Oh, Spanish. It continues to frustrate and delight. Sometimes, I surprise myself with my ability to stumble through a conversation and I celebrate the fact that I correctly used pronouns and managed to keep the masculine and feminine words straight.
And then sometimes someone will be talking to me and then pause, clearly expecting some sort of response. And The Pause? It’s painful. Because I’m about three sentences behind, still trying to process how that one verb was conjugated and trying to decipher the remaining mystery words through context and I’m pretty sure I got about ¾ of what was going on but I CLEARLY missed something along the way and the clock is ticking and they are STILL staring at me and WHAT DO I SAY?! So, I giggle nervously, swallow my pride and ask them “¿Una vez más, por favor?” And, of course, rather than slow it down for the poor gringa who is obviously struggling, they rattle it off again at breakneck speed and The Pause makes a fierce comeback. Ay, dios.
Sometimes I ignore the fact that I didn’t understand it all and just answer – hoping it’s the right answer – in a wild attempt to avoid The Pause. It’s normally not the right answer.
“How long have you been here?”
“I’m going to be here for two years working with the Muni!”
“Where are you living?”
“I’m from the states. From Las Vegas, Nevada. With the casinos!”
“Something, Something, Something, Guatemala, Something, You, Something?”
“I’m here with Peace Corps and I’m happy, but I am still learning Spanish so sometimes it’s difficult.”
And I immediately know I answered wrong because their response is to look at me, kind of confused, smile, nod, shake my hand, say it was nice to meet me and promptly leave.
I feel like I have hit a wall with my Spanish and am not progressing. A sentiment not helped by the fact that after receiving only 5 weeks of Spanish classes during training (while most received the full 12), I tested out at the SAME LEVEL I tested in at. And I’ve gone through the workbook. And I’m reading documents at work and the Guatemalan newspaper daily. And I’m watching TV in Spanish and chatting with my family. And I’ve even taken my friend Bill’s advice and started reading things in Spanish out loud to myself to get used to the pronunciation. And still The Pause haunts me.
I’m trying to focus on the little victories: when I learn and use a new word, when I answer a question and the person, mercifully, doesn’t look at me like I have sprouted an extra head, when I manage to carry on a conversation with my host brother that lasts longer than a few moments. And I’m trying to appreciate the entertaining parts of Spanish: how a peacock translates to “royal turkey”, how fun it is to say “¿SAAAAAber?” when you don’t know something, how many different ways “puchica” is utilized.
And I’m telling myself that eventually this wall will turn into just another humorous chapter in my Guatemalan adventure.