I’d read a lot about the machismo comments of the males here towards females, and have innocently been wandering the streets thinking I was blissfully flying under the radar due to age, sweat, and a wardrobe purposefully chosen to be plain and mostly ugly.
2 months ago, I very ambitiously decided I’d learn Spanish for this trip. My “studying” consisted of walking around with apps drilling me while I was attending to a myriad of other things. Spanish I could listen to—while doing other things (and not understanding any of it anyway), and one single lesson with a friend of mine who also happens to be an outstanding Spanish teacher.
I arrived here knowing how to say “No hablo espagnol” and “El mundo es loco,” —the world is crazy, a catchall phrase that I thought could explain most situations. Well within a day I found out that I had the verb wrong on sentence two, so I was only really equipped with “I don’t speak Spanish.”
However, I had downloaded the google translate app and the Spanish translator, as well as something called maps.me and the Cuba maps. Both of these have been true lifesavers, as I don’t need data to use them. Have I mentioned my phone doesn’t work here and getting on wifi is like finding and keeping the Holy Grail, even if only for 5 minutes?
Fast forward a week and a half, and somehow that Spanish is seeping in, and I’m not sure I like what I’m hearing. I’m now able to basically order meals, excuse myself, thank people with a proper Cuban “Gracias” with a fully open “ahh”, and have stopped saying Good Morning at 6pm.
I’m also starting to understand just enough to get me in trouble, and have figured out how to look up what I hear. Tonight’s phrase as I walked by a man in his late 60’s was “Jugia, jugia, jamoniga”. I think I was much better off not hearing “Juicy juicy ham” as I didn’t see any ‘meat’ on the street and he looked me right in the eyes when he said it.
I am thankful I live and work in places where there is generally more mutual respect. This is the kind of language incentive that makes me want to learn quickly, so I can respond. But the response would need to be something that would put a cork in part of a cultural bottle that I am just beginning to understand. I remind myself I am here to observe and to learn, and with only 4 more days to go, corking isn’t an option anyway—therefore no more looking up snide comments. In some cases, my ignorance will need to be my bliss…