Computations and Translations

Often people think that language is a major barrier when living in another culture.  I always think that it is the full range of computations and translations that need to take place that are stressful as you try to navigate life.  An assistant in my office is helping me on my Urdu.  He will give me my tea in the morning if I ask him in Urdu and now he has me asking “how are you” each morning.  It is going as well as can be expected.

Then I have to figure out what the temperature is outside before I leave the house.  I have developed a simple formula for the conversion when I’ve lived abroad before.  Take Celsius and double it and add 30 and that gives you a general idea of the temperature in Fahrenheit.  It isn’t exact and it would not work if I were in a place that goes below freezing.

And then there is money.  The exchange rate is about 150 Rupees to the US Dollar.  So when something is 5000 Rupees, exactly, how much is that??  I’ve worked out a formula that seems to help.  A Rupee is about .6 cents.  So 100 Rupees is 60 cents.  1000 R is about $6.  And then multiply the $6 times 5 and you get approximately $30.  It took me quite a few tries to figure out a formula that I could work with.  And of course, if the exchange rate changes, I will be in trouble.

Then there is the scale of air pollution.  I learned of this scale in Hong Kong but only paid attention the one time it got to over 400–which still did not bother me.  I went on line to look at the scale which is an international scale:

I continue to be confused by the color sequence.  Is it just me?  Is this cultural?  I want red to be at the top.  So we are in the red zone and I think we are in trouble and then I go back and look and see that there are two levels even higher.  So I have had to learn to just read the numbers and then go back to the scale to see where it is.  Here are the averages per day the past seven months.  Averages since I have come have been in the purple and maroon category and black (which is not on the scale).

What is more interesting is how it ranges over a day.  This last Thursday I went to bed when it was reasonable (relatively speaking) and opened the house up because it was cooler.  In the middle of the night it spiked up to 635, far above the hazardous category, and public schools were cancelled the next day because of it–a smog day.  But by the time I got up it was back in the “unhealthy” category.  So do you close up the house at night or do you open it up?  Language, money, temperature, pollution scales.  Translations constantly in daily life.  No wonder I’m tired sometimes.  If they would just change the color sequence for me, I would feel so much better.

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