The word “vaina” is one that has come up a lot recently, and inhabits that strange space somewhere in the realm of Spanish slang or vulgarity the which I always have a hard time penetrating. I do not know why it is, because I have no similar problems with English (other than the use of the word jackass, which apparently is forbidden to the timid persons of Iowa and the use of which got me kicked out of the internet roach motel, lo these many years ago). The word “vaina” can simply mean the sheath of a sword—or just a sheath—and proceeds, according to the Royal Academy in Madrid, from a Latin cognate the which I will not trouble to elaborate.
But here in Colombia the word means shady business deals, mostly, and is applied to all manner of things from money laundering operations to anything connected with a politician. As you can see, it is pretty useful slang, if it is slang. They also use it as an expression of incredulity, “Que va!” as if you had achieved the ultimate cash cow, which I suppose must somehow be a shady deal or at least connected with the government.
I heard it especially last night while talking to a professor of the dismal science, and I found it particularly apt on his lips. He teaches at the oldest university in Colombia and one of the oldest in Latin America. I was talking to him because a person from church knows him and for reasons I do not entirely understand is really eager to help me get a job and stay here. So here is the crazy part, the guy is going to put my resume in at said university to see if I can get a job teaching. He spent two hours preparing me for an interview with the powers there.
Que vainas, no? I expect very little to come of this, but it is worth a try and a few hours extending and translating the resume. He also explained to me that higher education in Colombia can be aptly characterized by the word vaina.
Speaking of which, I have been reaping a little crop of small successes after long attempts so that now on my fully expanded resume (in Colombia it is not a real resume unless it runs to 3 pages, I learned) includes a section of publications:
“Another World” and “October’s Showers,” poetry published in The Mythic Circle, 31 (July 2009).
“Warming up after Bogota: La Vega and Villeta,” a travel account published online at Colombia Reports (colombiareports.com), 6-29-2009.
“The Hobbit and Middle Earth,” a review essay published in The Minas Tirith Evening-Star: the Journal of the American Tolkien Society, 38:1 (Spring 2009).
“The Children of Hurin,” a review essay published in The Minas Tirith Evening-Star: the Journal of the American Tolkien Society, 37:3/4 (Autumn/Winter 2008).
“The Wind in the Gutters,” a short story forthcoming in Aoife’s Kiss, (March 2010).
How is that for vainas?