Landfall in Panama!
One of my favorite things about traveling is learning and practicing another language. Though there are definitely some days when my brain gets tired and I wish I could just stick a babel fish in my ear.
Learning a new language is all about small victories. For me I think my initial break through moment in Spanish occurred when I was chatting with several guys at Marina Palmira in Topolobampo about our recurring dreams and then we took turns trying to interpret each other’s dreams. Not only was I able to understand their dreams and weigh in on the meaning, but I recounted my very strange and very vivid childhood dream. I didn’t know I had the vocabulary to describe it until I opened my mouth and the words just started pouring out.
In this recurring dream a monster would emerge from the toilet, chase me all through town up to the top of a building with a glass roof where I would then break through the glass and fall into a pool several floors below. On the bottom of the pool were gold coins which momentarily distracted me from the toilet monster peering at me from above. By the time I looked up, the toilet monster had plummeted from the roof and wedged itself in the pool, blocking my exit, trapping me in darkness. That was usually my cue to wake up. I wasn’t expecting these guys to take such an interest in this obscure dream, but they listened with rapt attention and then, without hesitation, told me (unequivocally) that if you dream about anything emerging from the toilet it means you’ve got good things coming your way (namely money…though I’m still waiting on that part to come to fruition). Small victories.
Despite the fact that, between us, Jeff and I have over 8 years of Spanish lessons, we still encounter our fair share of flub ups. Our accents are much better than our grammar or vocabulary, leading most locals to think our Spanish is much better than it actually is. At a little soda (eatery) in Quepos, Costa Rica that specializes in Chinese food (comida china) the server asked us if we were from Spain. We both laughed and asked if he was serious (en serio?). Turns out he was totally serious, he thought our Spanish was passable as…well…Spanish Spanish. Our little gaffes help keep us humble.
In La Paz, I thought I was asking to see the menu (la carta), instead I asked for something a bit more valuable.
Por favor, puedo tener su cartera?
Can I please have your wallet?
At least I was polite!
In response to the question, “how are you doing?” from a friendly guy in Topolobampo, Mexico I thought I said that I was very tired (muy cansada), but instead I was explaining how very unavailable I am.
Estoy muy casada. Y ud?
I am very married. And you?
At least I was speaking the truth. He didn’t offer a verbal response to my question…just a cocked eyebrow.
I meant to ask the fruit vender in Tapachula if the oranges she was selling were good for juicing (bueno para hacer jugo).
Las naranjas, son buenas para comer o jugar?
The oranges, are they good for eating or playing with?
She paused, looked at me like I was a crazy person and responded – “you eat them.” Check.
A gentleman in the mountains of Chiapas asked what we thought of his homeland. I meant to remark on how very green or verdant it is (muy verde).
Las montanas son lindas y es muy verdura aqui.
The mountains are beautiful and it’s very vegetable here.
In response to a comment about how strong my arms look from a friendly group of Mexican tourists in Manzanillo who invited us over for a beer, I thought I was explaining that I have the ropes (cuerdas or sogas) on the boat to thank for my toned arms.
Paso mucho tiempo tirando en ropas.
I spend a lot of time pulling on clothes.
A little rascal in Bahia Honda took one of our lures without asking, I decided they needed a bit of a talking to. I had come to think, for one odd reason or another, that the word barba meant hook or lure.
Alguien toca nuestra barba* sin permiso y no esta bien. Si lo toca, retornarlo por favor.
Someone took our beard without permission and that’s not okay. If you took our beard, please return it.
*According to my dictionary barba also signifies a player who takes old men’s parts??? I’m not even gonna ask.
I thought i was offering some fresh baked chocolate cake (pronounced cah-kay) to a local family that paid us a visit near Isla Parida, but they weren’t interested in what I actually offered.
Si les gustaria, tengo caca de chocolate que yo acabo de hacer.
If you would like, I have poop chocolate that I just made.
Ummmm…I would pass on that one as well.
When interacting with local policemen in Panama to recover a camera that had gone missing, Jeff thought he was informing them that we were just going to over to the bench to sit down (sentar).
Vamos alla para sentir.
We’re going over there to feel.
And feel we did. They also *amazingly* recovered our camera and told us assertively “you have a friend in the police in Panama.” Glad we understood that one.
Care to share any of your linguistic slip ups? I can always use a good laugh.