Deal with Boredom — Learn the local foreign language and culture.

Boredom is becoming an insidious problem.

Here is a re-post of an article I wrote back in 2001 or 2002 while sitting on our sailboat. She was lying at anchor and I was trying to overcome boredom. It pertains mainly to foreign places but, since the United States are coming increasingly to resemble foreign places, many of the suggestions are applicable there as well. In many places in the United States, it is necessary to learn enough of the local foreign language to get by and the article explains how to do so with ease. That will permit intimate exploration of the strange new local foreign cultures.

Fantasy Island Obama

. . . . .

Boredom, the Curse of the Cruising Life

I wrote this back sometime in 2001 or maybe 2002, and it was intended as a spoof of my fellow cruisers. Most don’t have the attitudes suggested, and it’s grossly unfair. Still ………….

The teak sparkles with countless coats of varnish, the stainless steel glistens, and the fuel filters are new. You just changed the oil and replaced all the rusted hose clamps. The halyards and sheets are pristine. The refrigeration works perfectly, and the ice maker puts out more ice than you can possibly use. The new frambis you brought back from the States has been installed, and as soon as you figure out the instructions (translated from Japanese into Ubangi and thence into English) and determine what it is for, you will play with it. You’ve been dragged from your favorite cruiser hangout to see a few of the more interesting sights in Puerto Mujeres Feas. You’ve read Caribbean Compass cover to cover and memorized all the interesting advertisements. Nobody in the anchorage seems to want any help, except for the guy who wants someone to go up the mast and retrieve a lost halyard. You’ve been there, done that, got the T-shirt, and have no interest in repeating the experience. There isn’t a pot luck supper till next Tuesday, and you have read all of the really good books available at the book exchange. What can you do to stave off boredom? You could, of course, pull up the anchor and leave. But you are waiting for mail and it looks as though the weather might get rocky in a few days and what’s the point?

This is a problem constantly faced by cruisers, and the U.S. Government has finally created a new mental health program designed specifically to help bored cruisers cope. Unfortunately, it will remain in the beta test mode until 2005, and is currently available only in Idaho. So, for a while at least, it is up to you. Better get busy. Here are some ideas. They all involve getting out of the “cruising rut” and mixing it up a bit with the locals. You will enjoy it, and they will benefit immeasurably from the experience as well.

Learn a Foreign Language

Many of the places frequented by cruisers have quaint and colorful foreign languages. Given even a passing acquaintance with the local language, you will be able to interact with the local foreigners and discover many interesting things about their primitive cultures. You will also be able to tell the waiter that you wanted a cold beer, not the exotic mixture of fruit juice and curdled goat milk he just served. Want to have your injectors cleaned, no problema. Just ask, in the local foreign language.

This project can occupy you for days, if not weeks. There is so much to learn! Here are six simple rules, applicable to all foreign languages prevalent in the Caribbean with the exception of pigeon English:

1. Foreigners are obsessed with sex, and everything has a sexual component. The boat is male. The house is female. The dog can be either male or female, depending (strangely) on its actual sex. The fuel filter is male. The fuel itself if female. The propane bottle is bisexual. Properly, you need to use a verb, pronoun or adjective of the corresponding sexual orientation. As a cruiser trying to learn a foreign language, this is all very difficult. You are not a professional linguist, so just ignore the problem: use the same prefixes and suffixes for everything. It is not only easier that way, it is the ultimate in political correctness, like bisex auto body shops. Some particularly dense locals may experience difficulty in understanding you, but most will have no problem. They will be so happy that you are trying to communicate in their own language that they will offer you free beer at every opportunity.

2. Avoid irregular verbs. There are more than enough regular verbs to meet all of your simple requirements.

3. There are numerous tenses: present, past, future, present perfect, present imperfect, future perfect, future imperfect, past perfect, past imperfect, future really good, past not so great, etc. Don’t bother. Just use the present tense.

4. There are formal pronouns and verbs. Properly, to ask someone you have known for less that six months for a glass of water, you should use the formal forms of the pronouns and verbs. It is all very classist and connotes a less than democratic attitude. Use the informal forms with everyone. It’s friendlier that way, and you don’t want to seem to be a snob.

5. The imperative is used when telling someone to do something. It’s sort of complicated, so just use the present tense first person and speak more loudly and with more authority.

6. Often, simply adding an “o” at the end of an English word will convert it into Spanish. It’s worth a try. One minor caution: you do not want to buy “gaso” for the dinghy. It sounds a lot like gasoy, which is diesel fuel. In any event, English should be the universal language, so it is perfectly acceptable to use English words if the foreign word is too obscure. By placing English words in an easy to understand context, you will help the foreigners to learn English. They will appreciate your efforts.

Follow these simple rules, and you can learn to speak any foreign language real good.

Discover the local culture.

Now that you speak the local language, you can easily learn everything worth knowing about the foreign culture. The first thing to do, of course, is to get off the boat and head into town. Do not go to the cruiser bar, where all of the other cruisers speak at least some English and probably don’t know any more about the indigenous people than you do. You want to experience these things first hand. That’s one of the reasons you came cruising, isn’t it?

In any town of reasonable size, just going for a walk will allow you to meet many interesting foreign people. On the pretense of trying to sell you a hat, a package of chewing gum, or even some charming native handicraft, they will approach you in pitifully broken English. Surprise them! Speak their own language. You can do that, now that you have learned how. Engage them in a discussion about their culture. Ask why so many of the local people wear funny clothes and ingest strange food. Why is the “Gringo tax” so high? Why is petty theft a national pastime? Haven’t they learned to watch football on television?

Visit a local outdoor meat, fruit or vegetable market. Ask about the many colorful fruit and vegetables which are unfamiliar to you. Why do they coat the hanging goat carcasses with insects? Is it to cure the meat, or just a misguided effort to keep the flies off the customers? Go ahead. Ask. They will appreciate your interest. You might suggest that the carcasses be sprayed with DDT; that works.

Check out a local cathedral. They are all very beautiful, and most are in a state of quaint disrepair. Some cruisers feel that without the appropriate formal clothing (long pants, a clean shirt, and even shoes), going inside might seem disrespectful. Don’t worry. The religious functionaries in such places spend most of their time inside, in cool, dark places and sadly have little opportunity to meet cruisers. Anything you would feel comfortable wearing at a local cruiser bar is just fine. A cruiser knapsack can be used to cover your head, should you feel a compelling need to conform to the local custom to that extent.

Get Involved in the Local Community. Cruisers take a lot from the foreign communities they visit, and a little “give back” can go a long way to help the local foreigners. Befriend a foreign child, and teach him how to clean your hull. It is a skill that will enrich his life, and provide him a way to earn a living when he grows up. Take some little street urchins sailing, to provide an incentive to study and work hard so they can have their own sailing yachts when they grow up. Organize a pot luck dinner and raffle to benefit the local leper colony. Collect English language soap opera magazines from other cruisers and donate them to the library, so that the foreigners can learn all about American culture. Take an interest in the politics of the foreign country, and be sure to offer your helpful suggestions on ways that things could be done so much better, like we do in the States. Just keep in mind that many foreigners are very sensitive, and avoid any suggestion of superiority or of indifference to their rich and multifaceted primitive culture.

Learning the local foreign language, discovering the local culture, and helping the foreigners you meet in strange places to understand the cruising life will go a long way toward the avoidance of boredom. You will gain a newly awakened sense of satisfaction with what you have accomplished. It should all be a major part of the cruising experience.

. . . . .

There! Feel better already? No?  Then try a tot or two of rum; that will help. No? Well, here are some more suggestions.

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About danmillerinpanama

I was graduated from Yale University in 1963 with a B.A. in economics and from the University of Virginia School of law, where I was the notes editor of the Virginia Law Review in 1966. Following four years of active duty with the Army JAG Corps, with two tours in Korea, I entered private practice in Washington, D.C. specializing in communications law. I retired in 1996 to sail with my wife, Jeanie, on our sailboat Namaste to and in the Caribbean. In 2002, we settled in the Republic of Panama and live in a very rural area up in the mountains. I have contributed to Pajamas Media and Pajamas Tatler. In addition to my own blog, Dan Miller in Panama, I an an editor of Warsclerotic and contribute to China Daily Mail when I have something to write about North Korea.
This entry was posted in 2016 Obama's America, Boredom, Humor, Illegal immigration, integration into society, Jimmy Buffett, la Raza, Linguistics, United States and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Deal with Boredom — Learn the local foreign language and culture.

  1. Tom Carter says:

    Most of these suggestions would also work well if you decide to visit Detroit (or many parts of other formerly American cities). Of course, you’ll also need to be well-armed and accompanied by a SWAT team. Then you be fine.

  2. phoebe53 says:

    My brother married a woman from the Dominican Republic and they moved down there a month ago, he’s not finding life easy by any stretch of the imagination. He knows some spanish so that’s not his problem. His containers were supposed to be there when he got there, no sign of them, one has his vehicle in it. He used his bank card at an ATM in a grocery store, it ate it, now the bank has put a hold on his account believing that someone stole his identity, he can’t convince the bank that no one did and looks like he’ll have to come back to the US to straighten it out. Like my other brother told him, that’s what you get for moving to a 3rd world country. Her family apparently is bit more wealthy than most so they don’t have to worry too much.

    • No problema! As “comprehensive immigration reform” comes, the United States will provide even more opportunities than presently to adjust to the third world experience without leaving home.

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