The task of translation makes the jackanapes out of my co-workers on a fairly regular basis. Not because they struggle with turning Korean words into English ones. I am convinced that they translate accurately for me, from their thoughts to my ears:
"I heard this juice makes you beautiful."
Nope. The words are not the problem. It's the cultural translation that's lagging a few beats behind. This sentence (one of the many gems I've heard here in Korea) is a prime example. At my teacher's class, we were each given one of these small pink pouches full of pomegranate juice. After fiddling with my pens, I tore into mine. One teacher jumped up to find paper cups while the other teachers, as if on cue, tore into their packets as well.
We sipped and chatted about the usual, "Mmm" "I like this juice" "Is it delicious?" before the bomb was dropped about "beauty juice".
I felt my eyes slip halfway down into a cynical position, while my mouth twisted into a derisive smirk.
Just for a second.
I remolded my eyes into one of innocent questioning and said, "Oh really?"
This happens to me a lot. I hear something like "This juice makes you beautiful" and instantly dismiss it as bovine-fecal-material. Then I remember two things: 1) People are trying to be nice and 2) The information might seem credible to me if it were presented in a manner that soothed my american sensibilties.
The idea of "beauty juice" is rubbish.
The idea that pomegranate juice contains vitamens or enzymes that promote skin cell regeneration (or something similar) is quite believable.
So I have to pause.
I punish my cynical smirk by unbending the upturned corners of its disbelief and hammering it into a smile. Take a minute. Think about it.
I'm not always successful, but I'm working on it.