Sunday, July 08, 2012

Telling Tales Out of School

This particular PI group has quite a few repeaters, both Anglo and Spanish. As such, the MC, Christine, told the Anglos that if any of us could assist with providing entertainment, it would be much appreciated. "They've heard all of my stories and jokes!" she exclaimed as she started making the rounds among us Anglos on the bus ride here to see what each of us could offer.

When she came to me, I told her I would be happy to tell some stories, or help with any other entertainment needs. "I teach theatre," I told her, "So I'm used to this sort of thing."

"You teach theater?" she asked, apparently incredulous at her luck. I nodded. She grasped my arm, "You are my new best friend."

She approached me last night at dinner to see if I would help with the skit tonight. As I said, I'm happy to do that sort of thing. I haven't been asked to tell a story yet, but as I watched Christine call on a few other Anglos to tell a story or two last night, I wondered about my own repository. I have my favorite stories, all of which I've tested and told many times in front of many groups of students. But I am looking at my stories from a new perspective here, and I wonder if they will be as entertaining. Sometimes I forget how many cultural assumptions I make.

For example, we were doing an icebreaker activity the first night where we interviewed another person and then introduced him/her to the group. One of the questions we had to ask was "If you had a time machine, what time period in history would you go back to?"

One of the Spaniards stood up to introduce his Anglo. "If she had a time machine," he said, "she would go back to the time of Queen Elizabeth the First."

Like a chorus middle-schoolers when they hear the loudspeaker call someone down to the principal's office, the Spaniards all called, "Ohhhh!" The speaker winked at them from over his notes and said, "Yes, I think this is because she must want to see the fight with Spain."

Their reaction caught me off-guard. Sure, everyone knows QEI, but her name doesn't usually evoke cat-calls in America.

And so I've been thinking over my stories, trying to see them from the Spanish perspective. Are Turkish Baths exotic here? Does the term "Lead Poisoning" get lost in translation? I know they have KFCs in Spain, but would they get the joke about "Extra Crispy and Original Recipe"? The monkey story will probably do well, mostly because I shape the story around my own behavior and personality, but would young Spanish adults get the video game references that I know young American adults get?

It is an interesting exercise, testing my stories for cultural assumptions and international appeal, and I am curious to test some of them out.

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