Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I masticate, you masticate, we masticate!

I have a new best friend. Her name is MK. She is Moroccan - and 10 years old. Little MK came to the Netherlands with her mom in April this year. She could not speak a word of English. She could however speak Arabic, French and Spanish. She picked up the language quickly, as children do, and now converses casually in English and can also say a few things in Dutch, with near-perfect accent. It's unbelievable.

So her mom has asked me to help with her English development. I don't speak down to her, she really is incredibly bright (or is it just that all children soak up information so easily?). She's come from a very conservative household in Tangier to the far more liberal culture of the Netherlands, which has opened her eyes (and her mother's) fast. Even so, she is still very naive compared to other children of her age.

Shortly after dinner on Saturday, MK was told to get ready for bed. As she was leaving, the adults carried on with the banter around the table which at that stage was focussed on (of all things) how well do you really need to chew your food. Now, every time I have an opportunity to use this word, I use it. It's funny. It gets a reaction. A lot of people don't know it, and it sounds like something else. So, in my usual unthinking mode, I announced that it's "always important to masticate". This got the desired reaction - one guy laughed, Mills called me out for being a show-off, MK's mom wanted to know what it meant.

MK stopped on her way up the stairs and with a proud grin, loudly proclaimed, "I masticate! You masticate! We masticate!"

I shrivelled.
Mills glared at me.
MK's mom and her partner tried not to make a big deal of it, while at the same time tried to focus her on other tasks, in the hope that she would soon forget this word.

Crap. Crap. Crap. Crap.

What is it about children that makes them pick up - immediately - on the words that they shouldn't? Seriously, I had thrown tons of words at her over a friendly game of scrabble earlier that afternoon and THIS was the one she chooses to commit to memory? How do you explain to a young innocent girl that this is just a silly word that she really doesn't need to remember and that she really shouldn't shout out in the playground, because it sounds like another word which is not so silly, which some of her classmates probably already know and will either get her into trouble or laughed at because they sound so similar. Omigod, please forget that word. Instantly!


Wednesday, December 02, 2009

HelLA, baby

It's been a while. I know. Again. Sorry.

So. I started a new job. I'm travelling 3 hours a day to work, but I love the new job so it's worth it. It helps that they flew me to LA to meet the team that I'm currently working with on a daily basis (well, on daily rotation, considering that they get into work at 6pm my time). I was in the land of fake buildings, fake boobs and Californication. I got to meet a few schlebs, which was quite cool. Sort of. And I can confidently state this much - Michael Jackson isn't dead. He has multiplied and is strutting his white-socked stuff for tourists, on every block of Hollywood Boulevard.

My new boss also got to learn that I'm a klutz. This is something I had managed to keep hidden throughout the hiring process, largely by ensuring that my former employer made no mention of previous exploits in the flammable/falling/breaking department(s).

The first clue for my new boss was when I dropped a colleague's wedding pictures in the soy sauce over our sushi dinner. Why, why, why would you bring these out after everyone (i.e. me) has had a few glasses of wine? Especially as I had spent all evening politely refraining from dousing myself - or my colleagues - in condiments. My coordination basket was empty. I didn't know there was going to be a surprise test at the end of the meal. She put the pictures away very quickly after that. Whoops.

The next day, in front of other colleagues, I managed to walk into a glass door. Not too spectacularly - I thought it needed a push when in fact it needed a pull. But my pushing (crunching) into it apparently jammed the lock mechanism, leaving us stranded out there until someone came from the other side to release it. It was during this awkward wait that my boss stated the obvious. "Omigod... you're a klutz."

Yes. Yes, I am. Thank you for noticing.

So, by the time we got to the set of NCIS (I love this ensemble show. Like, totally, LOVE NCIS) he was getting an inkling of what I was capable of, especially as the first thing I did was fall over a prop. Who puts them in the middle of the floor anyway? I got to watch some of the filming which was really cool and spent a large amount of time pretending to look professional and aloof, while in my head I was jumping up and down and screaming "OH MY GAAAWD!" like every contestant on Extreme Home Makeover.

Everyone was talking and getting on with their work, I was standing out of the way when Mark Harmon insisted that I pull up a chair. There weren't any chairs remaining so he insisted I sit in his cast chair. You know, those high ones with the 'talent' names printed on them. I didn't put up too much of an argument. My internal monologue had gotten over the hysterical screaming and had now gone into a muted whisper of "omigod, Mark Harmon's chair. I'm sitting in Mark Harmon's chair."

Then with a *crack* my internal monologue changed to, "omigod, I just broke Mark Harmon's chair."

As surreptitiously as possible, I looked down. Yup. There was now a crossbar hanging at an angle below my feet. That hulk of a man sits on the chair every day, but it breaks when I reverently place one butt cheek on it. Great. I didn't move again, praying to god that the chair wouldn't completely collapse. At least not while the cast were hanging around. Finally, they went back to filming and I slipped off the chair, relieved that it was still (at least visibly) in one piece. I diligently pointed it out to a crew member, who quickly reassembled where necessary. Easily solved.

I spent about 3 hours on that set, talking to cast and crew, and I couldn't tell you what was discussed. All I can remember is my internal horror repeating over and over again, "omigod, I just broke Mark Harmon's chair. Please don't collapse. Please don't collapse..."