Thursday, July 8, 2010

American Gigolo

Grab this related post Widget!
Don't you just hate it when you do something for the right reason and it turns out totally wrong? Like you move a chair when someone's about to sit down and they crack their head on the floor and get a severe concussion? OK, bad example.

How about when you offer to help your new neighbor hang a heavy mirror, and it's going well and she's smoking hot looking and you want to make a good impression but your hands are getting sweaty and the mirror slips and shatters and a piece of glass flies up and cuts her leg and she's standing there hysterical and crying and bleeding and---you were just trying to be a good neighbor.

So we were recently at a birthday party with probably 90% Cuencanos and 10% gringos in attendance. And most of the locals spoke not a word of English. These situations can be a lot of fun but attempting to communicate over a long evening without using language is incredibly draining. You focus so intently on everything else--gestures, facial expressions, and tonality.

But the fun is in at least trying to talk a bit as well. So we're all having some drinks and laughing--it's a party, right?--and I'm chatting it up with a nice couple. Things seem to be going really well. That is, until in shattered Spanish I enthusiastically say to the woman, "If you want to practice your English, I'm your man!."

Instantly a look comes over her face like I had just opened my raincoat and exposed myself (not that I have experience in these matters--pure speculation, I assure you). Confused, I think I must have been misunderstood, so I repeat with even more gusto, "I'M YOUR MAN!."

The lady repeats what I said to her husband and they immediately get up and hustle out the front door. Yikes!! Apparently I had innocently and unwittingly made a improper advance to this nice woman right in front of her spouse. How indiscreet can you get?

I'm happy to report they eventually returned to the party, although they remained on the other side of the room and avoided eye contact with yours truly for the remainder of the evening.

Forget about poor sentence construction or cultural misinterpretations. Sometimes just a misused letter or two can cause problems. We were spending the night with a local couple and as best I could I shared that in the morning I was really looking forward to taking a hot trout (trucha). Oops. Shower is "ducha."

But just so you know this language butcher knife has a two-sided blade. Last night in a restaurant I noticed that one of the sushi offerings was a yummy sounding shrimp and crap roll.

Hasta banana!


Mike and Johnie said...

Brother, everyone wjo learns a new language gets that same lesson in humility. Way back, when I was just learning Spanish, I visited a couple I knew in the States. The wife asked me if I wanted a refresco. I trotted out a slang expression I had learned for a drink. Unfortunately, in their country of origin it was a vulgar expression for having sex.

There was a moment of profound silence. The wife went from trigueƱa to red. The husband fell on the floor laughing. I had no idea what was going on. Trust me, that was no isolated experience. With all the innocence of a three year old telling about some fight the parents had, I have insulted priests, politicians, members of my wife's family - all while trying to talk to them.

Fortunately, we get better the more we speak. And my experience has been that most people are very forgiving and write it off as me being dumber than a box of rocks. (an insight shared by the nuns who taught me in grade and high school.)

Did the husband pound me to a jellyfish like substance for propositioning his wife? No, when he finally stopped howling he showed me via sign language what I had said. I was very embarrased. I lived. I learned.


Edd Staton said...

"So you're sayin' there's a chance---YES!!" (showing my highbrow movie preferences here)

Patrick said...

I want to say 1st I really enjoy your blog and have it bookmarked.
I would like to find someone I can ask a burning question on about Cuenca. I really hope this does not sound bad because it's not.

Q- All I ever see anyone take any pictures of are the flower market women with the panama hats. I am a guy. Not a pig (seems they have plenty roasting) but a guy. Are there any good looking women their too?

And could someone please post a photo a little more diversified than what's being shown. I don't think it's clearly representing the town.
Thank you.

The Roches said...

I really enjoy your blog. My husband and I put the for sale sign up July 1st. Tough market, don't know how long it will take, but when it sells, our plan is Cuenca. We have visited Ecuador twice and plan addtional trips in the fall. It is really funny to read your experiences, and hopefully learn from them.