I moved abroad a few years ago.
A few years ago at this time I was still nesting in my friends place, trying to get my bearings. Realizing already that I was in way over my head, but also seeing ways I could be more “in” with the locals.
“I gotta learn the language. Find an authentic way to honor where I’ve just come from, and also the place I’ve landed, and make it the ‘new me’ somehow”. This is about where I was at. Marrying two cultures into something that meant something real to me.
It would not happen for a month or so, but I would soon fly from the safety of my friend’s nest, having found my own apartment and a small footing in my new life as a nomad.
I would finally be moving out on my own! I didn’t have a lot of stuff and I wasn’t moving far, but I would need a taxi to take my meager belongings from one place to the next. So when the time was right, knowing my Spanish sucked something fierce, I planned what I wanted to say.
I typed a message into my phone, having carefully run it through a few translators. I would make it perfect. I’d already been put through the wringer by someone in my office about how “no one understands you and your stupid translator”, so I was on edge. I was going to be prepared, dammit.
So I wrote, in my most proper Spanish, into my phone, that I needed help with my stuff please. I am moving from this place to that, and here: it’s not too far (I included the addresses and a Google map, very thorough you know), but I hope you can help me with the boxes and also not be upset that I’ve pretty much turned you into a moving company. Pretty please? And gracias.
I then took my Self, and my phone, down to the sitio (where the cabs hang out) nearest me. I carefully opened the document I prepared, and handed my phone to him. This would explain all of the things.
And he said IN PERFECT ENGLISH, “hang on, I have to get my glasses”. But me being completely nervous, and not wanting to be presumptuous or weird, grabbed the phone from him and said in English also (not even realizing we are speaking English, btw): “HOLD ON, I WILL JUST READ IT TO YOU THEN”, and I proceed to read, in my ridiculous Spanish, and my terrible accent, the letter I wrote to whichever taxi driver I might find, explaining that I need help.
Dude, he gets it. He speaks English too.
But I was so nervous about being a jerk, about being cliche, that I NEVER EVEN NOTICED that he speaks English.
Fast forward a few years.
Today I stopped at Los Muertos Brewery to grab a pizza for dinner. Upon leaving Los Muertos I went over to that same sitio. I asked a cab if he was available (in Spanish). He was.
We’re driving along, I’ve explained to him my address and where I live. In Spanish. We have a conversation, in Spanish. We talk about the winter weather, about where I just came from in Conchas Chinas. How beautiful Vallarta is. We both love it here. We both love Conchas Chinas.
I will readily admit that my Spanish is not good, even after 3 years, but at this point I can at least have a talk with you so if we’re in Mexico, let’s do it in Spanish. If you give me no reason to think you speak any English, I don’t even try anymore, it’s cool. I’ve learned enough.
So we’re just talking.
… “You don’t remember me, do you?” He asks, in perfect English, as we’re almost home.
“I’m so sorry amigo, I don’t. Where do I know you from?”
“I helped you move into your first apartment. Your Spanish has gotten better.”
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