(Shout-out to the late, gre--------------well, late Gary Coleman.)
Three of my pet peeves back in the States came in one convenient package. They begin when you call a business.
1) A human never answers the phone. When did personal interaction become so passe?
2) The recorded voice says, "Please listen carefully as our menu options have changed." This is obviously a lame attempt to get you to actually listen to the options instead of immediately pressing "0," which I invariably try. But couldn't whoever came up with that idea have been a bit more creative? Did they actually think anyone would really be sitting there thinking, "Dang it. I just finished memorizing that other menu."
3) But before that happens, you get the (for me) fingernails-on-the-blackboard "For English press "1;" for Spanish press "2." It's always aggravated me that Hispanics would come to America and not bother to learn the language, and even more so that America would say, "That's OK. Just press 2."
Well, here we are in Ecuador, where we just got around to getting a cell phone and wouldn't think of calling a business because we'd have no idea what they'd be saying beyond "Buenos dias." Yes, the zapato (shoe) is now clearly on the other pie (foot).
I looked up those two words up in my Spanish dictionary. I do that a lot because at this point I'd be lost trying to have a decent conversation in a Cuencano nursery school. Ah, and the intention to be further along was so noble. Back in Nevada I was diligently listening to my CD's every day preparing to chat it up with the locals immediately upon arrival.
But then that last month of preparing, packing, planning, and other-words-that-start-with-a-p-that-I-can't-think-of-right-now hit with hurricane force and the Spanish lessons went from the front burner to completely off the stove.
"Use it or lose it" definitely applies to foreign language, as I discovered my initial attempts at conversation had degenerated to primitive Tarzan-like "Me Edd--you Juanita" utterances. So it's been back to CD #1---Good morning--good afternoon--good night------Good grief!!
In the meantime we're on the streets of Cuenca boldly attempting to make it through each day with a few words, exaggerated gestures, and sometimes crude drawings. It's a good thing folks here apparently enjoy playing Charades and Hangman.
It was actually better when we couldn't say much of anything in Spanish. When you know a little bit you're more emboldened to give it a go. Sometimes I've even gone to the trouble of preparing and memorizing a couple of coherent sentences to really demonstrate my newfound prowess.
The problem with this strategy is that invariably you receive back a barrage of unintelligible syllables delivered at warp speed for which you weren't prepared. Standing there open-mouthed and staring like Beavis & Butthead is not the favorable impression I was shooting for.
Eating out is always an adventure. We sit in restaurants studying the menu with the appearance of deciding what to order. And we are, except we're not actually reading the menu. Our eyes are instead scanning for just a word or two we recognize that might reveal at least a clue of what will emerge from the kitchen.
A good example of how much of an idiot you can make of yourself happened to me at a paint store yesterday. Yes, a paint store. With communication skills somewhere between Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal, Cynthia and I have been roaming around town like Moses in the wilderness trying to pick out granite and paint colors for the apartment we're moving into soon.
Looking at a beige color I confidently ask the clerk in Spanish if he thinks it has too much yellow. He considers my question, thinks, then shakes his head "no," but something about his expression tells me to consult the ever-present dictionary. H-m-m---he's right. It doesn't have too much blue in it. Oops.
Although it's somewhat draining we're getting by for now, having a blast and determined to become fluent in the language of our new home. You just can't take this stuff too seriously. In the meantime me wish you many happy pineapples. Have a notched dog!!