228 Pounds Lighter

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Photo Credit: MorgueFile.com

This & That ― Vignettes of a Professional Journey
a column by Ines Bojlesen

On April 15, 1980, I was appointed a Tradutora Pública e Intérprete Comercial for the State of São Paulo in Brazil, after having passed written and oral translation and interpreting exams. More than three thousand people applied for the English language, and 73 passed. I was in the middle of the bunch, ranking number 49.

I dedicated over three decades to translations that covered the lives of adopted children and their families, technical manuals, police records, marriage, birth and death certificates, and school transcripts. They also included peculiar things such as love letters shredded but found by the betrayed spouse, taped together and presented to me for translation.

In the beginning, I used an IBM typewriter, making carbon copies to keep as a record. Later in the decade, I evolved to an electronic typewriter that used a golf ball for different fonts and had a built-in erasing ribbon.

Ten years later and not too soon, I ventured into the computer world, never to leave it. Carbon copies were replaced by photocopies in the beginning. As printers became more affordable, we could print as many copies of translations as we needed without having to leave the office in search of a print shop.

Translations were numbered in sequence, and every 400 pages had to be bound in a book, also numbered. The pages were sent to a skilled bookbinder nearby who did a great job of transforming them into an elegant-looking book. Lately I heard that some states have gone over to digital archives but some continue to use archaic record-keeping methods.

To be an official translator, one must be a Brazilian citizen and reside in Brazil. When I moved to the U.S., I phased out clients who requested official translations and waited for the opportunity to apply for an official discharge (exoneração) from the appropriate government office.

The books of translations were stored at my mother’s house in Brazil. I dreaded the daunting task of returning them to the São Paulo Board of Trade, the state authority with jurisdiction over the ofício. As official translations are in the public domain and must remain available to the public, the custody of the books becomes the responsibility of the Board of Trade when a translator resigns or dies.

My mother passed away in 2014, and her apartment had to be sold. The time to resign my position and surrender the books had come. I hired a driver and his helper, who packed my 104 books (weighing 228 pounds) in sturdy cardboard boxes. I sat between the two men in their VW station wagon as we drove to the Board of Trade building.

It was not easy; I felt like I had a hot potato in my hands. Finally, the boxes were accepted with reluctance. I had to fill a form and pay fees before the books could be inspected.

The taxi ride back was an emotional one. So many years of my life and so many live stories were stored in those 41,000+ pages. They provided the opportunity to meet and know many people, some becoming great friends. Throughout those years, my translation skills evolved in tandem with technology improvements.

A couple of months later, the official stamp on my resignation letter and the publication in the Diário Oficial sealed the end of my journey as an official translator in Brazil.

Today, I am just an unofficial translator extraordinaire… 228 pounds lighter!

One Comment

  1. Thank you, Ines. Delightful reading. I had no idea about this requirement of returning the books. I like the detail you provide. Keep writing!

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