Everyone told us that the “language barrier” would be difficult in
No problem! How hard could it be, right? Right?
Scene: Sitting in a Cuban restaurant finishing lunch. I am full of pork and ham. That sounds like a flowery metaphor, but alas it is literal.
Brooke: “I want to make an appointment with that maid.”
Me: “The one that doesn’t speak English?”
Brooke: “Who do we know that speaks Spanish that can help us?”
[We contemplate our homogeneous whiteness.]
Brooke: “I’ll just call. It’ll be fine.”
Me: (laughing on the inside) “OK, that sounds good.”
Brooke: (drawing an immediate blank on all Spanish words) “Um, hola.”
Brooke: “Me llamo Brooke. Yo tengo numero from Neila. Yo quiero una housekeeper.”
Brooke: “Puedas limpiar?”
The conversation proceeds like this for some time, with Brooke creating new, not-Spanish words. The basic message of cleaning is conveyed, and Brooke now needs to set up an appointment. Forgetting the word for “month,” she uses the word “mas.” I don’t know why.
Brooke: “Once a month? Um, unce de mas?” [Ed. Note: This is not a sentence – in any language.] “May. May 12th. Uh, Mayo de . . . un momento” (under her breath) “. . . uno, dos, tres, quatro, cinco, seis, siete, ocho, nueve, diez, once, DOCE. DOCE.”
Maid: (in Spanish) “What are you saying?”
Brooke: “Si, dos p.m.”
Finally, our waitress comes over and offers to help us translate. We hand her the phone, and I assume she proceeds to make fun of us to the maid, though I still left her a 40% tip. She confirms our appointment, hangs up, and hands us back the phone.
Me: “How did that go?”
Brooke: “She laughed a lot.”
And now, just for fun, here is what the housekeeper heard on her end:
Brooke: “Um, hello. My name is Brooke, I have number from Neila. I want a housekeeper. Can you clean? Unce of more! Um, May. May of . . . one moment . . . one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, TWELVE. TWELVE."
Maid: “What are you saying?"
Brooke: “Yes, 2 pm’s."