Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I am RETARDED!

I have now live here in Costa Rica for 3 years.  3 years of learning the culture, the geography, and of course the language.  3 months of language school and 2 years 9 months, give or take a couple of months being back in the States, of language learning on the street.  I am a fluent Spanish speaker, kind of.

So we were in Panama, and some homeless guy, with 2 teeth (no joke, 2 teeth), runs up to us and starts giving us a tour.  He showed us where the Spanish started raping the wealth of Panama and shipping it back across the ocean to the old world, where the French put their prisoners in a dungeon that had windows below the level of high tide (for those of you that can't picture it, they drowned when the tide came in), where Noriega had his Officer's Club, and where the United States invaded his land and killed his family in 1989.

A very interesting guy, including the little bit of body funk he had jumping off and the small blood stains that speckled his right shoulder.  He wasn't  a bad guy, in fact I liked him, all 4 foot nothing of him.  However, he did something, said something that really got to me.  He said,

"You speak spanish ok, but your wife is more fluent than you."

I got really defensive about that.  To be honest, it kinda pissed me off.  I mean, I speak spanish all the time, everyday.  I have no problems understanding what is being said to me, no problems expressing myself, I even argue in spanish.  
"I am a spanish speaker!"

So I start to tell him why he was wrong.  I tell him that yes my wife, TheVWM, does speak spanish well, but so do I.  I explain that what he is hearing is my gringo accent, that my wife has a gift of accents and although it SOUNDS like she is a better spanish speaker because she can pronounce the words better we are at least on par with our abilities.  The whole time he is nodding and agreeing, but I KNOW he really just wants us to tip him.  Jamie gave him 5 bucks.
Fast forward to today, really 5 minutes ago.  I am sitting here, at this very desk, and I send out an email to confirm an order of concrete for Thursday.  As soon as I hit send I realize I just responded to the wrong email.  I replied to an email about our last order of concrete.  So, to avoid any problems, I get on the phone to call the person I just emailed.

It starts out well, I ask for my contact at the office, but she is not there so I get someone else.  I start to explain my situation and I got the I-can't-understand-you-you-stupid-gringo-learn-spanish-transfer.  If you have lived out of the US you have probably experience it as well.  Its the mid sentence [fill in "just one moment" for whatever language you are trying to speak] , click, and then your listening to some top 40 song played on the sax and slowed down to a nice waltz pace. 

So as I am trying to fix this, trying desperately to make her understand what is going on.  Finally. after several minutes of a Porky Pig-esque monologue, I compose myself just long enough to explain to her what is happening, barely.  Then, as I am feeling like catching the next flight home, my contact arrives in the office and I get to do the entire thing again, this time with slightly more eloquence. 
And, to make the entire situation ever so much more humiliating, the entire time I had been spewing linguistic vomit where spanish should be,  a coworker of mine is sitting in the office across from  me  making me feel like an even bigger ASS!

Anyway, the call is over, the order confirmed, and here I sit completely and utterly defeated because today is the day I realized,

I am RETARDED!

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