When people ask me how I survived a week with my boyfriend, Damir, at his parents’ place in Croatia, when they don’t speak English and I don’t speak Croatian, I often tell the story of how Damir really sucks at translating. We were out walking one day in Osijek and came across a beautiful cathedral in the old part of town. Since both Orthodox and Catholic religions survived under the former Communist regime, I asked him whether this was Orthodox or Catholic. I thought that the area was predominantly Catholic, but the dome on the church was slightly onion-shaped, so I wasn’t sure. Damir didn’t know, but said that he’d ask his mother later.
At dinner that evening, I asked him to ask his mother; he turned to her and they engaged in a lengthy conversation in Croatian. Several minutes of (to me) unintelligible conversation went by. I examined my soup. I drank some wine. I smiled and nodded as if I understood. It sounded like he was getting the complete oral history of the cathedral, and I was looking forward to hearing some of it. At the end of it all, Damir turned to me and said “it’s Catholic”.
I pressed him later for a bit more detail, but he said that his mother was just off on a tangent, and the conversation wasn’t at all interesting. Besides, he found out my answer, so probably figured that he’d done his job here.
Fast forward to this past weekend, Thanksgiving with the family (12 adults, 2 kids, 4 dogs, 1 cottage). Sitting at the table with my mother and sisters preparing Thanksgiving dinner, one of my sisters asked my mom where they had found out about a clever little woodstove fan that they just bought. My mom launched into a long explanation of a trip that they had made to Vancouver, Salt Spring Island and Victoria, friends that they visited, the bed and breakfast that they stayed at, visiting my cousin, and so on for several minutes, until she eventually came to the point: they saw the same fan at the home of a friend who they were visiting out there.
Finally, I understood Damir and his “it’s Catholic” synopsis of the conversation.