So I’ve gone pop. As per the requirements of indie cred, I’ve always expressed my loathing of pop music, except of course for a the strongly-encouraged ironic appreciation of pop more than eighteen years old. But I recently heard Lady Gaga’s ‘Paparazzi’ in a shop, and it lodged firmly in my head for the next week. The only way to dislodge it, I reasoned, was to download her album and listen to it. Which kind of helped, except the chorus is reminiscent of ‘Umbrella’ by the fine songstress Rihanna, meaning her song was then stuck in my head. My playlist has featured those two heavily ever since. (Of course, the pop hate isn’t always genuine. Long-time readers may recall a mention of the Vengaboys earlier on this blog. I will also take this opportunity to admit to enjoying Beyonce’s ‘Crazy in Love’, some of Alicia Key’s first album, Kylie’s ‘On a Night Like This’, Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s fine work on ‘Murder on the Dancefloor’, and DB Boulevard’s ‘Another Point of View’, which was nauseatingly picked up for a Channel 7 promo ad some years back.)
Anyway, ‘Umbrella’ is very apt at the moment. “Everywhere you go, you always take the weather with you,” sang Crowded House to me today on a rare foray into the realms of defensible music listening. And they were right, as BA got distinctly Melbourne with a slate sky and sideways rain. The town I left, I hear, is 43 degrees today, the baking oven heat that I love. There is truly no God. With all the Latino clichés flying around the world, you’d expect a storm here to be a sudden descending tantrum that would just as quickly vanish with a flick of its skirt and a stomp of its tango heels on the floorboards. Thunderstorm translates as tormenta, and is probably my favourite Spanish word. But BA rain is no Kuala Lumpur hit-and-run torrent. It settles in for the duration like a fat geek with nine tubes of Pringles and a series of Deep Space Nine.
Apart from metronomic similarities, Australia isn’t that far away. I’ve been listening to the cricket online, the old faithful ABC radio. So a footnote to my NYE cricketing analogy: Nathan Hauritz just had his second five-wicket-innings in Sydney, and gave Australia a miracle win in defending a meagre 173. He’d never even take five-for in first-class cricket two weeks ago, and now he’s done it in successive Tests. Australia was gone for all money. Mohammed Yousuf, one of the three best batsmen in the world, was at the crease and in form. Then he smashed a full-blooded shot straight at Hauritz, who was bowling. It nailed him square in the heart, and mashed his thumb for good measure, but he somehow grabbed it on the rebound despite falling to the deck as though shot. Which is what a cricket ball at 200 kph would feel like. Yousuf was out, Hauritz was down, clutching his bleeding hand and clearly in agony as the doctors came out. Eventually, though, he got up. Rubbed the bruised patch on the left of his chest. Strapped up his mangled thumb. And kept going. Two balls later, another wicket. And then three more, never mind the grimace with each delivery, to carry his side to victory. Given the symbolism I attached to Hauritz on NYE, I don’t think this episode could have been any more perfectly scripted. No shot to the heart can drop you forever.
I had dinner with the girl I mentioned and some of her friends and family last night (I’m now thinking of her as my personal Spanish teacher, though it beats language classes). This meant I was surrounded for several hours by fast flying Rio Platense Spanish, lumfardo, and jokes. And this is by far the hardest part of the whole cross-lingual deal: making and understanding jokes. I didn’t realise until I came here just what extent of my daily interaction is made up of humour, be it banter, absurdist storytelling, plays on words, accents, or even just slightly different emphases on pronunciation. Fifty percent? More? The nuanced understanding of a language allows you to play with it so easily. And when that’s taken away, it’s the mental equivalent of a full-body cast. So much of my interaction is based around simple factual statement. “My aunt is going to the library. I have been fishing. I have caught a fish.”
Here’s one joke that I’ve been able to pick up on, though. I already told you about my problem with ‘Umbrella’. Well, the Spanish word is paragua. But paragua is also slang for a person from Paraguay. So this chap named Coco wrote a brilliant translation-spoof called ‘Paragua’ (agua, agua, ey, ey, ey), about the Paraguayans’ famous predilection for sneaking across the Río Paraná border into Argentina. In his version it’s a girl who’s jumped the border for an Argentine lover, the best lines translating to:
When we go to a party
Your friends all pull faces
They say “Hey, he brought the umbrella.”
I hate it when they call me an umbrella.
The video includes Coco in a Paraguayan national football shirt doing some hot street dancing (and I mean street dancing) in Buenos Aires. You can watch it here. As for me, in the few hours that I’ve been wandering between writing this post and doing other things, the rain has cleared and the sky is a sweet Italian pastel blue, with clear gold afternoon sun. So I’m going to go and dance down at the train station. Ey, ey, ey.