympathize.

Also try not to tease her for holding irrational ethnic/national stereotypes during your first extended interaction.

These may, or may not, improve your chances of developing rapport.

___On Translation___
Accept the fact that after words leave your mouth, and before they reach the mind of your interviewees, they will take a vacation of epic proportions to lands unknown and unseen. After which they may not resemble their former selves. _Ever since Jimmy came back… he’s… never quite been the same…_

Realize there are some questions/words/concepts/jokes/idioms that just won’t be understood.