Archive for the Learning Spanish Category

Suisse Miss Meltdowns, Adventures, and Garlicky WTFs?

Posted in Communication, Confusion, Home remedies, Learning Spanish, Life is like Christopher Guest said it was, Life Performance Art, Narcissisim, Philosophy?, The meaning of life, Therapy, Thoughts, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , on July 18, 2010 by Admin

Note: Since I can never finish anything here, so it seems, I am just going to hit publish for this mess, and update it regularly. So, MESS warning… I will fix this when I FINALLY have enough time to myself. Maybe tomorrow…

One walks through this fountain to get to the pool at lac de Geneve. We waded through, but swam only in the lac.

So, today I snapped.

The ridiculously tiny shorts I was given/circumstantially-forced to wear while awaiting the arrival of my equipage, a day later, after my day late arrival. From the closet of a 16 year-old girl. Ridiculous at my age.

I partially melt down, here and there, because there is so little that is easy, comfortable, or painless, though everything is beautiful, glorious, exotic; a roller coaster adventure in Nounou-ism, de la maison et le chien, en Suisse. It took me days to figure out how to use my mobile phone because it is in French, and it navigates counter-intuitively, like the Blackberry I tried for two days and returned. After taking a picture of the washing machine dials and then sending them to a friend who is fluent in German, I finally did a proper load of laundry.

We had dinner in Carouge on the night of the world cup and when we found that Spain was a point away from the inevitable mayhem regardless of who won we scram-aised. But only after a feast of gastronmie galore.

But I exaggerate only un peu; mostly it is Shangri-la here. I made a new song last night — when I had a meltdown-ette over the big, BIG, inexplicably huge and very loud, frog that now lives in my house; the tick I stunned with dissolvant (nail polish remover) and wrenched from Leon’s face; the giant hornet in the house which sounded like a helicopter; the broken ‘Insekt Tenschroter’, which means I now cannot kill the bugs and hear the popping sounds when they explode anymore (one of my favorite sounds); the big FROG in the house, redundantly rattling around somewhere in the pots and pans; the screaming cat who won’t eat her food… and etc —  so my song, “I’m fou-uuuuu, fou for feeling so blue…uuue.” sung to Patsy Cline’s ‘Crazy’. Fou is crazy, in French. I am not really blue, just at times overwhelmed about everything that prevents me from getting sufficient rest.

Smoked salmon with dill, Shrimp salad, terrine, avocado, melon with port wine (which was the simple surprise gastronomie) and more.

Today I receive hope for all good times and no more discomfort, from the stars:
Hi Mo! Here is your Daily Horoscope for Tuesday, July 13
You’re feeling a little overwhelmed with all the crazy action going on around you, but there’s good news as well: you’re reaching the climax of this insane time. Things should be settled by tomorrow.

On the way to the BBQin Gruyere, in those Alps, we passed this chapel of indecision or whatever it is. the Alps were spelndiferous! I was floored.

Adrianna, Creo que puedo encontrar la manera de llegar a mi casa desde aquí, así que está bien si usted desea ir a su casa desde aquí. Voy por mi cuenta. No quiero que usted tenga que caminar padre que es necesario porque hace mucho calor y una tormenta está llegando ahora. Eres tan dulce. Le doy las gracias por ayudarme. Estaré encantado de verte el sábado o el domingo, cuando próxima vez que vengas.

translation: –> “Adrianna, I think I can find how to get to my house from here so it is fine if you wish to go to your home from here. I go by myself. I do not want you to have to walk father than is necessary because it is very hot and a storm is arriving now. You are so very sweet. I thank you for helping me. I will be happy to see you on Saturday or Sunday when next you come.”– my note to the housekeeper, who helped me find the market, for the first time, after weeks of “going” there every day to get food.

I take a lot of pictures of fowers here. I envy them for being able to be outside yet not being covere with bites. I am being irrational and elusional. A sign of bug poisoning, so they say.

It had all been leading to this juncture in the journey. Fortunately no one I knew was there to see it, well, except Adrianna, but she was not entirely listening and she does not speak English. (I didn’t actually yell any of this, I internally-musttered [love that typo! Mustered + muttered; keeping it] it, but for the sake of this post let’s say I quite firmly spewed it). <– Oh, the tangled grammatical webs we weave, when at first we set out to… relieve….? (what? my conscience? MY God says it is not so much a bad word, but rather a word that means, “exponentially, whatever I just said, like, to the
googol (aka, ten duotrigintillion, which is how many mosquito bites I have, to date, more or less, which the garlic tablets, evidently made of gold, are for)”, though it does have a naughty, naughty, angry sound. I mean it endearingly and frustratingly, and not literally.

The chalet in Gruyere, where we went to the BBQ.

And then, everything was fine. Hilarious even. The calm after the storm. By the way, a real weather storm is moving in and I am la-de-da-lighted! It is finally cool! I am comfortable! I am wearing jeans! socks! and even my Bearded Lady Piercings Sweatshirt! I made her a blog in exchange for swag, which is now the property of a few Genevans, and they will now send in photos of themselves wearing them in Columbia, Paris, and wherever they go, as a favor to me, because I talked my amiee Amiee (the Bearded Lady) into this blog, saying of course people will come and comment and send in their pictures! I digress a lot.

My favorite photo at lac de Geneve. I made certain to try not to accidentally capture any speedos.

Anywho, the breaking point for me was, “Eighteen Fucking Francs for Garlic Tablets?! 50 FUCKING garlic tablets? For… 18 fucking francs!? FUCKING FRANCS!? GARLIC FUCKING TABLETS? CHINGANTE TABLETAS DE AJO? Putain 18 francs pour les comprimés d’ail!?” (I had made my shopping list in both Spanish and English, as Adriana helped me shop today. Usually I make it in English and French, but then, I come home empty-handed as I rarely actually find the market). As opposed to… whatever!? It – the opposite of anything — does not need any opposition; it is my illogical, ludicrous, POO TO THE GAZILLIONTH, Naughty Swiss Miss MELTDOWN. I forget what I am saying. I am losing it, un peu, a veces. Soon I will be staying at Belle Idée (Hôpital for Adultes Difficulté Sociale et Psychologique)!

Sunset in Confignon, at the end of the Alp-ian BQ day.

I am not even certain off the top of my imploded head what a franc equals in American money; I just know that my entire groceries — including pate de whateverthefancyfuckingshmancykindofmushrooms that I had just bought — cost 70 francs, and NOW the pharmacist with her poo of english (“peu” is little, and is actually pronounced “pueh”, like a short burst of garlic breath. When I asked if she parlez vous anglais she replied, “un peu”. My french = 1/2 a poo, literally, and one of my pet peeves is how people say “literally” when they mean “actually”, so when I say “literally”, I generally mean literally, but all’s fair in an actual meltdown. I might not even be spelling peu correctly but at this point I am on a roll and will NOT stop to look it up. I am sicksicksick and tiredtiredtired of looking everything up. THIS is a meltdown; THIS is a situation we have here), sigh I no longer have any idea what to do to complete that pile of illiterate lint/”sentence”, with all it’s horrible, jaunty grammar; a reckless disregard for the structure and formality of language, and I am languaged-out. I lost that one. I have lost a lot lately; pints of blood, my way, the ability to sleep well, the ability to do laundry, the ability to figure out how to use my mobile phone…

Walking back to my Fiat Punto HSD, after dinner with Claudia in the old town of Geneve, at Malakoffs. I Genevois-ian had escargot.

So, to start at the very beginning (“a very good plaaaaace to start….”, a la Doris Day, which I am singing aloud as I type (have I mentioned that this is really a meltdown?). BTW, I know every word to every song on that album. IN ENGLISH.

The clouds over lac de Geneve, approx 7 PM.

Oh, and then the pharmacist said, sweetly, helpfully, “You take two tablets, three times a day!”

WTF?! I can do that math and it means I will be spending more on garlic tablets than pate during my month here.

So back to go, (or, Doh! — a deer)… Today I arranged for Adrianna (the housekeeper here) to go to the market with me, and to only do a perfunctory job of cleaning the house, because every day I take my Fiat Punto HSD out to find places and I circle endlessly till I get home, often empty-handed.

Oh, by the way, I am house and dog sitting in Switzerland. I don’t speak French. I speak some Spanish and am fluent in English, Spanglish, and jaunty grammar. I am in Loëx (pronounced Looh-AH), population 48 + me, and likely 4 dozen illegitimate puppies fathered by the unfixed, randy, Leon, but we’ll get to THAT part of the meltdown later.

My view from the front yard,the 'Lignon' of Geneve. From the back yard is all farms and vineyards and cows.

Sweet, sweet neighbor cows, whose bells I hear tinkling all day and all night.

I was (e-motion-ally) sick of driving in circles and sick of craps (the crepes I taught myself to make, which are actually pronounced sorta like that) and of living off the eggs from the hens and whatever I can pick from the gardens, so, as Adrianna comes on Mondays, I arranged for her to have a field trip with me as opposed to actual cleaning, and of course she agreed, she is being paid. Mutually advantageous. I think at first she was not terribly psyched as she was on her cell phone while she swept and mopped and I could swear I heard, “Americana Estupida”, followed by giggles, but I have learned to enjoy being paranoid here and as I call myself that, she is free to do so as well, with my blessing. Fair is fair. I love Adrianna. I look forward to Mondays.

The boats - none of which are mine - at lac de Geneve.

We got in the car to go and at first it was awkward; I had only spoken a few paragraphs to her over the last 2 weeks and I am not exactly sure what tenses I had used and what I had said. I believe I said most things correctly but I might have skipped around tense-wise. I might have even said, “I am going to be so hungry last week so I thought I would have needed more food for my tomorrow day, and some killing things for the very evil swimming, which I had liked to have swum in yesteryear, which is part of the razor why I come here and kill mosquitoes, as well as grand batteries for my tenshooter.”

Gruyere, what a delight, especially to buy fresh local gruyere cheese and double cream for my crazy-strong morning coffee!

I have a tennis racket thingie that they gave me which is a bug electrocutioning thing and it says, “Electrk Tenschroter” on it. Swear. True, that. My favorite sound here — over the constant tinkling of the bells which the oh-so-sweet cows in the yard wear; over the myriad birds, including the one who does a wolf whistle, even when I am not in my bathing suit, every day; over the roosters; over the hens that make a sound like they are laughing hysterically at me when I tiptoe into the henhouse; over the crows that sound like horses whinnying; over the actual horses that go by, authentically whinnying; over the wind flowing through the wall of bamboo between my front terrace and the trail beside which I live, which so happily reminds me of riding an elephant in Chaing Mai in August of 1996 — as I have developed a bloodlust for revenge.

Posters, as you enter the part of lac de Geneve with the bathouses.

In actuality, I only have 200 or so bites. They hurt like bee stings when they happen. They then spontaneously combust into bleeding scabs. The crows have it wrong; I don’t look haute in my bathing suit, I look ravaged. Some of you have seen the pictures I sent privately. I’ll NOT be posting those. Many people can attest that any comment like, “Oh, they love me too!”, would be insensitive and irrelevant at this point. Anja – the woman who owns the house with her husband — presented me to the chemist the second day I was here, who Frenchly gasped. Aloud. And gave me sprays and lotions. It took only one day (in the Alps, I am actually having the time of my life) to get over 100 bites. Chemists/Pharmacists here seem to be mainly female, in my limited experience.

More posters

I had accepted this gig thinking many things, one being that I would swim in the pool every day. But it has since been abandoned and is now symbolic of my pain. It is very very hot here, we do NOT get a breeze from the Rhone which is like 50 feet away, and the pool sits rottingly, stagnant, full of standing water, where the “mozzies” breed like uber-bunnies. There is also a pond where they breed, which is fittingly Estanque, in Spanish. There are also no screens but for two of the windows in the entire house. There is also no air conditioning. No fan. Nada, zip. They are in the habit of leaving the door open all day to go in and out and to also let Leon — the swiss chocolate lab I am responsible for — in and out as is his wont or whim. Inside there are almost as many bugs as outside. I battle them. I had cleared out the house for the most part, with great effort, and then Anja’s teenage daughter came by to get some things and… left the door open. I almost sobbed.


So I have been waging an heroic war against the mozzies. I wear bug spray all the time and constantly refresh it. I take shots of apple cider vinegar as often as I can override my gag reflex, to change my PH balance. I have made traps in and out of the house out of two-liter plastic bottles so they go to lay eggs and die. I pick fresh rosemary from the gardens and boil it into a tea, and then soak in it. I spray every drop of standing water in the house with bleach and water. I make traps of vinegar, covered with foil, with a tiny puncture and they go in and die. I put antihistamine on the bites and never, ever, scratch. I keep all windows but for the two with screens shut tightly. I cover all empty wine bottles with foil with a single puncture so they also go in and die. I put tablets in the stagnant pool to kill them and stop the breeding. I wear a vitamin B1 anti-mozzie patch. I soak in baking soda and ginger powder to remove the toxins from the DEET and reduce the swelling. I mix pure Calendula with moisturizer lotion and slather myself till they fairly drown on my skin. I wield my Tenschroter and delight in the ZAP! which means they are fried. Before bed, I go around the house turning on the lights and then kill anything that gathers and/or moves around the lights or anywhere. I keep a double-broiler on the stove all day long, keeping honey-vinegar-water warm, with that aluminum foil with that good ole puncture in it so they go in and…die! And I take million-dollar garlic tablets.

A house in Fribourg with a painting on the outside.

So today Adrianna and I went off to the market! On the way there I gained courage, lost stage fright, and after a while we were chatting — me mimicking bilinguality — and she began to laugh with me, a sign to me of success with a foreign language. We combed the stores for tablets to put in the pond (Estanque, in Spanish, coincidentally, redundantly) which is safe for pets and fishes but kills mozzies and their eggs, to no avail. We scoured stores for gluten-free foods. We made fun of pissy salespeople. We had a lot of fun actually!

Watching planes land from my back garden at 1030 pm

And then I felt bad because a storm was coming in and while she had offered to accompany me back to my casa, I did not want her to then walk farther than usual to get to her home in the city. So I said I am certain I can find my way home. I insisted she go home from there. She said, “Remember, to get home you just keep turning right; Derecha, derecha, derecha!” and I said, yes, I CAN do it! I will do it! and we kissed cheeks three times, as one must in Suisse, she left to wait for her bus.

This guy seriously passed us in Fribourg (land of the free).

So I drove home, turning right, and right and right, and then I was back at The Coop! I giggled, thinking Adrianna can likely see me from her bus stop and is likely thinking again, ‘Americana Estupida’!, and I quite delighted of that image. So I tried again, driving around the impossibly narrow swiss roads, grinning in the aftermath of my garlic tablet meltdown, and even laughing aloud, and again, I found myself at… The Coop! At the third arrival at The Coop, I was hysterical. On the fourth try I found myself on a dead-end street at which I often find myself, so I pulled a now-habitual, highly illegal U-turn and then, I noticed a car also U-Turning. I kept trying different streets and everywhere I went, this car was behind me. I studied the occupants, at a red light, in my rear-view espejo and they were two men in white shirts. I wondered if they had matching pants

We crossed lac de Fribourg on a viaduct.

Earlier I had said to Adrianna, in Spanish, “As I drive around in circles each day, talking aloud to myself in Francaislish, I often wonder if one day they will take me to Belle-idée!”, at which she looked at me to see if I knew what I doth said, and then she laughed and laughed. Belle-idée is a mixed-use geriatric and psychiatric hospital in Geneva. ;-)

The men in white shirts following me in endless circles looked young and clean-cut, so I pondered if they might be Jehova’s Witnesses. But they both had such a mad and intent grin on their faces that it reminded me of the creepy cover of an issue of Wallpaper I had at home.

So they keep following me and I keep over-imagining paranoid scenarios. It hits me that they are probably Scientologists! Because of course I have failed their usual, handy-dandy, “personality” tests which they give to potential converts, as reason to tithe away all their future earnings, and now I am hysterically laughing-afraid. So now I start turning only left (“Be like a Marxist, if you keep turning left all the time, you will find the market”, Claudia had advised me on my first day driving here) and they do as well. Finally I lose them, I find my house, and just get inside in time to beat the storm, only to find that the wind had blown my last roll of papel de toilette into the toilet; the one thing on my spanglish shopping list which I had failed to purchase. I can not even accomplish a shopping list with a minder in tow to care for me.

The better option I wore to the BQ in Gruyere which might have looked more dignified with real underthings, rather than the borrowed pink thong.

The better option I wore to the BBQ in Gruyere which might have looked more dignified with real underthings, rather than the borrowed pink thong. With a bow. Thong. At this age. Bow. Pink. 46.

En route (literally. HA! Get it? PET PEEVE: Whenpeople say

Ok, I am off to get lost in my Fiat Punto and eventually find the Pharmacie in Old Town, and get some Caladium Segium pills which Claudia has them holding for me – the only batch they have — which her co-workers say I must have, after she told them, “I have NEVER seen anything like it; the way the bugs attack Mo, you should SEE her”…


Flowers of the Alps

Fribourg, Bulla line. Stop and smell the prayers along the way.

And smell the Lacs along the way. Oui.

Calling KLM Airlines- Check that, Calling Air Canada

Posted in Adventures and Interludes, Communication, Confusion, Learning Spanish, Life is like Christopher Guest said it was, Life Performance Art, Philosophy?, The meaning of life, Thoughts with tags , , , , , , , on March 16, 2010 by Admin

UPDATE: Senility is hilarious. It turns out that my Priceline flight is now on Air Canada and probably always was. This is sad because KLM has an economy plus section which is far more affordable than Business or First Class.

Part I of my travelogue; in which the heroine prepares for the adventure before her. In a way, all posts from now until I go will be about my trip – even if they are not about my trip – because I am compulsively anticipating with every fiber of my mind and obsessing over how my spine will endure the flight part of the journey.

And, DESPERATELY trying to contact KLM Airlines Air Canada to make an arrangement of some sort to be moved up to Economy Plus or even Business Class so as to endure the flight and not be so mangled when I arrive as to spend the two weeks lying down. Which is fully half of my present life, the half I try to weather with good humour.
I have been watching lots of Spanish language films to brush up on my conversational Spanish because I don’t feel motivated to go through the levels I, II, and III Spanish DVDs I ordered from Netflix, and I think I am re-learning faster this way, and I might be having lighter and more profound dreams – all at once – for these snippets and glimpses into other cultures. I am going to travel soon, very soon, and soonering as I type, to other cultures, two in fact, Geneva and Sant Feliu.

I got a very bad haircut. It will grow. But maybe not in time for this trip. It is two weeks away. Yesterday it was 5 weeks away. Soon it will have been a good time.

Today a breakthrough that makes feel giddy; while watching a Spanish comedy, I notice at some point that I am hearing the dialogue as words; words which I can distinguish, one from another, and which form sentences which I understand. In this particular film I am learning to also hear and understand those words in Castilian Spanish and thusly know I will be able to understand my hosts in Sant Feliu a bit and not just be heard, which goes along with being silent and hearing, and is precious to me. I am learning to recognize the same words in Castilian Spanish and remembering where the lisps are. That is a lilting slip of a word, lisp.

Sometimes I am never anywhere.

Now I suppose I am free-associating.

The Heroine is always quiet, so one wonders what she is thinking yet somehow senses that what she ponders and opines is wise and knowing; perhaps not omniscient but knowing-plus, wise from experience and pain, quiet because she has learned to listen, to that degree. She thinks in semicolons and em dashes, she writes with a jaunty indifference to the parameters of language, when she does articulate, she does it well. One cannot necessarily hear semicolons and em dashes in spoken word and if they can, they cannot prove it.

She smells of exotic lettuce-y ripeness and yearns to dream the way she did, before the pain, whatever the pain is.

Jeff Hobbes just twittered this: “If years of playing Zelda have taught me anything, it’s that sometimes you have to use the ice staff to build a bridge to the wizard’s key” and I spent 7 minutes pondering it because I thought he meant Zelda Fitzgerald and I wondered if he was making a joke about being crazy and the ice staff and wizard’s key were impossible-to-disentangle metaphors of till I googled “playing Zelda” and found out it is a video game. Oh, the hypotheses I formulated, amoebic and bizarre, over what playing Zelda Fitzgerald could mean, and might entail. I hope i dream of this. Jeff Hobbs posts comments under his real name  – if Jeff Hobbs is in fact his real name – on MassLive, a dangero0us and scary place to share an opinion, and he escape unscathed. At least he must be unscathed, for he just twittered the tweet which had me so confused, staring somewhat trance-like at my screen, and pondering what it would be like to “play Zelda” in life. I am still pondering that.

The ice staff could be the defenses one builds to run block in one’s world of insane and brilliant people; the bridge could be an omniscience or epiphany; the wizard’s key might perhaps be some sort of insight into life that leads to eternal happiness and peace. that’s my rough-draft hypothesis. In a few hours i could perfect it but then i might wonder if i was losing a grasp – if I have one – on reality, whatever that actually is.

It must be the medicinal tea.

I vow to use less words in hopes of more effectively communicating all that I am not capable of, in the hopes that my absence is not so misconstrued as indifference or lack of desire. I vow to not hear the critics – though they are silent – and to not acknowledge their credibility – though they are me –  and be silent yet verbose.

And no matter how many times I dial KLM Airlines I get the “Due to larger than average call volume…” message which goes nowhere, does not even offer “hold”, and holds no promise of human contact and the chance to plead my case for a slight, possibly paid, accommodation or upgrade so I might manage this flight and enjoy this trip, like a normal person. I realize as I type that I very often now use the phrase in my head, “like a normal person”, when assessing things I might do, or failing to be able to do simple things, of which I used to be so easily able.  Like take a long walk.

I tweet about LKM because this is a tip I received from a seasoned traveler.

I think it’s the medicinal tea and the weather and the fact that I read in the little free paper that I find in my antique-y letterbox – with no discernible regularity – that this town has a population of 16,000; I find that reassuring and I feel lighter, more confident of my random and possible overuse of semicolons and em dashes because that’s how the heroines think.

I wish wordpress would make actual em dashes.

I have a degenerative spinal disease. A full 5 out of 7 cervical vertebrae are herniated; two of my lumbar vertebrae are herniated (L1 and L3). The pain is bad and always there. The meds take the edge off but still  – though I push myself further each day, to do more and break boundaries, I still am exhausted and in pain. The spamming muscles spasm non-stop like a fanatic on a treadmill, getting ready for a prom or high school reunion five weeks hence, perhaps, and that causes exhaustion. the meds help me move and sit up and walk but they cause exhaustion.

I am going away for two weeks. I’d like to go away for a fortnight. Am I? Do we know the length of a fortnight? I am tired of googling things today. The pain is exhausting.

Then I’d like to go away for a minibreak. And go “on holiday”. That’s what I’ll do! I am doing that. Syntax is scintillating. I love such words.

But I can still a heroine. The weather helps because it changes everything. This trip I prepare for makes me feel adventurous, like a heroine; to go off to stay with strangers in Geneva and Sant Feliu on a trip paid  for by the donation of frequent flier miles. It is possible that in some meaning of this trip, I won a lottery. I believe that. Maybe all I need is my mind and my peaceful apartment which brings me so much aesthetic pleasure and in which things are so thoughtfully placed; things bought decades ago, things found on loading docks and streets and in attacks and thrift shops; the one new table at counter height which centers my large kitchen which often makes me think I live in a foreign film, all of it, and the freedom to punctuate as I choose – for which I credit Tao Lin and Miranda July – all of it makes this day feel like no other.

KLM still will not take my call.

Wicked Spanish

Posted in Adventures and Interludes, art, Learning Spanish with tags , on February 10, 2009 by Admin

While recently unpacking old boxes I found my student ID from the Colegio de Espana (1984!) as well as my boarding pass and itinerary. That was an hilarious summer, which I have started writing down, and one for which I have also found the photos and study materials, and for which I received 9 credits in college. Among my language books, I also found “Wicked Spanish for the Traveler”. This is a very helpful guide which includes pre-fab conversations and helpful advice for the brave traveler to various Spanish-speaking cultures, although – I suspect it centers on Mexico, and so my guest host is The Art of Diego Rivera.

“Baile en Tehauntepec”, Diego Rivera

“Baile en Tehauntepec”, Diego Rivera

From Wicked Spanish by Howard Tomb, 1991, reproduced without permission  (but with link to amazon listing):

“Travel in Spanish-speaking countries means more than cheap hotels and quick suntans – one must adapt to foreign customs and attitudes. To the uninitiated, Hispanic culture can be confusing and frustrating.

Our forms of logic, efficiency, and refrigeration are rare or nonexistent, including clearly marked prices, paved roads, and college-educated waitresses.

We may be startled by pigs as they run through the streets or hang over the sidewalk. We may be terrified by blind taxi drivers. We may be confused when locals fail to respond to wads of cash waved in the air.

Naive, unprepared travelers feel angry and humiliated. But Wicked Travelers never seem to suffer. They are always relaxed. They have an intuitive understanding of life abroad and a special sensitivity for alien cultures and ideas. Not with gold cards, loud voices, or idle threats in English, but with warm smiles. patient attitudes, and a variety of verbal weapons that natives understand.”

Excerpts from Wicked Spanish, without translations, below.

Emiliano Zapata, the Agrarian Leader, lithograph by Diego Rivera, 1932.

Emiliano Zapata, the Agrarian Leader, lithograph by Diego Rivera, 1932.

This car is amazing. I never knew chicken wire had so many uses. When did the brakes go out? In the Eisenhower years? Please give us helmets/blindfolds. Look, if you don’t slow down, I won’t pay you. That’s much better, thanks.

Yours is the prettiest piglet, miss. but it has shat in my lap. The cliffs are very steep. Do I smell an enchilada? Please lend me your hat.

What seems to be the problem officer? The light was green, actually. No, I am not calling you a liar. Here are my papers. Would these green papers help? Do you need so many of them? Do the handcuffs have to be so tight?

Could I see a couple of rooms please? I understand this building is 400 years old. Is that the original paint/maid? I don’t mind the spiders much. But I’d prefer a room without scorpions. Is there a room that does not face the bus station/mescal bar/slaughterhouse? Is there a room with a window/bathroom? Is there another hotel in this town?

What is depicted in that carving? What happened to his heart/head/genitals? You’re hired.

Muchacha con Girasoles, Diego Rivera

Muchacha con Girasoles, Diego Rivera

I feel faint! My blood pressure is dropping! Help! Emergency! Are you a waiter/waitress? Thank God! Forget the menu! Just show me to the kitchen. I’ll help myself. But you might as well take my breakfast order now. What lies motionless under the spicy chocolate sauce? What oozes from the depths of the stuffed pepper. What stares at me with glassy eyes? Ah, I had that last night. That is an unusually large octopus. Is it the same on that was on display yesterday? Perhaps it is by now ripe. How are the rice and beans this evening?

Good day, sir. Whats is that? I can see that it is meat. But what species? I can’t find that in my dictionary. Give me one anyway. No lettuce, for God’s sake! Can’t you see I’m a gringo?

These look well-made/delicious/Martian. How much for one/two/half kilo? If I had money like that, I would be vacationing in France. Would you consider three cents? No need for shouting. I’ll buy it next door. Good-bye. That’s more like it. Done. Thank you madam. I’m thrilled to have saved four cents.

I’d like to report a mugging/burglary/pickpocket/car theft. Wait! Let me explain, please. I don’t expect you to solve the crime. I do not expect to see my camera/passport/money/car again. All I need is a piece of paper from you. It is for the insurance company. Here is a little something for your trouble. That’s ok. Don’t get up. Thank you for your kind attention, sir.

Autorretrato. (1941), Diego Rivera

Autorretrato. (1941), Diego Rivera

Dear General Hernandez, Thank you for the wonderful evening. The liquor was certainly strong! I am sorry I mentioned politics/your wife’s enormity. I admire military rule/300 lb women. Thank you for canceling the death squad/duel at dawn. best regards,

pardon (as in judicial)
phone call
human rights

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