01.20.2023 – Translating Culture is Hard Work

You may remember that for the past year or so Becky and I have had the privilege of working with an Afghan family evacuated from the country as Kabul fell to the Taliban.  We have become friends and our friendship extends far beyond those who offer help and those who receive help.  Ask about the meal they shared with us last week!

But we still help.

Throughout this past fall and now into the winter, we spend less time with English lessons and more time with culture lessons.  It is encouraging to watch our friends successfully navigate daily encounters with the bureaucracy of government and schools and banks.  They are doing well.  But every so often something comes up that requires some inside-the-culture attention.

Late last spring our friends were able to purchase a used car – and what a good thing that has been.  A 6-month/6,000-mile warranty was included in the purchase price.  Fortunately, they’ve had no need to make a claim against the warranty. The car runs well.

With 6 months nearly passed since the purchase of the car and the warranty about to lapse, our friends are receiving mail from the warranty company warning of dire consequences if they do not renew the warranty, preferably for four more years.  Call now to activate this important coverage for your       VEHICLE!  I don’t why vehicle is capitalized, maybe just to emphasize the great risk to driver and VEHICLE if they don’t buy the additional coverage.

By the way, I am not a great fan of extended warranties, but I am sure if any of you are extended warranty salespeople, your product is 100% legitimate, necessary, and essential to my well-being and the well-being of my VEHICLE.

When our friends received their most recent notice of the impending lapse of coverage for their VEHICLE, they took a picture of it and texted it to us.  “What should we do with this paper?” they asked.

I told them to throw it away and then tried to explain extended warranties and scams and junk mail.  And emails about free Wal-mart gift cards.  I used language Google translator should have been able to render in Persian without too much trouble.

Our friend loves to share Hazara wisdom sayings with us, so I added, “A fool and his money are soon parted.”

“We are learning little by little,” our friend replied.

Part of being a Twenty-first Century American is knowing about scam artists and dishonest brokers of all sorts.  We encounter them every day; it becomes second nature to ignore them, file them away in our junk mail folders literal and otherwise.

Seeing our culture through the eyes of our immigrant friends is not an altogether positive experience. Entire industries are built on the premise of bilking the innocent and the unaware out of what they have worked hard to earn.

As they prepared to enter the Promised Land, Moses told the people, “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. Leviticus 19:33–34

If you are an extended warranty salesperson, keep that in mind – as should the rest of us.