People Watching at the Home Hotel, Language, and Peace Prizes

October 10, 2009

The Home Hotel on Honduras Street makes for excellent people watching.  For less than a nice dinner in New York City, Scott and I are staying at an industrial chic, super cool hotel (on the wrong side of Palermo Viejo’s tracks).  I’m falling for it’s polished cement floors, shaggy rugs, warm wood furniture, and giant pump bottles of high-quality shampoo, conditioner and bubble bath.  I also just got back from the included breakfast, where the small dining room was filled with the most universally attractive tables of hipsters and carefully ruffled jet-setters.  As we all spread jam (served in shot glasses) on bread there was an Asian couple next to me, he with tattoos up his forearm, she with perfectly mussed hair and a cute flowered dress.  At another table, two Brits in plaid shirts mused as they sipped apple basil juice from another shot glass.  The conversations that floated through the small space were quick and witty.

Another table had a young British businessman and a stunning Brazilian woman.  He was asking her questions in English, she was speaking to the waitress in Spanish, and every once in a while she peppered her sentences with Portuguese.  It reminded me of something Fabio had said as we were driving to Democratica a couple of weeks ago.  (Fabio lives in Rio and we were connected to him though Marshall’s manager who was in town for the Rio film festival–he’s a mover and shaker in the Brazilian film industry).  He was talking about doing business in English–that there’s one English that people have to know to do business with Americans and Brits, and then another sort of international English.  He was describing meetings that he’s had in LA, or New York, or London with Parisians, Spaniards, Japanese people, and they speak in English, but it’s grammar is less precise.  The sentences can be wrong, but they all know what they’re trying to say.

Scott and I were talking about that last night, too.  As we spoke together in Portuguese over dinner to practice, I was saying that I’m less shy about it now.  Even if some of the conjugations are wrong, I’ve realized that I should just go for it and not be self-conscious about speaking.  We were talking about the collaboration of speaking a foreign language–that even if someone speaks English badly, you’re still immediately at ease when they speak your language.  You work to figure out what they’re saying, meet them half way.  I like the idea of language being a collaborative effort between the speaker and the listener.

I’m also still trying to figure out what I think about Obama being awarded the Nobel Peace Price.  I guess everyone is, huh?  Thoughts?

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