Saturday, January 26, 2008

Your Majesty, I do so admire the warmth of your testicles...

I'm taking a writing break for a few minutes to ponder my trip to Nicaragua next week for the day job.

Haiti two weeks ago, now Nicaragua. I ping pong from French and Creole-speaking countries to Spanish. I'm lousy at both languages. I know a little bit of both, enough to ask the essentials.

Bano is a definite essential. So is cafe con leche, coffee with milk.

There are phrases I should memorize in Spanish when traveling in a foreign country, especially one that's experienced civil wars in the past. Such as "Can you direct me to the nearest airport that hasn't been taken over by armed rebel forces?" Or "Yes, my, you do have a big Uzi. I trust it works. Now can you direct me to the nearest airport that hasn't been taken over by rebel forces?"

I love Nicaragua. The people are friendly, the children sometimes break my heart with the poverty and living conditions, and the potential I see in the people is enough to keep my hopes afloat. I do wish I spoke decent Spanish, but I think part of me is afraid I'll botch it.

I've heard enough tales of woe from friends who did botch it.

Such as a friend who was traveling in a Spanish-speaking country with a tour group that consisted of a Spanish-speaking bishop. My friend, who truly admired the bishop's work in the poverty-stricken country, wished to express said admiration in her bastardized Spanish. So she blurted out, "Your Majesty, I do so admire the warmth of your testicles."

Don't. Ask.

Languages are funny. Even funnier when someone thinks they can communicate and assumes everyone can understand. Like the time I traveled with a man who speaks fluent Portuguese, and since we were at a Brazilian restaurant, even though it was a SPANISH-speaking country, thought he should order dessert in Portuguese. "The languages are so similar," he insisted.

Okay dude. I just enjoyed watching the waiter blanch and whirl around in shock when this man, thinking he was ordering bread pudding, asked instead for breaded asshole.

So next week when I'm in Nicaragua, I'll use what little Spanish I know to break the ice a little. But I sure won't be ordering dessert or expressing admiration to any religious figures.


Toni Lea Andrews said...

I used to translate form letters for a company where I worked. Spanish is especially fun because the same word means three different things in three different Latin American countries.

When talking about a club member, a "miembro" is a member in Mexico but mean penis in Argentina. A past due account is "delicuente" in Costa Rica, but that means "criminal" in Peru, so we switch to "atrasado" which means is good in Peru but means "mentally retarded" in Mexico. And "no es corriente" means old-fashioned in Panama...


Bonnie Vanak said...

LOL Toni! That's too funny!

I wonder if you can have a "miembro Delicuente," and if so would that be a past due member, a past due penis, or a criminal penis?