Monday, July 31, 2006

I will bring my proper toothbrush exactly

Having English as second language means you are dependent on a good dictionary. Even then you don't get it right all the time anyway, but I take comfort in that I'm not the only one with this predicament. A friend sent a link to, a collection of funny misspellings or unfortunately formulated English phrases. Just to prove the point of how hard it is to get something right in a language you're not not fluent in (or buoyant in, as my dictionary suggests) you can try to translate an English text to Japanese on Babelfish and then translate the Japanese text back to English. I tried it with an excerpt from a job application I sent a while ago*.

"I am the Swedish counterpart to Brad Pitt. My IQ is higher than Stephen Hawkins'. I bench 300 kilos easy. I am always happy, polite and energetic. I will work 24 hours a day 7 days a week for free. I will polish your toilet with pride. I will even bring my own toothbrush. Sincerly yours. LG"

If you translate it to Japanese and then back again it reads:

"I Sweden which stops Pitt with the shellfish hooked nail am equal. Me I.Q. is higher than スティーブン Hawkins'. Kilometer easy I bench 300. I happiness and politeness am always energetic. I week 7 day 1 day 24 hour work for freedom. I polish your washroom of pride. I come having my itself toothbrush. Satoshi tool. LG"

This isn't bad. You can get a lot of inspiration when you read something that might not be exactly as you'd expect it. I particulare like the "I Sweden" (some healthy Hubris right there) and "I happiness"-bits (how could I even feel depressed again). It's also good to know that that ¤&%#¤% Hawkins might not be as polpular in Japan as elsewhere.

Babelfish of course have more options. In Russians it was put slightly different:

I will be Swedish doubles to brad Pitt. My iq is more high than Stephen Hawkins'. Stand ii1 300 kilos is light. I is always happy, politely and energetic. I will work kryglosutochno of seven days in the week for freely. I will polish your toilet with the pride. 4 even I will bring my own toothbrush. Your is sincere. LG

I can't speak for "kryglosutochno" but otherwise I don't have a problem with it.

In Chinese it became:

I am the Sweden relative people sew Pitt. My intelligence quotient Beese 蒂芬 Hawkins' is high-level. I bench 300 kilogram easy. I am always happy, politeness and energetic. My day 24 hours will work each week 7 days for to be free. I will polish you to fill the sense of pride washroom. I will even bring I toothbrush. Presents respectfully. LG

Mr Hawkins apparently not popular here either. The polishing came out a bit akward but I love the finish, presents respectfully, I'll use it as often as I can.


I am the Swedish counterparts to brad Pitt. My IQ more is raised of the one than Stephen Hawkins'. Easy bank I 300 kilos. I am always happy, polishing and energy. I will work 24 hours the one day 7 days one week for free. I will burnish its toilet with pride. I will bring my proper toothbrush exactly. Sincerely its. LG

The Portuguese being an old trade nation negotiated my offer a bit, that's natural, but as far as my equiment goes I'm sold (see headline).


Me it is a Sweden boy lattice which drives the Pitt with the nail. Me the IQ is higher the StephenHawkins than. Kilo easy i bench 300. Me is happy always, it is energetic is polite. Me the free thing will work in the hazard one day 24 hour week 7th matter which will reach. Me will wipe your toilet in pride. Even me of my, oneself will bring the toothbrush. It is diligent and sincere, you. LG

As I've written earlier, Pitt is Swedish slang for penis which makes the first sentence kind of painful (specially with the lattice part). And If I were an employer I would be a bit confused with my working hours. Me o my.

And finally German:

I am the Swedish counterparts to the nail without head Pitt. My IQ is higher than Stephen Hawkins'. Bank I 300 Kilos simply. I am always lucky energetically, polite and. I work 24 hours per day 7 days in the week for free. I polish your toilet with pride. I get even my own toothbrush. Yours sincerely. LG

Mental note: do not get involved in discussions about Stephen Hawkins in China or Japan, or discussions about Brad Pitt in Germany. If I unintentionally offend someone they might get even with me with my own toothbrush. Even if I did see Brokeback Mountain yesterday I can't think of it as "lucky energetically"


*This is in no way an attempt to ridicule Japan or Japanese or any other nation or language (well, maybe the Germans) or anyone's (dis)ability to write proper English. I'll be front center at the wall where misspellers will be shot when the ProperEnglish Revolution comes. And yes, maybe I did a bit of alterations from the original application, but the major points are still there.

Just like Home, Pt II

Earlier comment on homesickness here

In the vast array of huge billboard lining the South Luzon Expressway there is, if you look close enough something to remind you.....

Can't be one of the big ones...

Look closer...

Just like home.


Thursday, July 27, 2006


I'm not a photogénique person. All the Filipinos I know are. It doesn't matter if they look like Jabba the Hut in real life, on the pictures they look great. They know what their best side and angle is, how to smile, how to pose. And suddenly Jabba is transformed into a well-built man in his late thirties or a stunning model-wannabe. (I don't know any Filipinos who look like Jabba the Hut, Filipinos are generally Really Beautiful, not only in pictures. The point is if Jabba was Filipino, I'm sure he'd look good in pictures too.)

I don't know any of that. I more on the opposite, photomorónique (or maybe pictgrotesque), side. I tend not to smile since I use snus (little Swedish tobacco bags that you put under your lip). It keeps you sane, but it makes you look like somebody just hit you if you try to smile. Since I'm taller than most I tend to lean in over the other persons, making me look like I'm about to fall over. If there's no other persons in the picture I tend to lean anyway, just out of habit. I also got a terrible posture, which either looks bad, or, if I try to correct it, looks like someone put a stick up my ass. Which, of course, looks bad.

Basically, I got three modes:
1. Stupid
2. Tired
3. Intoxicated

99% of all pictures of shows at least one of these modes. (And, to be honest, pictures of me are usually taken when I´m at mode 2 and 3, which makes me 1, but anyway. The modes show at nice family outings at the beach too, where I don't drink. Too heavily.) Most of the time they all blend together making me look like a sleepy idiot on heroin.

It´s not that bad though, it kind of keeps your expectations on a healthy level:
- How did the pictures come out?
- You look like a retard!
- Great, I don't look sleepy or drunk!

You put a nice little photoalbum together to show your relatives:
- Here´s a nice on of me….
- You look like you just drank three bottles of Jack Daniels!
- Yeah, I know, I'm thinking of putting it next to the family picture by the computer (where I incidentally look stupid and tired, but not drunk.)

Just for balance.


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Sex and age

This one has no meaning except the title contains the word "sex", which might interest some readers.

A huge american cooperation was taking over a small Swedish firm. The boss of the HR-department in the US sent a mail to his Swedish counterpart asking him to send him a list of their employees, broken down by sex and age, to use for his statistics.

The Swede replied: "None of our employees are broken down by sex or age. Alcohol, however, is a big problem."

The Swedes: Young, horny and drunk.


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Soap of the day

My yaya (nanny) C had two requests today:
1. Could she leave early since it was her daughter J's (and her half-sisters R's) birthday?
2. Could she have friday off since her nephew R was getting married and they've asked C to be ninang (sort of godmother)? (R turns out to be 17 years old and the reason for marriage not surprisingly an unwanted pregnancy. C is angry with her sister for not having control over her sons)

Sure, no problem.
So she leaves at 11 or so and after lunch me and Gopher Jrs set out to get a cake and a present for the daughter. At around 1 pm we go to her house to leave the cake and present. On the way we meet a young woman (maybe 20) going to the same place. Her name was K. She doesn't want to come in with us, just to talk to C by the gate. I don't understand much of the conversation except that they have to call JA and it's an emergency. So C and K disappear into the house. I can hear most of the conversation and understand what's going on to some extent.

After about 10 minutes C comes out crying and K leaves, also crying.
"My nephews are crazy" C says, and gives me the scoop. R (and presumably, soon his pregnant wife) lives in Manila with his mother J and big brother JA, 19, and his pregnant girlfriend (no, they didn't plan to have that one either) . The father left the family some 12 years ago for another woman since JA was the fruit of an unwanted pregnancy and their relationship never really worked out. JA went to Los Baños i April for the fiesta. There he met K and her little sister C, 17. Guess who's pregnant now?

So C txts her sister J from my phone since she doesn't have load and get a furious response where J calls her a slut and blames her for "giving herself to my son". C sends another one to explain that she's using my phone. The sister replies, apologises, but is still upset because it happen onC's watch (never mind it happened twice in Manila already). Then K txts C. K also got the slut-txt and is wondering why C's sister is being so rude and what she can do about it. C doesn't know.

And then I spend and hour with C, her mother-in-law, her half-sister R (who is the same age as C's other daughter. C's father also left the family, then her mother gave up the children, then they were reunited, then C's mother found another husband who she left about a month ago. C's was up in Manila two weeks and gave the new man some heat about not keeping track of his wife. They still don't know where she is) trying to figure out who is guilty and who is not, while C's 8-year old daughter, whom she adopted 1 ½ years ago is playing with my sons.

And I think about all the times I've wondered over the dysfunction of my own family - we yell at each other and everyone got their own set of problems which somehow never seem to end - but compared to this...


Monday, July 24, 2006

General Atrophy and Major Boredom

Early April I busted my knee playing beach soccer in Subic Bay (which, apart from the pain and not being able to walk for two weeks also kept me from appearing on Philippine national television, a true setback for an attention slut like myself). Three months later the knee felt completely healed and so I made my comeback. It lasted seven minutes, then I had to be carried off again.

Now I’m back to immobility and decay, slowly realising that my body does not carry the strength or respond like it did ten years ago. I’ve always looked down on 40-50 year old, slightly overweight, men (yes, always men) who make New Year’s resolutions about getting fit the coming year. Then they run half a marathon on the 3rd of January, completely unprepared, getting blisters and sprains and legs so sore they can’t be bothered to do any exercise whatsoever for six months. And now I’m one of them.

So the plan is to visit the gym.

The idea of repeatedly lifting things just to put them back in the same place doesn’t make sense to me unless it involves my pelvis and my wife. There was a time (when I was young and foolish) when I worked as a fire fighter and I got caught in the culture of a daily workout. A true, manly workout which included lots of heavy iron slabs and very little of stretching and motorically challenging exercises. Now, ten years older and wiser I prefer sports like soccer (A true, manly workout which includes lots of running and very little of stretching and motorically challenging exercises).

So the plan is I’ll do three sessions a week including lots of cardio and stretching, the probable outcome is I’ll do two sessions total and then revert to waiting until it feels good enough to play soccer again. Better bring my own stretcher to the first game.

Getting old sucks.


Thursday, July 20, 2006

Going South

Did you ever get that feeling when you are in the Supermarket?

First, the slight rumble when you enter and then, when your cart is almost full and your kids are getting seriously impatient, the insufferable pain in your southern region when mr Bowel sends a supercilious message that you should have listened to the warning shot and it's now to late. As soon as you move, you're doomed.

The joys of last night has turned into an unstoppable flood, going south (I do have a beer belly, it just doesn't grow on me). And now your too far from the men's room to get there in time, a mile from home and with two innocent children to protect and care for.

So, what do you do?
I did bring some diapers for my youngest, but no way they can stand this, and besides there's nowhere to hide.
Just let it all go in a Fight Club manner (as I remember, they edited out a scene just like this for fear of negative public response) and walk proudly to the cashier? No, not there yet.
Fake a knee injury and have someone wheel chair you to the toilet. No, the faking part will without doubt end in a real accident.

You just wait for the pain to loosen its grip, walk a couple of meters until it sets in again, stop to casually inspect some produce, walk again, stop, stratch your chin and wonder which of the excellent choices of pasta you should buy, walk, stop, ponder over if I really need some "I-can't-believe-it-isn't-cheese" until you reach the place in the store closest to the place of your dreams. Then you have a small conversation with your son, act suprised, and then DASH for the men's room.

Now, this is perfectly OK, because as we all now, kids don't have perfect control of their bladders so when they gotta go, they gotta go. Nobody will flinch if you're in a hurry to the toilet as long as you got a kid under your arm. I'll save you further details but all is well that ends well.

The good thing about experiences like this is that the rest of the day will float by in a shimmering golden light.

And no, I won't post a picture to this one.


Monday, July 17, 2006

A call for help

The Philippines have the highest textmessage/capita rate in the world. EVERYBODY does it. Even my maid and yaya have more sophisticated cellphones then I have (Not that I have any top-of-the-line gear, but given that helpers' salaries are quite low, not to say embarrassingly low, they'd have had to put in at least a months salary just for the phone)

I regulary get about two text messages a week saying "wanna b my txtm8? pls txt bak" or somehing similar in shorthand Tagalog. I never reply to them anymore, after a initial mistake with a guy who turned out to be seriously gay and my wife started to wonder if this "Andy" really was a man.

Apparently people pick a random number to see if the person in the other end is lonely too. FDLP*-theory would be that when a densily population nation with a extended family culture gets urbanised, detached city people search for a substitute to cover up their rootlessness. A friend of a friend spends about 2000 PhP/months on text messages, equals about 60 a day.


This is my car. Sometime this morning an individual left an important message on it.

I prefer the "I wish my wife was this dirty".



Thursday, July 13, 2006

In search of the Swedish soul

Living abroad makes you aware of your own heritage. Right now I'm in a patriotic mode (in the good sense of the word). The last week I’ve been thinking a lot about my home country and what separates her from other nations of the world, how much of my manners are due to the fact that I was brought up there.

What is Sweden besides The Nobel Prize, Volvo, IKEA, Saab, Ericsson, ABBA, Greta Garbo, Ingemar Bergman, Linneaus, sparse interior decoration and a muppet chef?

Part I: Vocabulary

The picture above shows a famous Swedish poster from WWII. The words could either mean “A Swedish Tiger” or “A Swede keeps silent” which was the intent of the poster, i.e. don’t be an informant (to the Germans or Soviets, anyway).

The spirit of the poster lives on (or maybe it's always been there) since Swedes, in an international comparison, is a very quiet people. Maybe we don't have a lot to say, maybe we're just boring or maybe there's just not enough of us to make ourselves heard.

The only Swedish word I know that have been adopted in most of the western world is ombudsman (representative), which is an institution that citizens who feel they are wrongly treated or discriminated in a certain issue can turn to, to get justification. In Sweden there are lots of ombudsmän, one for children, one for people with an ethnic background other than Swedish, one for the press, one for people with (legal) sexual orientations that is not hetero (abbreviated HomO, and yes it means the same thing in Swedish) etc. It's not a weltschmerz or zeitgeist trendy word that you would use in New York, more a Brussels kind of thing, but you couldn't have chosen a better word to export to depict a society built mainly on social democratic politics for the last century. With a huge public sector, but also with an intent to care for every citizen.

Big Brother doesn’t just see you, he listens to you as well.


And reading it now just before I published it I realise that I did not keep to the topic or answer any question, but hell...I'm only learning.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Just like home

Just back after almost six weeks in beautiful Sweden. So many stories of trust and love and roots and friendship, but the real sense of place appeared before I even got out of the airport. There's a big bin in the hall in front of the customs with a sign kindly informing travelers that hash is forbidden in Sweden and any person carrying such a substance can throw it in the bin, otherwise they might have trouble entering the country.

It makes me think of Lou Reed and it makes me happy.

I've seen the bins in other countries too, but your always supposed too put fruit or food there. But we don't want that stuff. No half-eaten apples here please. Give us the good shit.