Our current time zone: GMT +8 (We're home in Singapore!)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Secret Language

My close friends know that I am one of the unfortunate who are susceptible to gout. While I am now on long-term medication that seems to work pretty fine, there are times when my foot, my ankle or my knee swells painfully to gargantuan proportions.

During such times, the only thing to do is to supplement my normal medication with painkillers, drink lots of water and rest as much as possible. Sometimes, the pain goes in a couple of days. Other times, it takes up to 2 weeks. There was even a time when I had to resign from my (highly stressful) job because the long hours did not allow me to take care of myself. It took 2 months of home rest, before I felt confident and well enough to work again.

While we were in Vilcabamba for some down-time, a small episode of gout struck, forcing me to forgo possibly the only massage session I will have for this entire year's travel. Boo hoo.

The convalescent period allowed me to finally read a hardcover book that had been with us since New Jersey. It was a booked titled 'Lisey's Story', where a dead author somehow communicates with his wife, warning her of danger in the days ahead. An excellent book that started slow, but eventually became a page-turner. A theme central to the story was the special words and phrases used between the author and his wife, and to a lesser extent, them with their families. Words and phrases that make no sense to others, but perfect sense to their inner circle. Bool!

Skipping the swimming pool and jacuzzis to snuggle with Lisey's Story

The concept of a secret language is nothing new. You want others to not know what you are speaking, you speak a language you think they will not understand. If you think they have a capability of understanding what you say, then you encode or encrypt it. The Da Vinci Code or The Lost Symbol, anyone?

What is the chance that the vendor knows how much she is willing to pay by listening on her phone call?

The ability to use different languages is one of the things that make traveling in Latin America great for us. Most people here seem to be able to speak only in Spanish. We can understand a little of their Spanish, but have an advantage in being able to converse in English and Mandarin.

So, if we were trying to bargain for something and want to use the 'walk away tactic'. I would slip into English to speak with the wife.

"Let's walk away. I'm sure we can buy from somewhere else."

Chances are, the vendor is actually canny enough to understand this sentence. More often than not, we have been given the lower price that we wanted. If further top secret discussion is required, then we would switch to Mandarin. Mandarin is also useful when we do not want other tourists to understand what we are discussing. It gives us a chance to curse and swear and plot and connive and scheme and plan and warn each other that something is not right.

Even mimes need to talk. Como esta?

Having a secret language also allows us to tell each other things that may be potentially embarrassing. For example, I could tell the wife that my hermano is full. She would be able to think - hermano is Spanish for 'brother', and 'brother' sounds like 'bladder'. She would then try to finish her purchases in a speedier manner so that we can start walking back to our hostel. (We stick together, for safety sake, by order of the Assoc. Prof Father-in-law).

There are so many other of our secret codes that we use, but I shall not spell them out here. After all, the internet is hardly the place to store secrets, is it?

Telling his friend the secret to having not just chest hair, but neck hair too!

Case in point:

Our friend, Ching Ching, took advantage of long leave to visit us in Peru. Now, Ching Ching is one of the most vocal persons I know. In fact, I was hinting to a mutual friend that we were having someone visit us in Peru, and all I needed to do was to give the hint 'she makes a lot more noise than you' and the friend immediately guessed who was coming. Ching is that chatty.

Now, Ching was traveling with her friend Mark, who is a Brit. The only language they had in common was English. When she finally met up with us, she was spectacularly spewing verbal diarrhea of the Singlish persuasion.

Ching and the angmoh

"I'm so glad to be able to speak Mandarin! Now got secret language! 跟这个 angmoh 在一起很辛苦。没有秘密语言!"

And of course, the angmoh knew she was talking about him. He spent some time in Singapore after all!

More on our adventures together soon!

7 comments:

Tracy Su said...

Also, reckon the English bit of what Ching Ching said gave away the Mandarin bit, just a little bit?

Poor angmor...

Michelle said...

abok amok adok..

translated.. been reading your blog!

miss you guys..
michelle

Dannie said...

Tracy: Yeah.. haha... she's been berating him for the same thing the entire trip, so it's not really meant to be a secret!

Michelle: Okay, I'm really not sure which Michelle this is, but then again, we miss all our friends at home named Michelle too! :)

Macadama Nutter said...

oh...the mutual friend is ME!!!

Dannie said...

Nutter: Yup! Yay! Now there's evidence that I don't just make stories up! :p

forex course said...

Very nice post, I enjoy it very much. I see you are very rich in matter of friends.

Dannie said...

forex: Well, we are friendly people... most of the time :)

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