My first attempts to communicate

I’m starting this entry at 6:50 p.m. CST but would rather be sleeping. It’s been an exhausting day. Morning sounds included dogs barking, roosters sounding their scratchy bugle, and a bird making a sort of slide whistle call. Tonight’s sounds include dogs barking, three wheeled tuk-tuks, crickets, and children. The electricity was out at 6:30 a.m.; now it’s on. The water was on, then off, then on, now off. The internet shows a preference for certain websites one moment, for others the next. I’ve tried to download WhatsApp all day, with no success. At least the gas stove works and we have several tambos (jugs) and a pila (outdoor cement tub) full of water.

The primary barrier in my attempts to learn Spanish has been shyness (not to mention a lack of encounters with native speakers). It’s too easy to avoid the potential embarrassment of mistakes, hence, my forcibly living in a country where I have no choice but to risk looks that say, “¿WTF are you talking about, gringa?” That was later in the day when I attempted to help my roommate and fellow old lady (32 29), Vee, find plantain chips at a pulperia (small market where you order what you want through a grate). Plantains = platanos. Chips = ?, but surely if I ask for “dried plantains” the appropriate message will come across. “¿Tiene platanos secas?” Ummm, nope! Cue: mini-flood of shame. (Turns out the word we needed was tajadas.) And now I wonder if my directness was rude. Also, there was the encounter at the (semi)super mercado, where you can buy laundry soap, soy milk, and stoves, in which the clerk questioned my purchase of brown rice—did I have a medical issue? Not that I understood her question, spoken or mimed, and that’s where Vee and I make a great pair. Despite her lack of Spanish speaking skills, she understands okay; flip it for me. Thanks to Vee’s translation, I could stand my ground and declare my preference for brown rice, despite having no medical reasons for needing it, and proudly make my purchase with crumpled lempiras. I think some school boys asked if I was a dog.

But those were the only real bruises, and minor at that, as Vee and I wandered from the Small House (for the introverted volunteers. There is a Big House for the extroverts.) to el centro for flip flops, a hat, and groceries. A man behind us in line at an eatery explained Vee’s order to the clerk. The clerk at the pulperia across the road from my house patiently repeated multiple times just how the eggs were priced (5 eggs for 15 lempiras ~ US$0.75), and a produce vendor made sure I understood that the avocado (aguacate) should be eaten mañana. A smile to a passing stranger usually garners a smile in return.

Ta ta,

theresa

P.S. And…the water’s back on.

P.P.S. The internet currently works in 5 minute increments only.

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10 thoughts on “My first attempts to communicate

  1. How fun, Theresa! We had some friends who we’re living in Mexico City years ago when their child was a baby. Her child was sick and she was on a bus with him on the way to the doctor’s office when a woman approached her asking in Spanish if her baby was a boy. My friend thought she was asked if her child was ill and responded “we think so but we are taking him to the doctor to find out”.

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  2. You are doing great! Way to get out there and just try. Remember that when you interact with a non-English speaker you aren’t ridiculing them for their mistakes. Just remember to laugh-wouldn’t you smile a little if someone asked you where to find “dried potatoes”? Get lots of sleep and enjoy your brown rice. I’m so excited for you!

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  3. Hilarious! Keep these coming!

    Yo digo esto mientras estoy estudiando español en Starbucks. Yo también tengo dificultad hablar por miedo de hacer errores. En Vancouver, no hay nadie con quién practicar, pues intento practicar contigo por comentar en su blog. 🙂

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  4. Pingback: Hagfish don’t speak Spanish | Asteroid Pen

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