05 November 2017

a simple gift : found in translation

I sometimes judge fame by the length of somebody’s Wikipedia article. My aunt’s 456 word entry qualified her, by my primitive terms, as mildly famous.

I’ve always been semi-creative, but never enough to become a full-time artist. Similarly, I’ve always been part Brazilian, yet didn’t understand that nationality. My aunt seemed to have mastered both, directing films about Brazilian culture. Then, she offered me an internship. I had just returned from nine months abroad, so I wasn’t sure. But I set off for Brazil with no expectations, just as I had for France.  

Landing in Paris, my only expectation was learning French - total immersion left me no choice. I didn't expect the personal growth - that was accidental. 

For weeks, I used my host brothers as personal translators. Tired of my questions, they replied “d├ębrouilles-toi.” Google translated it to “figure it out yourself.”  The vocabulary was useful, but the meaning meant more. 

I slowly navigated France through trial and error. At the beginning of the year, it took weeks before I ordered the coffee I wanted. One day, my caramel-cafe-creme-with-three-extra-shots-of-espresso was waiting for me when I stepped off the 7:36 bus. My persistence paid off - the coffee truck heard my order so much that they anticipated it. I kept figuring things out myself, from food to new cities. 

People said I’d completely change while abroad, but I think France just showed me hidden parts of myself. Leaving for Brazil, I took everything I’d developed in France. Curiosity, resilience, determination, humor.

I arrived in Sao Paulo fighting mono and majorly sleep deprived. Interning was wild - five films in the finishing stages of production, with two weeks until the release. My aunt handed me the films, telling me to create English subtitles as correct and concise as possible. 

I found the production offices solo, and began dictating changes to the production assistant. Halfway through the morning, I realized I could streamline the tedious process by learning to input the subtitles myself. We shifted to working independently, side-by-side. Using my English and initiative to save Karla’s time, I felt useful. Professional.

I don’t plan on studying film, but I interned to learn about working. While I was there, I learned about color editing, sound clips, exporting changes… And how little sleep people get during final production - I was an intern and still left the house before nine, only to get home no earlier than 1am. 

The first week, I probably watched each movie twenty times. We narrated along with the characters and hum the soundtracks. I could picture exact shots in the movies, pulling away from the favela for a multi-colored aerial.

We flew into Rio and drove straight to the first screening. Golden hour lit the favela, so I took out my camera, and little kids ran up to pose. I looked so out of place that my Portuguese confused them.

Watching the movie with Joao, the stories came to life. He told me which kids he knew, which scenes his house was in. The story was about badminton, but he told me about the police who were bad guys, that life wasn’t safe in the “communidade.” I knew most Brazilians didn't live like me, but it took a six-year-old boy to drive it home. 

Afterwards, I watched the Olympics, cheering alongside Brazilian fans. I saw another reality - Brazilian patriotism. In one month, I learned more about half of myself than I knew before. 

People talk about lost in translation, but I’ve haven’t lost anything in my languages. French, English, Portuguese - they’ve taught and given me so much. Not linguistically, but personally. Outside of my natural habitat, I realized who I really was. I became more determined, curious, resilient. I gained independence. Humor. Fearlessness. I left my adventures with a new sense of self.

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