Thursday, May 5, 2011

Refleccion Loco

Para El Cinco De Mayo... Un Refleccion...

Estudie Espanol en la escuela secondaria (I think that says I studied Spanish in high school. It is highly possible I mucked it up—the same is possible for the line above and the title. Because you see... I haven't used it in a LONG time... and last time I DID use it, I misunderstood someone VERY badly and became the butt of many jokes between my family and some of our good friends... Maybe THAT is the story I ought to tell.


Prima

When we first moved to Ann Arbor my daughter was in kindergarten and we lived in an Apartment complex because our house in Portland hadn't sold yet. The complex had some other families, and two families had daughters in my daughter's kindergarten class... neither family spoke English.

Nadia's family was Russian, and her mom was nice, but very quiet, and NOBODY had very strong English (the dad might have—he was a computer programmer for a bank and seemed to work a lot—I only met him briefly). This may shock you, but I speak no Russian. So we enjoyed them, but the bonding was sort of limited.

But Annabelle's family was Colombian* and spoke SPANISH... not only, though, did they speak Spanish, but they had 3 kids, 2 in school, and the older son was a pretty good translater, and the DAD ran a painting business, so he had an accent, but understood and could speak English pretty well.


Like Snow White and Rose Red, eh?
Entonces

Natalie and Annabelle became fast friends very quickly... and then summer came and we bought our house... sad, that... to move from a friend when you are 6... But the house we bought sat next to an empty house, and one day I saw a woman poking around. I talked her. She wanted to sell, but the house needed a lot of fixing and she couldn't afford to fix it... I connected the woman with Miguel, who I knew had the skill and connections to fix a house... (and a business to finance against, when a normal lender would not consider a fixer-upper) and they became our next door neighbors.

Their family was in Colombia. Ours was out west... we became close (holidays together close). Their youngest daughter, then 3, used to ring our doorbell and say “Bob” (pronounced Bobe)... do you KNOW how cute that is for a toddler to come over to see the man of the house? (don't tell HWMNBMOTI that I let his name slip).

Well a few months in, Miguel's brother Hernando moved in with them. Hernando spoke NO English... not a word... Ninguna palabra. Nada. (for the record, HWMNBMOTI speaks no language but English. Not. A. Word.)

(this is where I get to the story... you thought I forgot, didn't you?) The (other) details you might need:

So Hernando and HWMNBMOYI used to sit and have these non-conversation conversations, which was amusing... (okay, so you don't need that, but it used to amuse me, these two grown men who couldn't understand each other but liked each other so well)

I completely didn't understand ANY of the Spanish I heard, with one exception. Juan, the older brother, spoke slowly and enunciated clearly (I suspect he spoke Spanish like I speak English... I'm a slow speaker... no ums or ahs... just what I mean to say, but slow).

I had to TRY with Hernando because... you know... he spoke no English. We had an excellent conversation about ducks once (patas)... Because I understood Juan, I thought maybe my difficulty was one of vocabulary... you know how in English there are a dozen words for any given meaning... attractive is pretty, beautiful, gorgeous, handsome, hot, foxy (what? You don't hear foxy anymore?)... Well I half convinced myself Hernando used the lesser taught synonyms for common words *shifty* (call it a defense mechanism)

Final fact... when family comes to visit from Colombia, they stay for... MONTHS (like 3-6)... VISIT is a term used for 'live with for a while'. It's a little baffling for Americans who are used to 2 weeks vacation a year and would NEVER impose themselves on their kids for that long, but that's a cultural thing (and I think one where Americans are actually the world minority) [you understand when I say Americans, I generally mean United Statesians... because of course Colombia IS in America (South America) which I know...]


Is that enough set-up for you?


So Miguel and Hernando's mother had been there... months... 3, I think... and Hernando comes to visit, distraught. He tells me 'mi madre se fue' (my mother has gone). I say 'lo siento' (I'm sorry)... he makes a motion to clarify... hands together, shooting at an angle toward the sky... heaven, right?... “lo siento” I say again... I'm sad now, too... tell the hubby... hubby goes next door and gives condolences...

And they all laughed at me from then on... you see... 'she is gone... she left on a plane... she went home' Oi, Dios Mio! Did I get THAT wrong! She didn't die. Her extensive visit just ended and she went home... I DID learn though, that two hand straight up (toward heaven) is death, and at an angle is some other earthly location via airplane... so that's something...

I wish you all Un Feliz Cinco de Mayo! Tenga algo con tequila y baila una merengue! (and that is meant to say, in case I mucked it up (but don't correct me, that will only annoy me) a happy Cinco de Mayo! Drink something with tequila and dance a merengue... in case that wasn't clear)

and of course it's Thursday, so whatever you decide to do, you must do it NAKED!

* I am completely aware El Cinco de Mayo is about MEXICO (and their independence from France) and my story is about my Colombian friends... and that Mexico and Colombia are separate and very different, and share only language... but it's my blog, and since the story is about language, I went with it...
 

23 comments:

Crystal Pistol said...

I dig your style, girl. And your Espaniol was perfecto here.

I heard American men say "Estoy embarasada" (I'm pregnant) when they mean to say "I'm embarrassed". Language is a hilarious barrier.

I love to say Foxy. More importantly, I like to BE Foxy.

Grandpa said...

Splendid, as the English like to say.
You are quite prolific Hart. I thought you would be weary from the marathon, but no... You can read minds too, I think, always preempting and saying exactly what we are thinking.

I like languages - all of them, with few exceptions, esp when they got tangled like that - always a good laugh after.

Two words I understand well there - tequila and mayo - for obvious reasons.

Grandpa
Life on The Farm

sue said...

good on you! Is whisky included? It's way too cold here now for anything involving less clothing than woollens ALL over, but I'm sure it's the thought that counts. I love those conversations that involve more sign language than words, and when the mispronounced words come from assorted languages, and when the hands flap in the air trying so hard to explain, but there's a connection that's human and warm, it's WONDERFUL! Sue

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

It *is* Cinco de Mayo! I still can't believe it's already May!

Your story is TOO funny! We have Colombian friends here, too--my daughter's best friend's parents. Their English is wonderful (syntax sometimes a little funny)...good, because I couldn't attempt to speak Spanish to them! Took French in school. :)

Ca88andra said...

That was totally funny! You would enjoy the English conversation classes where I volunteer. Last night one of the Chinese pupils (who barely speaks any English) came out with some German words! I nearly fell off my chair.

Old Kitty said...

I love this family!! They have so embraced the meaning of being NAKED!!!Yay!!! Happy Cinco de Mayo!!! Take care
x

Ciara said...

Great story, Hart. My best friend form college is from Columbia. I missed her as I read this. I think I'll call her today. :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Hey, you were trying to understand!
Will there be nachos, Dos Equis, and nakedness tonight at your house?

H.B.Markor said...

Ha! Your Spanish is right on par with my measly three years of high school spanish.

My only time of trying to use it was at a friends farm and their employee was asking me how many drinks I'd had, but I misunderstood and told him my age instead. Por que, Yo Habla espanol quando estoy muy barracha.

Hart Johnson said...

Crystal-I remember my Spanish teacher having a heyday with that embarasada one! She would act like a giant gossip and (in Spanish of course) ask how it happened (boys got some version of 'milagro' in there)

Grandpa-yeah, some might call me wordy *snort* And I think the tangles are funny AFTER the fact, but man, DURING... it can be pretty fristrating...

Sue, whisky or run, usually *teehee* And I get that 'too cold' business, but WOOL? hellsno! Wool is ITCHY! (and one of the reasons I am so dedicated to naked)--fleece, maybe...

Elizabeth--so funny to both have daughters with Colombian BFFs! And yeah... May... what's up with THAT? Doesn't seem possible!

Cassandra-I love that--can't speak what THEY are speaking,so pull out any language they can come up with just in case. I've tried Spanish when someone doesn't speak English... that leads to trouble.

Jenny-they are a WONDERFUL family! They moved to Canada so we don't see them as much, but they are great!

Ciara-Have a great visit with your friend!!!

Alex-that absolutely sounds like a plan!

Hart Johnson said...

Maria: *snort* 25. BUWAHAHAHAHAHAHA! too funny!

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

i completely forgot it was Cinco de Mayo! Not only that it was the holiday, but also that it was the 5th of May

Carol Kilgore said...

Love the story! Here in San Antonio, Tex-Mex applies to language as well as food. At times it's a struggle. But a fun one :)

Viva la taco!

Michael Offutt said...

Great story. Communication is at the heart of human interaction for sure. Also, I think diversity amongst culture and relationships is a strength that more of us need to embrace.

Johanna Garth said...

That's such a great story! My best friend was an exchange student to Mexico and she has a wonderful story about sitting around with her new group of Mexican friends (boys and girls) and telling everyone that she was so hot (because of the weather). What she didn't realize is that she had said she was hot-like horny, I want your body hot. She is modest under the best circumstances so was MORTIFIED!!

LTM said...

yep, that sounds a bit like my spanish does... :D And you know what stood out most to me in this post of communication breakdowns? having to move, sell/buy houses...

glad Hernando's aunt didn't die. ;p

nekkid Thursday!!! woo!

N4M3L3SS said...

cute kids

Cheeseboy said...

That is awesome that you have developed this lasting friendship with them. I took Spanish in Junior High too. Only class in my life I have failed. Except for Greek Mythology in College.

Andrew Leon said...

Um... I'm going to see Thor tonight. I'm thinking if I show up naked, I won't be seeing Thor.

I had 4 or 5 years of French when I was in elementary school. I think I can count to 3 and, possibly, sing "Friar Jacques."
heh

GigglesandGuns said...

Mexico, Colombia who cares? It's a great story.

Alison said...

Snow White and Rose Red - love it....

Trisha said...

I love the Spanish language! We don't really have much of it here - there are more Asian languages - but I'd love to learn Spanish.

Lisa Potts said...

You are so freaking entertaining! You had me at Prima (I would have said Hola but that wasn't technically written anywhere in the post).