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Writing in the local paper. Local issues with a global take. I never translate literally and the editor trims at will to make it fit. Here's my version, then theirs.

No matter how long I live in Spain, there are words that I think I will never completely understand. When I say this, I don’t mean that I will never be able to remember their translation but more the way that they are used and understood. For example, when I hear ahora, I understand now, not in three or four minutes but at that moment. Then there’s one of the more curious Spanish words, morbo. I can read and reread its definition and even understand what people mean when they use it but can never quite use it naturally myself without sounding (or feeling) put on. But it’s precisely now, as the streets fill with incense and the sound of snare drums ricochet off the Arab walls that another confusing word arises, passion. Etymologically, both the Spanish and English words have their roots in the same latin word and other than a slight phonological difference they both sound quite similar. Then I think of the blood streaming from the crown of thorns, the pallor of the corpse as it’s nailed to the cross or the weeping maiden mourning her terrible loss and the absolute last thing that comes to mind is the current English use of the word. I’m reminded of a British colleague of mine who married a Lao girl from one of the animist tribes that live on the border with Myanmar. They were married in Vientiane but decided to take their honeymoon in France. As they were touring the country, they visited a cathedral and after a few minutes the newlywed bride ran out of the church with tears in her eyes. The confused groom chased after her and when he finally caught up with her, he asked what was wrong. Without warning, she became furious with him, demanding to know why he had taken her to a place that had so many images of people doing terrible things to a man. 

Passion, in the honeymoon sense of the word was the last thing on her mind and the only lasting impression that she took away with her was of tremendous sadness.


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