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Learning Spanish

German names don’t go well in Spanish

John & I are rather sad to be leaving Mexico City after an amazing 2 years and 3 months. I have been trying to look on the bright side & think of things that we will not miss about Mexico. It isn’t going very well, because the best thing I’ve thought of so far is:

  • People in the US are more familiar with German names. Therefore, it is less likely that when we order pizza over the phone in the US with the last name Herickhoff, we will receive a pizza accompanied by either an easy mistake or a thinly-veiled insult (depending on your perspective).

What are you trying to tell us, Papa Johns?

Learn Mexico City slang on your iPhone!

Have you been promising yourself that you would spend some time to learn more Spanish before visiting Mexico City, but you just haven’t gotten around to those Rosetta Stone CDs ? Have you been living in DF for a few years but still have no idea what your taxi drivers are saying while they’re talking on their cell phones? Have you been too lazy to read through the Effective Swearing in DF blog, or even to watch Werevertumorro on YouTube?? (Thanks Alice for the video tip!)

Finally there exists what you’ve all been waiting for: an iPhone app for learning Chilango slang & obscenities! Güey Spanish promises to help you “Learn the Mexican slang needed to speak like a Chilango verdadero.”  Here’s the link to their iTunes app as well.

Although I am living in the dark ages with neither an iPhone nor an iPad, I was able to test out Güey Spanish last night on my computer– the app is also available on their website for anyone still trapped in the olden times of laptop use. 😉  I tallied up 50 correct answers & 17 wrong answers during my extremely scientific analysis of the program (a.k.a. how long does it take me to get 50 answers right). The terminology covered on the site definitely skews in the direction of “words I wouldn’t use around my Mexican grandmother unless I wanted to be beaten with a day-old tamale because of my foul mouth”. But the obscenities are interspersed among other abuela-friendly words that you will hear all the time in polite conversation here & probably have no idea what they mean, like fresa, lana, porfis, etc. I hope they continue expanding the vocabulary, because right now I reckon you could cover most of the terms while on a taxi ride from the airport to Polanco during rush hour. :)

¡Chécalo, güey! ¡Órale!

One of the more polite terms covered in Güey Spanish.

Hat tip to Arturo for the alert!

Tasty Capsu

Sometimes one comes across something in Spanish that makes me feel better about my language abilities, because it reminds me that on occasion, Mexicans have trouble with Spanish too. And maybe also trouble with colors.

Reference the below photo snapped by one of my eagle-eyed MBA classmates this weekend, as seen on the table of food we have catered during our 9AM-8PM classes on Saturday:

Mmmm.... tasty capsu...

Mmmm.... capsu....

The Spanish translation for ketchup (when it’s not simply ketchup) is either salsa de tomate or catsup. For some reason, the word catsup is inherently funny to me. But not as funny as when it is spelled “capsu“. OR better yet, when it’s spelled capsu and it’s served in a yellow mustard bottle. Hmm…

I hope the catering guy isn’t a graduate of our MBA program…

The Spanish Wingman

Of all the unique things experienced by visitors to Mexico City, I’ve found that our US-based guests are most surprised that English is not spoken more prevalently here. I think there’s a general assumption among Americans that everyone in Mexico is dying to move to the USA and hence is furiously learning English. Point of fact, many Mexicans are perfectly happy here in Mexico!  And although plenty of folks do speak English in DF, it certainly isn’t the defacto language if you venture off the 4 or 5-star hotel tourist circuit. :)

All of that said, the last thing I want to do is dissuade non-Spanish-speakers from taking a trip down to Mexico City! You can certainly get around DF; it may just be a bit trickier & require a bit more research in advance, depending on your travel goals.

Of course, depending on your travel goals, your best bet may be finding yourself a Spanish Wingman. This was the lesson learned with our most recent visitor– let’s call him “Mandrew” for the sake of anonymity. Mandrew is an experienced world traveler who enjoys learning about the culture of other countries, ideally as communicated through their women. Despite claims of spanish/portuguese/swedish/thai fluency, most of Mandrew’s foreign vocabulary seemed centered around greetings & ordering tasty beverages. However, his regular traveling companion (let’s call him “Mruckenmiller”) assured us that Mandrew’s efforts had never been stymied for lack of knowing a language, offering anecdotes of various Brazilians who fell victim to his portuguese-free charms.

I thought Mandrew might be stymied in the Spanish-heavy environment of Mexico City. Instead, I learned that he is a man who knows when to call on his resources.

Saturday night was bustling at Big Red in Polanco last week, so we settled in for a nite of miniscule-but-bargain-priced tequilas & beers. Late in the evening, Mandrew spotted a lovely lady mysteriously sitting alone at a table, so he made his move. Two minutes later, he was back at our table to inquire whether John would be so kind as to join him.

And so it was that John made his debut appearance as…. SPANISH WINGMAN. Experience the drama via my photos from our nearby table, slightly blurred due to my constant laughter. Although I could not hear the dialog per se, I’ve extrapolated a few quotes as I imagined them…

"Oh-la senorita... You are so pretty tonite in that trendy outfit. Did I mention to you that the leopard is my favorite wild animal? Wearing that shirt, you remind me of the time I spent in Tanzania working on my doctoral thesis entitled 'Similarities and Differences Between Leopards and Siamese House Cats'...  John, can you translate that?"

Mandrew: "Oh-la senorita... You are so pretty tonite in that trendy outfit. Did I mention to you that the leopard is my favorite wild animal? Wearing that shirt, you remind me of the time I spent in Tanzania working on my doctoral thesis entitled 'Similarities and Differences Between Leopards and Siamese House Cats'... John, can you translate that?"

John: "Este... Mandrew te dijó que es un placer conocerte y el nunca ha visto una mujer tan hermosa quien parece como un gato de Africa. El era un doctor para los gatos en Africa."  (In English: "Uh, Mandrew says it is a pleasure to meet you &  he has never seen such a beautiful woman who seems like a cat from Africa. He used to be a doctor for cats in Africa"

John: "Este... Mandrew te dijó que es un placer conocerte y el nunca ha visto una mujer tan hermosa quien parece como un gato de Africa. El era un doctor para los gatos en Africa." (In English: "Uh, Mandrew says it is a pleasure to meet you & he has never seen such a beautiful woman who seems like a cat from Africa. He used to be a doctor for cats in Africa")

[Imagine various other photos of witty repartee here]

Girl: "¿Cual es tu planeta favorito? Mio es el sol. Siempre ha sido mi favorito."   (English: "What's your favorite planet? Mine's the sun. Always has been.")

Girl: "¿Cual es tu planeta favorito? Mio es el sol. Siempre ha sido mi favorito." (English: "What's your favorite planet? Mine's the sun. Always has been.")

 [Insert additional awkward pauses & deep eye-gazing]

John: "El dijó que 'Eres preciosa; tienes ojos bonitos y me encanta cuando sonríes. Tambien tu cabello es como una cascada de leche chocolatada.'"   (English: "Mandrew said "You are beautiful; you have pretty eyes & I love it when you smile. Also, your hair is like a waterfall of chocolate milk.'"

John: "El dijó que 'Eres preciosa; tienes ojos bonitos y me encanta cuando sonríes. Tambien tu cabello es como una cascada de leche chocolatada.'" (English: "Mandrew said "You are beautiful; you have pretty eyes & I love it when you smile. Also, your hair is like a waterfall of chocolate milk.'"

Mandrew: "OMG, you like technology?!?? I love girls who like technology! John, ask her if she has ever networked more than 4 Linux workstations to a remote printer."

Mandrew: "OMG, you like technology?!?? I love girls who like technology! John, ask her if she has ever networked more than 4 Linux workstations to a remote printer."

Mandrew: "I hope jpeg technology still exists in 30 years so our grandkids can see how we first met!"  Girl: "Me gusta cuando me tocas con tus patas de gato grandes"  (English: "I like it when you touch me with your big cat paws.")

Mandrew: "I hope jpeg technology still exists in 30 years so our grandkids can see how we first met!" Girl: "Me gusta cuando me tocas con tus patas de gato grandes" (English: "I like it when you touch me with your big cat paws.")

Suddenly, prospects began to dim when her two guy friends showed up:

Mandrew: "So great to meet you gentlemen. I was just telling your lady friend here how much we enjoyed the two full days we spent in the Anthropology Museum here in Mexico City. I just can't stop learning about Mexican history!"

Mandrew: "So great to meet you gentlemen. I was just telling your lady friend here how much we enjoyed the two full days we spent in the Anthropology Museum here in Mexico City. I just can't stop learning about Mexican history!"

While the combination of Mandrew’s powers of seduction + John’s Spanish Wingman translations were strong to quite strong (just like Mruckenmiller’s stock portfolio), in the end the 4 of us opted to return to our apartment unaccompanied by these newfound friends. Don’t worry, readers who were rooting for Mandrew. You can rest assured that he did not sleep alone that nite.

Even fewer translations were required to arrange this relationship.

Even fewer translations were required to arrange this relationship.

Any single, English-only-speaking males who are planning a visit to Mexico City in the coming months, do advise if you would like to investigate engaging John’s Spanish Wingman services. Fees are negotiable & while results are not guaranteed, let’s just say– Unless the goods [aka, you] are odd, your odds are good.

Breaking my radio silence after a trip to Europe!

This restaurant promo in Madrid brought me fond memories of two of my favorite homes-- 1) it's named Nebraska, a concept obviously recognized worldwide as an elite and glamorous, and 2) there is a photo of a scary-looking piece of meat, very Mexico-esque.

This restaurant promo in Madrid brought me fond memories of two of my favorite homes-- 1) it's named Nebraska, a concept obviously recognized worldwide as elite and glamorous, and 2) there is a photo of a scary-looking piece of meat, very Mexico-esque.

Crap! I think this is a new land-speed-record for Length of Time I’ve Gone Without a Riveting Blog Post! I am sure many of you have been sobbing into your chilaquiles as you have rigorously checked this page each morning only to be rewarded with OLD POSTS YOU’VE ALREADY READ (or didn’t care about in the first place). :) Luckily, I have a partially valid excuse, although I sense it being unlikely to stir sympathy…

In Madrid, we stopped at "Meson del Champignones" upon recommendation of John's coworker, and it was a wild success. I was initially skeptical of the mushrooms, but funnily enough, anything cooked in enough butter with some serrano ham on top is pretty tasty.

In Madrid, we stopped at "Meson del Champignones" upon recommendation of John's coworker, and it was a wild success. I was initially skeptical of the mushrooms, but funnily enough, anything cooked in enough butter with some serrano ham on top is pretty tasty.

We just returned from a 2-week trip to Europe, prompted by the occasion of a good friend’s wedding in Scotland. So as to maximize the value from the cost of a flight to Europe, we decided to first spend a week in Spain under the guise of “Now we can speak the language there!” As my classmates might have said during elementary school, “Shyeah, right!” Not so fast. We still aren’t sure what threw off the Madrileños more– the fact that two tall German/Swedish-looking people were speaking Spanish at all, or the fact that the Spanish they were speaking was Mexico-twinged. Let’s just say- we experienced a lot of cringing Spanish faces, but in the end, still managed to execute food/drink orders effectively.

Credit goes to friends Lesley & Heera for the dual recommendations of sandwich mixtos and Museo del Jamon. These luscious little puppies were merely 1 Euro a pop; I could have eaten seven.

Credit goes to friends Lesley & Heera for the dual recommendations of sandwich mixtos and Museo del Jamon. These luscious little puppies were merely 1 Euro a pop; I could have eaten seven.

Spain was lovely– we quickly adjusted to its late-nite dining scheme, which we interpreted as +/- 6 hours each evening spent wandering from bar to bar, drinking wine/beer/sherry/cider while nibbling from wee piles of magical serrano ham/marinated olives/manchego cheese/crusty bread. While that may not sound like a heathy diet, we found it almost impossible to overeat to the level we are used to while dining out in Mexico (though that may have been due more to the constant, painful euro-to-dollar calculations going on in our heads…). 😉

OK, so our hotel in Sevilla had a small kitchenette stocked with this MASSIVE roll of paper towels that looked just like TP. This photo of John pretending to run into the bathroom with the biggest roll of toilet paper known to man was hilarious, but also foreshadowed the food poisoning I would get 2 days later in Toledo from eating a tasty venison sandwich. Then for the next week, this picture felt all too real...

OK, so our hotel in Sevilla had a small kitchenette stocked with this MASSIVE roll of paper towels that looked just like TP. This photo of John pretending to run into the bathroom with the biggest roll of toilet paper known to man was hilarious, but also foreshadowed the food poisoning I would get 2 days later in Toledo from eating a tasty venison sandwich. Then for the next week, this picture felt all too real...

A shot of the sweet bridge leading into the walled city of Toledo

A shot of the sweet bridge leading into the walled city of Toledo

We zipped via high-speed train from Madrid to Sevilla, Toledo & back and were well entertained by all 3 cities. Toledo was especially fascinating to John (military buff) as a walled city on a river that was never taken by force. Then it was off to Glasgow for a night of reminiscing in our favorite neighborhood where we spent a week before our own wedding a mere 17 months ago.

Here I am with Emily, the blushing bride, and a hearty pint of lager.

Here I am with Emily, the blushing bride, and a hearty pint of lager.

The next day, John skillfully maneuvered our rental Prius along the left side of the road to the lovely Balbirnie House in Glenrothes for the wedding of the beautiful Emily & dapper Richard. This was followed by a clay piegon shoot in the countryside the next afternoon, where I started off in a burst of glory (first time shooter, 6 of 6, folks!) and then quickly flamed out under pressure. Many evil pigeons came away unscathed under my watch.

Here I am with Emma while we're stopped for lunch at Torr Head along the Antrim coast in Northern Ireland

Here I am with Emma while we're stopped for lunch at Torr Head along the Antrim coast in Northern Ireland

We were continually horrified to see swill like Coors Light and Budweiser being sold alongside the likes of Guinness on Guinness's home turf

We were continually horrified to see swill like Coors Light and Budweiser being sold alongside the likes of Guinness on Guinness's home turf

One of the murals in Belfast painted during The Troubles-- the gun is said to follow you wherever you go in this housing comlex.

One of the murals in Belfast painted during The Troubles-- the gun is said to follow you wherever you go in this housing comlex.

One more night in Glasgow and we were off to Dublin (after getting screwed for £30 being forced to check our carefully-packed carry-on suitcases on Aer Lingus). Friend Emma kindly picked us up at the airport & whisked us off to Newgrange, a fascinating passage tomb built several hundred years before the pyramids in Egypt. Then we did a 2-day tour of Northern Ireland– beautiful scenery & FASCINATING/crazy history. I think everyone’s at least heard of the IRA & the violent history in Belfast/Derry/environs, but to see the on-the-ground impact of “The Troubles” still today was really enlightening. The up-to-25-feet-high “Peace Lines” running between the Catholic/Protestant neighborhoods in Belfast are a constant reminder.

In Derry, we saw the subtly-marked Protestant neighborhood...

In Derry, we saw the subtly-marked Protestant neighborhood...

Derry was our last stop in Northern Ireland, which still uses the pound, before returning to Ireland, which uses the euro. Here we are at Peader O'Donnell's in Derry, excitedly finding enough small change to buy us one more round of beers.

Derry was our last stop in Northern Ireland, which still uses the pound, before returning to Ireland, which uses the euro. Here we are at Peader O'Donnell's in Derry, excitedly finding enough small change to buy us one more round of beers.

Just as we were prepared to leave for the nite due to insufficient funds for 3 pints, Emma befriended local pal "Chris" who promptly bought us all another pint. He also forced John & I to do a whisky shot in a glass the size of a coffee mug while Emma was in the loo. I can neither confirm nor deny hearing Emma & Chris exchange "I love yous" when Chris finally decided to depart for the evening.

Just as we were prepared to leave for the nite due to insufficient funds for 3 pints, Emma befriended local pal "Chris" who promptly bought us all another pint. He also forced John & I to do a whisky shot in a glass the size of a coffee mug while Emma was in the loo. I can neither confirm nor deny hearing Emma & Chris exchange "I love yous" when Chris finally decided to depart for the evening.

Emma narrowly beats me to finish her Guinness at the Gravity Bar atop the Guinness brewery.

Emma narrowly beats me to finish her Guinness at the Gravity Bar atop the Guinness brewery.

Of course, we wrapped things up in Dublin with the obligatory Guinness brewery tour. Verdict? Good, but even better when your friend’s friend’s brother works there & you don’t have to pay €15 euros to get in. 😉 (Thanks again Alan!!)

Obligatory Guinness logo photo: check.

Obligatory Guinness logo photo: check.

Here we are out in Dublin with Emma's BFF Tricia on the left. A random girl kindly agreed to take our pic, but that resulted in her chest-hair-heavy pal joining us for the kodak-moment...

Here we are out in Dublin with Emma's BFF Tricia on the left. A random girl kindly agreed to take our pic, but that resulted in her chest-hair-heavy pal joining us for the kodak-moment...

Anyway, I’ll now fall back on my traditional “in a frenzy of preparation for MBA classes + final exam this weekend” excuse, and promise to try & kick things back into high-Mexico-gear shortly!! Thanks to all for your patience, and will try to add a few more photo highlights shortly!

Never try to give a Chilean advice about spicy food…

…when you speak Spanish like a 5-year-old.

One of my good friends from my MBA program is originally from Chile, and recently moved from Mexico City to Kentucky due to a change with her husband’s job. (Now THAT would be a “cultural differences” blog I would LOVE to read!!) Since we no longer get to spend hours in class together every other weekend, we chat regularly online via MSN Messenger. It’s usually a mix of Spanish & English, depending on a) how rapidly I am trying to convey a point, b) how much pity Carolina takes on me, and c) how good I am about remembering that I need to be practicing Spanish whenever I can.

While instant messaging in another language certainly isn’t as challenging as a spoken conversation, it definitely trips me up more than writing emails. On the downside, you lose some of the visual cues & the ability for the other person to sense when you aren’t following. On the good side, you have a little more time to comprehend & react, as well as look things up on my favorite site ever, www.wordreference.com. That said, when you’re trying to keep a chat flowing without long, awkward pauses, you don’t really have time to pull up your Spanish/English dictionary for every word you’re not sure about.

Anyway, yesterday I shot an IM off to Carolina around noonish. She told me she was heading off to meet her husband for lunch, and was amused to tell me that they were heading to a Mexican restaurant in Kentucky (clearly hub of authentic Mexican food). :)

To interject another point here– I guess I always assumed that all of Latin America was alike in its fondness for spicy food. After meeting folks from various countries in South America this past year, I now realize that is not the case. Lots of South Americans not only are not big fans of spicy salsas & the like, but really tend not to use any hot spices in their foods at all. Carolina falls into this category, and hence always found it a challenge here in Mexico City, where it often feels like 99% of food is enchilado (seasoned with chili). Even candy here comes rolled through chili– she regaled me with stories from Halloween about trying to wash all the chili powder off half the candy her son received during his trick-or-treating efforts. (What happened to a good old Kit-Kat, people?)

Cutting back to yesterday- Carolina had already said goodbye in our chat window, so I knew if I had any parting comments I had to make them quick (i.e. no time for checking www.wordreference.com, folks). Attempting to whip off a witty one liner, I typed “Avoid the hot spices!” in Spanish…or so I thought. As I began typing I thought to myself, “Hmm not really sure how to say spiciness as a noun, only as an adjective, but I’ll give it my best effort and I’m sure she’ll get the idea”.  So I went with “Evita el pico!!!

And so it was that I told my friend to “Avoid the penis!” at her lunch with her husband. Apparently “el pico” is slang for penis in Chilean. Damn.

To quote from our messenger window, her reaction was something along the lines of:
que???
jajajajjaja
pico means “Pene” in Chilean
jajajajjaja
jajajjajaja

I was pleased to note that I did conjugate the imperative “tu” form of evitar correctly, but apparently congratulating me for that point escaped her notice. 😉 For future reference, picante is the word I wanted to use. I attempted to recover with “Pues, probablemente debes evitar eso durante la comida tambien…”  (Well you should probably avoid that during the lunch too…)  She informed me that she would try, but her husband probably wouldn’t be happy. :)

In summary, let me offer my recommendation of instant messaging with native speakers as a supplementary tool for anyone learning Spanish. It definitely helps improve your reaction time, introduces you to some slang you probably wouldn’t learn in class, and gives you a much better venue to erroneously tell people to “avoid the penis” than at, say, a business lunch.

Your own…personal…taxista…

I have a regular taxista who I call to get a ride home on days that I work out of the office. Her name is Guadalupe, and she is a lovely, middle-aged Mexican with a son who lives in Cancun. She became my go-to taxista after I broke up with my prior taxista, Carlos, when he stopped answering my calls. (what is this, “he’s just not that into you”, taxi-style???)  Anyway, Guadalupe and I get along well because she a) is nice and amusing but doesn’t take any crap from anyone, b) doesn’t drive like a crazy person, and c) has a car with enough leg room for me and no funny-scented air fresheners. Our conversations are generally fairly smooth because I can practice my Spanish and at times, she her English, so we usually can figure things out between the two of us.

So today, Guadalupe & I were driving home when she suddenly remembered something to ask me. (below conversation all in Spanish)

G: “Oh! I have something I need help on from an English speaker and you speak English. Obviously!!
J: “Uh, yes…?”
G: “I have a song that I really like, but I don’t know what it means. Maybe if I play it for you, you can tell me what it is about?”  [proceeds to roll up car windows to create the proper listening environment] “Maybe you have heard it?”
J: [now filled with curiosity of what this magical song could possibly be] “Of course! Or at least I will try!”

G: [proceeds to carefully select song from CD player]

Classic hits of Mexico...thank you Depeche Mode

Classic hits of Mexico...thank you Depeche Mode

Car Audio System: “bumm bup bumm bup-bumm bumm bup bumm bup Your own…bup bumm bup Personal…bup bumm bup Jesus…bup bumm bup-bumm bumm bup bumm bup Someone to hear your prayers, Someone who cares…

J: “Ahhh siiii, es una canción muy buena!!” I crowed in reinforcement, thrilled to learn that this most favorite song of hers was a classic Depeche Mode hit from the ’80s.  I wasn’t quite sure whether she was looking for a literal translation or greater meaning, so I started loosely translating…

J: “Alguien quien oye tus… pues, como se dice cuando hablas con Dios?”    (Someone who hears your… well, how do you say when you talk with God?)
G: “Oraciones.”  (Prayers.)
J: “Si! Está hablando sobre alguien quien oye tus oraciones y te cuida.”  (Yes! It’s talking about someone who hears your prayers and cares for you.)

I explained that although I had heard this song many times, I had never really thought about what it means… We agreed it was best to restart the song. After a full run through, I made a valiant attempt to explain the meaning of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” in Spanish  (sounds like a bad dream from a Spanish lit class), focusing on the fact that despite the frequent use of the word “Jesus”, “prayer” and “faith”, Depeche Mode should not be classified as a religious band. :)

J: “Pienso que la canción sea sobre otra opción en vez de Jesus para ayudarte cuando estás solo y necesitas soporte… otra opción como música u otra persona…? Que puedes tener algo personal para “reach out”…?”  (I think the song is about another option instead of Jesus to help you when you are alone & need support…another option like music or another person? That you can have something personal to reach out to?)

I realized that even in English, I did not have a lot of insight into Depeche Mode’s thought processes. However, Guadalupe seemed to be pleased with my vague ideas, and we briefly discussed the differences between religious things and spiritual things, as evidenced by this “Personal Jesus” that one might have…

I reckon at this rate, it is only a matter of time before I am teaching a comparative religion class in Spanish at the local community college… 😉

Land Speed Record for…serving meat

Tonight in Guadalajara, I visited the Guinness World Record holder for the “fastest service in the world”. I was not overly impressed by this concept prior to entering Karne Garibaldi, but I must say, as soon as we sat down, I was excited by the flurry of food that emerged. One possible reason for their speed in service is their somewhat limited menu. And by limited, I mean there is one entree-basically a soup that consists of beef roasted in its own juices, some beans, and chunks of bacon. (ok, ok, twist my arm)  All you have to do is pick the size– small, medium or large.

That said, they bring so much random food to your table as soon as you sit down (random apps/accoutrements for the soup) that you kind of feel like “well, I should just get the small because look how much food is already on the table!”   Let me assure you– much like a Brazilian churrascaria, do not be fooled by the first round of accoutrements & naively fill up your belly with chips + beans w/corn kernels in it. Instead, get at least the medium & fill your belly with tasty tasty meat. Mmmm. Karne Garibaldi is definitely getting added to the “places to bring John when we come back to Guadalajara” list.

(note: yes, acknowledged, still no pictures from basically the last month, but I deserve forgiveness because am operating on <6 hours of sleep a night for the recent past & forseeable future, and can barely form coherent written English thoughts because am so focused on trying not to sound like an ignorant American with the bazillions of Mexicans I am meeting for business this week. FYI, meetings in Spanish when you speak Spanish like a 3rd grader are exhausting.)  :)

A new Spanish student’s worst nightmare…but no longer mine!

I have to share a couple brief anecdotes from my new employee orientation these past two days in Aguascalientes. But first, I must comment on how friendly everyone that I have met was. Everyone has been extremely kind, helpful, and patient with mi espanol. One highlight was the tour they gave me of the innards of our semiconductor assembly site, where I got to see the fastest machines ever connecting **real gold** bond wires that are thinner than hair from our semiconductors to bond pads. (And while I realize that many of you might not put that on your highlights list, you will just have to trust me that watching pick-and-place machines is wicked cool.) Needless to say, I had many opportunities to practice/improve my “technical Spanish”…

The main highlight was how I almost had to laugh several times when I found myself in the following scenarios that probably would have given me a panic attack/heart palpitations, had you told me 6 months ago that I might ever experience them:

  1. My second appointment after I arrived on Monday was with the site doctor for a simple medical history discussion. In reality, though, it was basically a test of my medical Spanish, an area which I have not studied extensively (shock). I was quite proud of myself because I managed to answer all of the questions except one or two without needing her to rephrase them (just into different Spanish, mind you). Anyway, you have to appreciate kicking off your new job with the relaxing process of talking about your sexual history and, uh, “women’s stuff”…in a different language…with a stranger…who happens to work for your employer. Sweet.
  2. This morning, I had a meeting with a really nice engineer who described to me the role of the mold compound in the packaging process. In Spanish. And then another meeting with an engineer who told me about how we put the labels on the semiconductor packages & separate their pins. In Spanish. And then another meeting about Environment, Safety, & Health with another engineer who was really passionate about his work and told me all about what his job entails–ranging from making sure people are not using chemicals that could kill everyone in the immediate vicinity to teaching people why it’s worth recycling. In Spanish. 
    BUT the weird thing was– a) I actually found all of the meetings really interesting (VERIFCATION: I’m a dork), and b) I actually understood the majority of them & was able to ask semi-relevant questions (VERIFICATION: maybe I am actually making progress learning Spanish)!!!

Of course, if you asked the all the people I met with, they may beg to differ regarding my Spanish skill level, but that’s ok. For at least today, instead of a common Mexican second-grader, I am feeling like maybe a Mexican third grader who attends the technology-focused elementary school. And that, mis amigos, is muy bien.

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