Lessons Learned – some pleasant, some not

Last night G-man and I were out walking when we decided to stop by our favorite produce place.  Why is it our fav?  Well, because it’s close to our apartment, the produce is beautiful, and, most importantly, the people who work there are WONDERFUL!

First off, for the unfamiliar, buying produce here is a different process from buying in the States.  At the little produce stores, the shopper does not touch the merchandise.  Tell the shopkeeper what you want and they pick it out.  For CASL (Castilian As a Second Language) speakers like ourselves, fruit and vegetable words were not at the top of our essential vocabulary list.  Our produce shopping involves pointing, saying a number and reenforcing the crappy pronunciation by holding up the appropriate number of fingers.  After about our fourth or fifth time in there, out of the blue, the young guy that normally helps us spoke to us in English.  Broken, heavily accented, beautiful English.  My head whipped around and my mouth hug open.  Seriously, I almost hugged him.  That simple, kind gesture sealed the deal.   We will forever buy our produce in that shop!  He simply asked, “where are you from?”  We chatted back and forth a bit, us with our horrid Castilian and he with his few words of English.  It was awesome!  Ever since that moment every time we stop in we get treated like friends and, the best part!, they teach us new words!  They’ve never spoken English to us again and we appreciate that as we need every opportunity to learn Castilian.  I think they get it.

Ok, so back to the story….   We’ve learned the words for celery (apio), asparagus (espárragos), sweet potatoes (patatas dulces) and onions (cebollas – say-BO-shas, not say-BO-yas).  But, tonight we needed none of those things. Time for a new lesson.  By now, all the clerks know we don’t habla well, so they all speak slowly and help teach us new words.  I love them!  Last night we bought bananas (yep, exact same word but with different pronunciation), péras (pears – and yes they are delicious, sister-in-law-love-of-my-life), and arándanos (blueberries).

bananas peras & arándanos
bananas peras & arándanos

And then for a less than pleasant lesson…  Ever since we got back from The Wedding, we’ve noticed an unpleasant smell in the apartment coming from somewhere in the laundry room area.  The putrid smell of stagnant water.  Like, sewer water.  Really gross sewer water.  I assumed that since the laundry room had been closed up for a week and the sun beats on that side of the apartment, maybe that’s what was causing the nasty aroma.  The smell seemed to dissipate after a day or two of the room being opened up and running a couple of loads of laundry.  But this morning when we walked into the kitchen, the smell was back.  With a vengeance.  Like, how many dead bodies that we can’t see are piled behind the washing machine?  Holy cow!

I’ll save you the details of the discovery process and cut right to the lessons learned.  We have five bathrooms in this apartment (yeah, the company did us right – more on that later).  We are two people.  We only use two of the bathrooms.  We keep the doors closed to the other three and forget about them.  We have NEVER used the bathroom right next to the laundry room.  What we discovered is when water is not been regularly run in the fixtures of said unused bathrooms then the water in the drain pipe in the floor stagnates giving off said horrific odor.  Once I figured that out, I went around to each of the unused bathrooms to run the water in the sinks, tubs, and, oh for good measure, why not include the bidet as well.  You don’t see too many bidets in the States.  For those of you unfamiliar, you’re meant to sit on the bidet, turn on the water spout that shoots water up at a surprisingly impressive rate from the spout in the center like a water fountain one might see in a park and give your nether regions a little refreshing splash.  YouTube it if you can’t visualize the process, then come back and continue reading.  To help set the stage for the next lesson, I’ve included the picture below.

the source of Three Stooges entertainment
the source of Three Stooges entertainment

That little floor drain off to the right is where the offensive odor emanates from.  The big white toilet looking thing is a bidet.  The little silver thing dead center of the bidet is where water shoots out at the rate equivalent to that of water coming from a fire hose putting out a fire at a fire works factory.  The nozzle at the top of the picture is what one uses to turn the water off and on AFTER one has placed one’s backside above the water spout.  Anyone want to know what happens when one unwittingly leans over the bidet and turns on the water full force?  One gets a thorough cleansing of one’s head and chest.  Lesson learned.

Request for Positive Vibes

Here’s the deal…  Back in September or October, the G-man’s company posted an announcement for an opening in their Buenos Aires office.  Figuring the odds were not in his favor, but keeping our fingers crossed all the same, he put in for it.  You know how it is.  You really want something, but don’t think you’ll actually get it so you kind of downplay it to yourself to keep from getting excited so you won’t be disappointed when it doesn’t happen.  Makes perfect sense….and a really long run-on sentence.  Around December-ish he found out he had been selected for the position.  WOO HOO, we said.  Cheering!  Jumping for joy!  Calling family!  Calling friends!  We don’t speak Spanish, but how hard can it be, right?  We knew his company would send him to six months of language school and, shoot, we’d never heard of anyone not passing the test.  See, he MUST make a minimum passing score in an oral proficiency test or he doesn’t go.  For whatever reason, the company believes he should be able to communicate with his Argentine counterparts.  Since January, we have been living in Spanish 24/7.  Spanish TV, actually American shows in Spanish, Spanish radio, Spanish labels all over our apartment.  In case you were wondering, NatGeo Mundo is a great show to watch in Spanish as they speak slower.  Documentaries, in general, are great for slow speech patterns.  NOTE – When learning a new language, DO NOT attempt to watch any type of reality television in said new language.  When people get excited, they speak very fast.  It doesn’t matter what the language is when we get emotional, our mouths switch over to full auto.  We have been so intense that I have started dreaming about Spanish.  Make it stop.

Funny side story.  I get distracted easily.  Bear with me.  A few weeks ago, the hallways in our building were being repainted.  In my comings and goings, I passed the painter on several occasions and said a polite hello and apologized for getting in the way.  I’m pretty good with accents and I would have sworn the guy was from an eastern European country.  Of course, I had only heard him say two words….and they weren’t both spoken on the same day.  About day four, he knocks on the door to ask if he can tape the threshold so he won’t get paint on it.  Ah ha!  That’s a Spanish accent.  So I ask him in my amazing and newly acquired Spanish where he is from.  (I’ve been doing Pimsleur while G-man has been spending 7 hours a day in a total immersion class – more on that later.)  He says, A R G E N T I N A!!!!  Now picture this.  I’m standing in my open doorway and he is kneeling at my feet with painter’s tape in hand. Based on the look on his face, I’m pretty certain that, based on the look on my face, he was 100% certain that I was going to attack him.  Yeah, so my eyes got really big, my hands shot up in the air and I started screaming, “OH MY GOD!  OH MY GOD!  NO WAY!  OH MY GOD!”  What else could the poor fellow have thought?  Once I explained to him the cause of my slightly over the top reaction, he stopped clawing and scratching and trying to get away from me and agreed to come over for lunch that weekend and speak Spanish with us.  No lie.  Martin the Painter came over for three hours on a Saturday afternoon, during the World Cup mind you, hung out, ate ribs, and took on the role of new Spanish teacher.  He was an absolute delight.  Detailed story of that day to follow.  Wow, I have so much catching up to do.

Alright, so where am I going with all this and what does it have to do with positive vibes?  THE TEST is Wednesday the 30th.  NEXT WEEK.  G-man needs all the positive vibes he can get.  We have discovered one thing in the last six months.  G-man is not a linguist and never will be.  His first language is English and he still struggles with it sometimes.  He is good at so many other things, but language is his Achilles heal.  So please, please, if you have a moment, send your best positive ray beams in his direction.  If he doesn’t pass this thing, not only will he be crushed (and seeing him crushed will rip my heart out), but we’ll have to think of a whole new adventure and I’m really starting to like the idea of this one….especially since we just got pictures of the new digs and they aren’t too shabby.  More sharing on that later.  So, please, please, please, if you have a moment, just point your ray gun at the G-man.  And I point mine back your way tenfold!