Tuesday, October 19, 2010

More or Less

Every Spaniard that is learning English seems to use the phrase ‘more or less’ like it’s their job. Now I’ve caught myself using it. I keep picking up on the various expressions they use. The thoughts in my head are in English, but in a Spanish accent. I’m going crazy! Since they learn British English they obviously use British expressions and words. I’ve been surprised with some of the expressions and pronunciations. The thing I’ve been most surprised about is the fact that I’m not already familiar with these sayings, etc. For instance, the British say zed for the letter z. The first time I heard that I had no clue what was going on. Another funny thing about letters is how they try to remember them phonetically. In Spanish our English letter “g” is phonetically spelled like “dzi.” That really threw me off. I can’t look at how they write the letters phonetically because it just confuses me. Then there are the familiar differences between British and American English like pants vs. trousers, gym shoes vs. trainers, etc. I still have a hard time remembering the British words. Not that the kids understand anything I say to begin with.

Speaking of not understanding what I’m saying Antonio and Antonia came over last night to try and fix my blinds. They’re the typical Spanish blinds that block out light. Unfortunately, mine broke in the down position. Most homes here are built to get a lot of natural light, because electricity is so expensive. It’s been a week now that my blinds have been broken and I’ve been forced to use my overhead light. Last night they still couldn’t completely fix them, but at least it’s three quarters of the way up so I don’t need to use my overhead light all of the time. Yesterday it was getting late so I asked them if they wanted to stay for dinner. They accepted, but only after asking what we were making. We had decided on stir-fry earlier in the day, so making enough for two more wasn’t a big deal. I’m not sure how much they liked it though. While I enjoyed most of the food Antonia cooked, I had to laugh because now it was their turn to try something new. Antonio looked like he was going to throw up most of the meal. Briana and I, however, thought it was a job well done.

When we were at Antonia’s house last week Antonio asked how to say buenas noches (good evening.) He had a really hard time with the pronunciation, so every time I see him I test him on it. I kept saying it really slowly and breaking it up by syllable. Guh-oud. He just kept saying gou-eff. Then last night he was telling me I was saying goor. I politely responded by saying that I am the one who speaks English and that I know how to say it. He didn’t have as much of a problem pronouncing it after both Carmen and Antonia said it. I’ll never understand that. The same thing happens in class. I’ll say something and I get 20 blank stares from the students. The teacher will repeat exactly what I said in English and all of the students are like ayyy vale, vale. (Ohhh, ok, ok) I guess I’m just going to have to keep quizzing Antonio.

Last week when we were over at Antonia’s Antonio asked who was going to wash the dishes. He still tries to get out of it every night. You’d think he’d be used to it by now. We decided we’d flip a coin. In Spanish he quickly said, “heads I win, cross you lose.” He flipped it and it landed on the cross so he said I lost. I thought about it for a minute and realized what he’d said. It had even passed by Antonia. Regardless, Antonio ended up doing the dishes.

Our neighborhood is starting to feel a little more like home. We even stumped the fruit guy who was messing with us last week! We were out doing our grocery shopping and like we usually do, we left it until the last minute. It was a Saturday, right before siesta. Many store don’t bother opening after siesta on Saturday and then they’re closed Sunday, too. We wanted to make sure we had enough time to go to the grocery store and to the fruit stand so we asked the fruit guy what time his store closed. He said, “uhh…two..uhhh..ay, dos y media.” (2:30) Maybe that will teach him to stick to Spanish. It’s just frustrating that everyone wants to speak in English. Especially since we’re here to learn Spanish. Either way, his answer meant we had enough time to go to both places. Point being, we’ve established a relationship with him. Every morning when I walk to school I say hello. He told us that he’s also from America, but South America. Argentina to be exact.

I’ve also started to look for Enrique every time I walk by his block. He’s the homeless man that lives a block away. I’m not sure what his real name is, but Briana and I named him Enrique. He’s always on a different corner and typically takes over. He’s recently accumulated a ton of new furniture. Yesterday he even was wearing a cowboy hat. Pretty nifty. He’s a couple fries short of a happy meal and often talks with people from the neighborhood…and to himself. I can’t understand his garble so I never know if he’s talking to me or just to himself. I think I’m going to continue to monitor Enrique from a distance. Another neighborhood character is the guy who lives in the building across from us. Our living room looks directly into his office. He is always there. I really mean always. There have been about 5 times when I’ve looked across the way and he’s not there. He’s there when I wake up, at lunch, when I go to bed…All. Of. The. Time. We have no clue what he does, but clearly it involves him working long hours. The internet network we’re “borrowing” from our neighbor is named Thomson, so we’ve deemed the man across the way who never sleeps Thomson. Oh and by the way, thanks for the internet, Thomson.

Since my last post I’ve started several new clases particulares (English lessons.) I meet with a girl from one of my classes at school once a week. I started that last week and it went really well. This week I started with two new families. For one of them I’ll be meeting with one of the daughters twice a week and the son once a week. I was pretty nervous about going to this clase particular because I didn’t know the family and it was pretty random how I got connected with them. I gave Briana all of their contact information before leaving and told her I’d call her as soon as I got out. While I think it was important for me to have my guard up, it made me realize a big difference between Americans and Spaniards. We are bred to have our guard up. Spaniards on the other hand tend to trust you until you do something to break it. Fortunately, everything went very well. Turns out they live in this beautiful 4-story mansion. I wish it would be appropriate to take pictures of this house. It was amazing. The last class I currently have set up is with a mother and son. They even came to my apartment! Not only did I not have to go anywhere, but I also am able to charge more since it’s two people. Cha-ching! I’m still hoping to set up a few more lessons. With all of the traveling I’d like to do I might have to set up more than a few more. I’m also really hoping to buy a traditional flamenco dress for fería, a festival in May. You only live once, right? Goodness knows if I’ll ever be back here again, so I might as well take advantage of it. As the Spaniards say, aprovecha!

One thing I don’t want to aprovechar is the cockroach situation in our bathroom. The song La Cucaracha has never been more appropriate. Saturday night I heard a startling scream coming from the bathroom. Briana ran out and into her room to grab her gym shoes to use as gloves/cockroach swatters. I joined in suit with appropriate cockroach killing foot attire. Briana described the cockroach as the biggest cockroach she had ever seen and said it was the size of her palm. Yeahhh, I wasn’t about to hang out in the bathroom after hearing that. We searched everywhere for it and couldn’t find it. Since then I’ve been sure to wear shoes in the bathroom. Tonight a similar scream came from the bathroom. This time from Carmen. The cockroach resurfaced. Apparently they’re climbing out from a crack between the bathtub and the tile surrounding it. These cockroach scares conveniently seem to come right before I’m about to shower. Today, I had to grin and bare it. Luckily it didn’t join me in the tub. Tomorrow we’re off to find cockroach repellent and we’ll need some suerte (luck.) I still don’t know where to buy a god damn thing in this country. I am, however, looking forward to a full day of singing La Cucaracha.

Hasta pronto,

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