What I have learned in the past year working as a mobile game translator and tester:

1)      Nobody understands a game at first go.

2)      Nobody understands a game until they play the whole tutorial.

3)      Don’t believe them if they tell you they do.

4)      Always check your translations.

5)      Spell check.

6)      Don’t trust spell check.

7)      Check your translations again.

8)      Don’t joke about the games with game developers.

9)      When you are with game developers, tell them you especially enjoyed the part they worked on (eg. 3D art, technical drawing etc.). They are artists that deserve acknowledgment.

10)   Never assume that the bug you wrote about in the database is easily understandable. Use short sentences in the bug database.

11)   Never assume that the codes you use in your skype messages are difficult to understand. Especially when you are surrounded by geeks who make a living using codes.

12)   Go for another free cocktail when the boss thanks all departments except the translation division at the annual Christmas party.

Joy: the balance between computer parts and body parts

Being able to change the ram of a laptop when you are considered to be computer illiterate by your tech savvy husband. That is real joy with a touch of satisfaction and a pinch of in your face.

PS: Dear “computer illiterate” reader, if you ever plan to keep secret notes from a tech savvy spouse, keep them old school, on pieces of paper and not on some weird file on your computer. These people enjoy fooling around longer in the most meaningless parts of computers than on parts of your body scientifically proven to bring great joy to your relationship…

Note for spouse: I love you hubby! Of course I keep no secrets from you and you are great with all parts, whether animate or inanimate and you should have read that word document when I asked you if you would be OK with my blogging it …

No More Wondering

Weekly Writing Challenge: Ghosts of December 23rds Past

I had gotten home after a seven hour flight to find a bombardment of e-mails from family and friends basically asking if I was OK.

I was living in the Arabian Peninsula, working as a flight attendant, and I had just returned from a one-week layover in Singapore and the Cebu Island in the Philippines. On Christmas Eve, I was at the hotel lobby in Cebu, sipping eggnog with the cabin crew from different parts of the world. During the four days of the layover we got to spend in Cebu, we had taken a river cruise where I watched kids jump into the river from branches on huge trees, where the water seemed brown with mud yet reassuringly clear and inviting, where it was impossible to see what was next on our route due to the dense foliage, where despite the hot and humid weather, the voyage felt relaxing with a soft breeze caressing my fingers sweetened with mangoes and papaya.

The next day, we went to the city center and visited a church with Hispanic names inherited during the Spanish colonization. I was astounded to see a place of worship with no glass on its windows. That is when I realized that this place was warm throughout the year and that nature was not an enemy. The people were in peace with nature. They were friendly welcoming people, ready to accept and deal with whatever the world might surprise them with.

When we went to higher lands, to a restaurant on a mountain, I had a chance to watch trees that smelled of exotic tastes I had never tried in my home country swaying lightly under my feet as I sat at the terrace of this small secret eatery and savored the delicious food served by the delightful staff. While watching the tree tops and the ocean further down the island I thought of the breeze on hot summer days when I was a child. The days when I could lie down in a garden and hear ants passing through the grass staring deep into my eyes trying to figure out if I am a living being or a rock it has to walk around.

On the last day, on our way back to the hotel I got a chance to peek at the lives led in between the towering trees. Some were residing in between walls made of what seemed like tin plates. Imagining myself living in one of these homes, I could hear flies buzzing outside my bedroom. I could feel the wind through the cracks on the tin plates. Unlike my life in major city centers constricted by cement structures, I could still have a bond with nature, making use of the plants I was seeing for the first time to feed as well as heal myself. Life there invoked peace of mind in me and helped me befriend the wind.

At home, when the anxious mails greeted me on my screen, I found out that Sri Lanka and Maldives had been hit by a tsunami wave caused by a quake in the Indian Ocean. These were two countries I had flown to the week before. Singapore and the Philippines had been spared from the major disaster of 2004 but it was recorded as one of the greatest disasters in human history.

A few days ago, I found myself thinking about the Christmas that had left such serene memories and the news of misery that had followed afterwards on lands nearby. It made me wonder about how the people of Cebu were spending their Christmas when they had been hit by a terrible typhoon only two months ago. I wondered how many had survived the typhoon in their tin homes and among the survivors, how many were able to enjoy their Christmas beverages. I wondered about the soft breeze in Cebu that had carried me to moments of my childhood devoid of any concern and asked myself how many had to feel the wind in their fingers because they had no home to go to and how many had to chase away flies as they had to sleep without a shelter. I wondered about what I could do but to wonder and asked myself what could be done if all stopped wondering and started acting.

Here is a chance to act: World Food Programme

Driverless Bus 3: The Shortcut

How did we get to the crater that used to be the residential city center from the bus? What happened a few months ago?

When the bus broke, the stranger and I looked at each other then towards the city lights in the distance.

“I know a shortcut,” he said.

When I was younger, I had always been warned against shortcuts, especially against people who knew shortcuts. Worst were men who knew shortcuts and had candy to offer. He knew a shortcut and he was company on a deserted road. The worst type of stranger but it was one of those moments when you follow anyone who offers some comfort though all your background experience, all the accumulated knowledge you have until that moment, your wisdom, tells you otherwise.

And thus, I followed him away from the road towards the “shortcut”.

Enlightened by Porn

When I was a kid, I searched the whole house to find my adoption documents. Instead, I found a porn stash. Unaware of the authors’ gender, reading the stories in these magazines, I thought regardless of the sex of a person, it would be possible to tell if they are turned on through a bulge on the pants.

The lessons I derived from this experience: Firstly, I did not know much about anatomy. Secondly, I was not adopted. Thirdly, for a long time I could not tell the link between these magazines and the story about x and y chromosomes my mother had told me to explain where babies come from but I still somehow knew that I had to keep my discovery a secret. Therefore, as clueless as I was, I must have been aware of some taboos. Lastly, I thought that those magazines were for women as well as for men. That is why I thought many of the authors were women. I am glad that there is a feminist movement to own the pornographic media now.

A final note for my mother: Mum, you should be proud. Although it took me a while to get the “where babies come from” talk, you have raised a feminist who likes to read and can do detailed research without leaving behind any evidence. 🙂

Driverless Bus 2: Crying Man

“It’s been months since someone called me dad.”

I heard a crying man mutter at the abandoned city center, kneeling by a deep crater on the ground where it had all started.

Had it been a few months earlier, had I not held the cold dusty hand I had found under the relics of the house where I grew up, and seen the woman who had catered for my every need, who had always held my hand with greatest affection, had I not seen her eyes half shut blood oozing from ears; had I not watched my boyfriend, the man who had brought hope and happiness to me, an escape from every stinging loss I would feel trying to make it through the day, had I not watched him disappear as a crater similar to the one the man was kneeling by opened on one of the busiest streets, I could have empathized with him. I could have knelt by him and cried with him for his loss with greatest sympathy, but the energy I needed to mourn was consumed. I had none left for compassion.

Thus, I followed a stranger I had met a few months ago by a bus and looked away from the crying lonely man…

Driverless Bus

And here we go again. The buzzer goes off and I have to get up to pour the coffee, to prepare the breakfast, to put my make-up on to get ready to earn money just so that we can buy a TV, a better bed, a new laptop.

My work life sucks out my livelihood just so that I can experience the happiness of shopping for a few hours per day. Just so that every evening, I can use my new laptop to surf the Internet to find something that might be of some interest to me. Just so that in the little bit of free time I have, I can find something to keep me interested enough not to think of the next day where I will be dealing with yet another day of work and the routine built around work.

After marking my eyes with the eyeliner, once again I pray for the future to arrive sooner. A future where I will be all groomed for the day by pressing one button. I laugh at myself thinking of the silly inventions of the sixties. Trying to brush off the feeling that I am doomed to live in the present that I would like to get over just so that I can arrive to that point in the future where my real life will begin. The real life that I will be enjoying every day. Where repetitive sentences will no longer exist.

I look at the mirror and hope that the smile will last me through the day, even when I get scolded for a comma I might have forgotten in the papers that I have typed. I hope that I can keep smiling even when I find myself reading file after another file with the same meaningless words and wonder why I had chosen to study for so many years. I wonder if just figuring out how to read and type was not enough to carry out the job that I have to do.

 At work, I turn on my computer and go through the files that are sent one after another incessantly. The time to leave is determined by the moment when I decide to overlook the e-mails that keep coming and make a move to turn off my computer. The thing about my work is that I already know what awaits me the next day. Before I leave for home, by looking through the e-mails I keep receiving, I can tell what I will be doing the next day.

Sometimes, I forget to look through the mails. One day I realized that although I had no solid idea about the schedule for the day, I already knew what to expect.

After work, once I can squeeze into the crowded bus, cramped with tens of tired looking fed up employees, I suddenly feel a little bit of excitement building up in my chest. The sort of excitement I used to feel as a kid, when I went to bed and dreamed about my future. My mother always told me I could be anything I wanted. My mother used to say this to me, the person I trusted most in the whole wide world. The person who would never lie to me. She must have believed it herself. Probably she saw some spark in me, some sort of accomplishment, the feeling that she had created a being that could walk, talk and take care of itself and even love. This being, her greatest achievement must be entitled to a bright future.

Thus, filled with confidence listening to her words, I dreamed myself an astronaut, a great ballerina, a famous physicist. In each dream, I would be smiling and shining.

That was the sort of excitement I was feeling in my chest when there was a sudden screech and the bus came to a halt. Noone moved, waiting for the bus to start again. Instead, the engine stopped and along with it the AC. A few minutes later, as the air was getting denser, and it was more and more impossible to breathe in the bus, a little bit of commotion started to stir the passengers. A few people tried the door while others watched. “Hey, driver! Open the door! We can’t breathe in here,” yelled one watcher. A response resonated from the front part of the bus: “Driver is outside checking the engine!”

We waited. By following the noise outside the bus, I tried to figure out the driver’s whereabouts but to no avail. It was completely quiet outside… Within the bus, people had started making calls on their mobile phones, asking for a friend, a spouse, a parent to pick them up in their car. Those who knew no one were calling taxis.

Completely unprepared for this change in my daily routine, I had still not reacted… Someone forced the front door open and one by one everyone got off.

I could hear some cars stopping by and car doors slamming, picking passengers who had just gotten off the bus. When it was finally my turn, there were only about 5 people left and by the time I had found my mobile phone, it was just a guy and myself left. After typing a few numbers, I looked around and realized that we were in the middle of nowhere. This was part of the city that was devoid of all residence. There was nothing in sight but one long and dark highway, lighted up only at one point by the bus headlights.

This road connected my neighborhood, the residential area to the city center where all the offices in tall skyscrapers were situated. Everyday, more than one third of the city’s population commuted between the two areas.

Today, a certain fraction of one third of the population was going to be late for dinner. Especially two of them would be very late.


My mother answered the phone.

“Mum, I-” and my phone turned dark.

I was left in the middle of nowhere with a driverless bright bus and a complete stranger…

To be continued… probably…

Turkish Coffee

Kahve Keyfi
Image: Enjoying Coffee by anonymous from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Enjoying_Coffee_Pera_Museum_2_b.jpg

Based on one of Sarah Selecky’s daily writing prompts (http://www.sarahselecky.com) : Describe the brim of a coffee cup.

As the thinly ground coffee and water boil up in the cezve and become inseparable under the rising foam, guests become restless with anticipation for the hot smokey taste in their mouths, conversation warms up and gradually deepens. As soon as the small cups of Turkish coffee are delivered to eager mouths, the strong sensation on tongues are rendered even more bitter with every sip after a bite of sweet turkish delight only to be mollified with shared life experiences. With each sip, more coffee grounds find their way in between taste buds, rising the heart rate with the sudden strike of high caffeine, maximizing the joy felt in good company and intriguing topics. When the cup contains more grounds than the mesmerizing liquid, cups are turned upside down on saucers and golden rings are placed on top, and thus another round of anticipation commences. Once the golden rings lose the last sheds of warmth of the coffee cup and become as cold as pebble, all conversations pertaining to worldly worries cease and the woman with the strongest sixth sense takes over.

Image source: http://www.kemalhalukcebe.com/kahvefali.html

She turns the coffee cup carefully and the one whose coffee induced lip traces mark the rim listens to their fortune; they may receive news from overseas in 3 weeks or 3 months or 3 years; the fish is another sign of “kismet”, soon the right person will ask their hand in marriage; sometimes there are evil eyes so the coffee enthusiast should have hot lead poured onto fabric held above her head as a precaution against evil intentions. One by one, everyone is filled with the news hidden between dried up coffee grounds in the cup and satisfied, goodbyes are exchanged until the next coffee gathering.

Shared Freakdom

On a psychiatry website, I read the description of a psychopath. It freaked me out that most of the points listed in the article applied to me. Then I thought, probably they also applied for a lot of other people as well… People are social beings, an almost basic description of human beings. Therefore it is “normal”, acceptable (?), common place (!) to try to adapt to a community.

The article stated that in order to fit into a certain group, trying to hide some aspects of one’s personality is part of what makes a psychopath. Well, if this is enough, then I am one as well.

Thank god, that is not all. You would also have to have extreme ideas and tendencies that would be hard to accept by almost anybody. And according to the article, trying to hide tendencies, one would lose it and display psychopathic behavior.

Reading about personality disorders on a psychiatry website and trying to figure out whether they applied to me also made me think of my adolescence. As an adolescent, I would read through psychiatry magazines and books with a friend and we would believe that we had borderline disorder, schizophrenia or that we were sociopaths and what not.

Now that I am a grown up woman fully aware of the significance of turning towards professional opinions rather than googling for answers on sensitive issues, instead of consulting a shrink, I narrowed down my possible psychological disorders to bipolar type something. The type that has mood swings almost every hour, as I wrote in an earlier post…

Coming back to the website and my reading about it… Reading about the comments that many people had added there, even the videos that they had uploaded of themselves going through a certain phase of their disorder, I realized that their sharing was making everything so much easier. It was helping others express what they were going through and helping them feel less lonely.

Even I felt like I was getting support from a bunch of people that I had never seen, that I was not even interacting with. Merely finding similarities between their stories and mine helped me get a brighter point of view about my life.

Considering the amount of information there is about growing up and teenage tantrums and frustrations, along with all the risks that the Internet may pose for adolescents, I bet had I been a teenager now, the loneliness that accompanied me in those days like a dark cloud blocking my view of reality would have become much lighter, less dense and easier to deal with.

I am glad that there are people sharing their stories with the rest of us and making the transition from birth to death called life so much easier. Helping the likes and “unlikes” of me feel they are not as freakish as they are made to believe through the shared stories. The more we read about shared “freakdom”, the less we freak out…