Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Spanish Lessons

Things I Learned on my recent vacation in Spain:

- My Spanish doesn't suck as bad as I thought it did.

- If it does, well, the people I encountered in Spain are quite generous and patient in working very, very hard to understand the grammatically incorrect babble spewing forth from my mouth.

- If your friends have a rudimentary grasp of Spanish, a good way to convince them that you're really good at it is to toss in a bunch of reflexive verbs just because.

- The last item doesn't work as well on the native Spanish speaker who has to listen to you and doesn't quite understand what you're trying to say due to the random "se"s that you're tossing in before all the verbs.

- When I try to speak Spanish to native speakers, I suppose I sound pretty much the same as latino immigrants here in America with a lower grasp of English... only with our language preferences reversed.

- If I worked just little bit harder at flirting with the hottest boy in the universe, he may have actually come up to my room after work. (Okay, that's not a Thing I Learned, it's just something I really wish I had done.)

- As in the United States, shoe shopping with an excruciatingly finicky woman is positively maddening. This is particularly true when you've hit the 100-minute mark, no end appears in sight, and you find yourself in an area of town that somehow contains a remarkably dense concentration of shoe stores.

- Virgin Atlantic Airways rocks my world. The flight crew is top notch, friendly, and have a great sense of humor. I fucked up big time as I boarded my flight to Heathrow (transferring to another airline for the next leg), and they went soooo far beyond the call of duty to help me that I feel compelled to write a letter for one guy's file. Oh, and it doesn't hurt that they have adorable accents, and they're easy on the eyes (women AND men).

- It's an international phenomenon for men to flirt with skinny blond chicks, however transparent their attempts. At dinner one night, I spent 15 minutes serving as the English/Spanish liaison between my three girlfriends and our non-English-speaking waiter before we finally ordered, followed by sporadic attempts to ask for extra stuff, like an extra bottle of sangria or more bread. When my skinny blond chick piped up, "Sal, por tavor [sic]" ("salt, please"), our waiter complimented her on her Spanish. Uh, who just asked you a gazillion questions, in Spanish? Me, on behalf of the girl who couldn't do so herself. Grrrr.

Things I Wish Some of Mis Amigas Learned or Knew:

- By the time you've been visiting a foreign country for five days, you should probably make some kind of effort to pick up some of the words. (Heck, you should probably have made that effort before we left.) This includes learning that it's "por favor," not "por tavor." Seriously, who doesn't know that one?

- Along the same vein: it's "flamenco," not "flamingo." And it's "salida," not "salada." Also, since "jamón" is on every single menu we've seen since we've been here, you may want to pick up what it means by the, oh, fourth time you see it available to you.

- By the time you've stayed in your rented apartment for five days, you really should be capable of returning to said abode without an escort. Pay attention to where you are and how you got there. You're pretty damn lucky we didn't "accidentally" separate from you.

- The last item is especially true when you're having a cerveza in a bar at Calle XXX no. 18 and our apartment is located at Calle XXX no. 24.

- Just because it's a digital camera and "you can just delete it" if the first shot doesn't look great, doesn't mean you have carte blanche to take 20 minutes to shoot 36 shots of each and every view. Point, shoot, glance at the final product, move on.

- Finicky eaters really need to stay out of foreign countries. Because food choices in other countries can be waaaaay different from food choices available in the U.S.

- You've committed an incredible oversight -- and spoken a great deal about your expectations of what your friends are going to tolerate of you -- if you didn't bring your reading glasses with you thinking that you wouldn't need them. The need to read menus and maps, just to name two, hinges on reading small print.

- If you're spending all your time souvenir shopping, you're not really seeing the country. You're buying things that make it look like you've seen the country, but you're wasting LOTS of valuable time buying keepsakes of things you haven't actually seen or experienced.

Okay, I kinda feel better now. I feel like I've forgotten something, but it'll come to me.


kat said...

the things you wish your amigas knew? would have driven me absolutely batty. you're a very patient friend, dennis!

anne said...

The joys of group travel... Sounds like a good trip all the same. :)

EchiZera said...

ha ha... i went to turkey a moth ago or so and I was laughing so hard when I read your blog.. i completely relate. You left your heart in Spain, I left mine in Turkey.

Washington Cube said...

Funny, funny piece, but not funny, yanno? I am not big on group travel because of these things.

Dop said...

I agree with DC3. I almost never go anyplace (travel-wise)with more than one person. And then I make sure it is a person I can yell at if necessary.

RetroDragon said...

The "banos" versus "aseos" thing still bothers the hell outta me.

Dennis! said...

Yeah, one of the chicks (with whom I have travelled many times) and I have vowed that we will not travel with others again.

Dop: Who's DC3?

Dragon: That reminds me of another story: so I engage in this discussion with Amiga 1 who knew some Spanish how to ask where the restrooms are. This conversation takes about 3 minutes, and I outline at least very clear options to her, "bano" or "servicio" (I had forgotten "aseo"). Amiga 2 is present for this entire conversation. Two hours later, at a restaurant, I direct Amiga 2 to the restroom. She comes back, telling me "Are you sure there's a bathroom there? The sign says 'service.'" I'm like, "Uh, it's 'servicio,' and didn't weren't you there when we had this big long discussion about how to say 'bathroom' in Spanish?"

duane said...

I can't believe that your friends didn't pick up on it... when I was in Paris for a few days, I even picked up some French. I guess some people aren't sponges for language!!!

I am so jealous that you went to Spain, BTW.