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My husband and I , with our dog, Tate, moved to Buenos Aires, 8 years ago. Life has never been the same since ~ Back in the USA ... life is still not the same !
It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new.
But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful.
There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power.
Alan Cohen
"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend.
Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."
Groucho Marx
The doors we open and close each day decide the lives we live.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Living in Babel

I lived in San Diego, California as a child. My grandmother used to say that I spoke Spanish before I spoke English. We had a lady that worked for us, from Mexico, she only spoke to me in Spanish, they took me to Mexico with them for visits to the family. Imagine this.. a truck with 2 Mexican adults, a back seat with little brown haired brown eyed children and one white haired blue eyed child. And no one said, wait a minute, where did you get that one ?!
I would run around and try to catch a chicken with the other children.
These are my memories. But I spoke Spanish.
When I was in high school, living in North Carolina, I took Spanish. Mistakenly thinking that having spoken it once, I would be good at it again.
I was wrong.
The teacher would humiliate me in class by holding my lips together like a fish and make me say Ohhhhh Ohhhhhh .. and being Southern, I would say Awwwwww Awwwwwwww. I decided then , never to speak Spanish again. Only French.
It was years later that I went to Paris and wished I spoke French well. Or at all. So that was my goal, someday I will speak fluent French and live in Paris.
And as Fate loves to play jokes on us all, here I am, living in South America and speaking Spanish. ( I say I speak Spanish, the locals are polite, kind, they hide their laughter when I babble away at them)..
There are days that I think I know what everyone is saying and then there are days that everyone sounds to me, the way everyone must sound to Pup. It is just so much noise. None of it makes sense. And the stress is that you have to look like you understand or at least not look panic stricken and clueless ( which I am, many times a day)..
I knew a girl back in NY, she arrived from Germany not speaking any English. She watched soap operas on television all day. She learned English. I don't know if she sounded like a soap opera actress every time she opened her mouth ... but it was English.
Here, I see them on television, I hear them but I cannot possibly mimic them or learn to copy them.
1- They speak at the speed of light. I totally do not understand how anyone speaks that fast or understands anyone else speaking that fast.

2- Does this mean I am slow witted ? Do I get a pass if I am ? hmmmm.

3- I don't have the lips for Spanish.
Spanish speaking people have soft full lips, those pillowy sorts of lips that easily round out words like Muchas or Precioso .. every word looks like someone is going to give you a Kiss.
( we won't get into the kissing thing, they kiss everyone here. Twice. )

This- I like.

So mostly I learn the words that are sufficient for getting around and for shopping and Just In Case.. Policia, Robo, Ayudame ! Please God I never have to use that Spanish !
I am fluent in Menu though. This is a good thing. And waiters are multi-lingual, at least in menu. They know what I am talking about every time. Of course, my skills at Pantomime are legendary, that might help.

We took the computer in to be fixed. My dear sweet pain in the arse computer decided to quit. I know I use it a lot but not as much as some people.
I think it was just being spoiled and threw a tantrum. It worked fast enough for that cute technician at Apple !
So now I have my computer. Some things are still not "normal" .. some things are gone. But they saved my photos, I can find more bookmarks , I can blog. I can email my children. So all is not lost.
But the computer came back speaking Spanish.

We did everything that we know how to do to stop it and it stubbornly insisted on answering me in Spanish. Was this some kind of trick ? That woman can't speak Spanish, this'll get her going !
And when the technicians tell you , in English, how to fix things, you (I) still can't understand them .. is that English ?
Last night, as I typed my emails to friends and family ,telling them we were back in touch again,
every word was underlined in red.
Because the Computer spoke Spanish, I was using a foriegn language ... aarrrrrggggghhhhhhh.

My husband, after listening to much whining and grumbling, told me to turn it Off.
Completely Off.
I did so, worried it would not go back on again or would be speaking Mandarin when it came back .. but no, I married a Genius.
My computer is now speaking English.. all is right with the World.

6 comments:

  1. Very funny! I never speak Spanish so well as when I am trying to speak French.

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  2. It happens to me all the time. Yesterday I almost said Bongiorno .. I can almost hear the misfires in my brain :)

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  3. "my skills at Pantomime are legendary"

    hahahahahaha I laughed out loud many times while reading this post...towhead chasing chickens, ooooohhhh, and trying to navigate your Manzanas..or should I say Apple.

    All the best to you!

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  4. I am happy when I make someone laugh .. thank you very very much, abby jenkins !

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  5. I love the name of your blog. You crack me up. It reminds me of living in Paris when a jerky French hair stylist was making fun of my American accent. But the elegant lady who's hair he was doing corrected him and said (in French) "her accent is charming and very cute. Let her speak." Unfortunately, that guys comment still haunts me.
    Mary Ann

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  6. Thank you! Isn't it sad how we remember the snarky remarks before the sweet ones ?
    That lady was truly elegant. That guy was hit by a bus later that week LOL

    ReplyDelete

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Sorry, I had to put comment moderation back on, since in the couple of days since I took it off, I got enough spam for a year and only one comment.
Please do leave a comment though- or else I will feel like I am talking to myself and you know what that means !!

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Expat blogger

living in Argentina