Tuesday, April 10, 2012

to buenos aires, an open apology

we've been in buenos aires for three weeks and we've lost count of how many times we've spoken the single most useful piece of spanish we know, "lo siento por nuestra espanol." "sorry for our spanish."

needs no translation.
sure, it's a weak ploy to elicit someone's empathy where they then speak to us like children, but that's the point! and it works, too. :) however, we learned today that although it's correct to say it in other spanish speaking countries, in argentina it's typically used ironically. oh, that's just great!

we've taken spanish classes for 20 hours, diligently done our homework, conversed with our teacher, studiously read signs around town and tried to interpret them, and asked questions to others in lines. we often get shrugs but sometimes we get a "conversation." each day, in the privacy of our apartment of course, we attempt to have entire conversations with each other solely in spanish and if locals were listening in i'm sure they would think we were mentally deficient or they would just roll around laughing.

but then, then we step out on to the street and it sometimes seems like we've learned nothing. we take the bus everywhere with conversations being the soundtrack around us. and buenos aires presents a very fast and quirky kind of spanish, too, almost italian sounding, which adds a certain amount of, oh i'd like to say spice, but it really is more of "what the freak did he just say? i mean, i heard 'tambien,' and 'bebida,' so has something to do with drinking also..." that's our internal dialog. then, just as suddenly, the next sentence is completely lost.

which brings us to our second most useful sentence: "habla mas despacio, por favor?" please speak more slowly?

free spanish lesson today came in the form of a sock salesman on a local bus. what a hard way to make a living! but he took a moment to explain to everyone on the bus that what he was selling were no ordinary socks, they were "suave." here he is after the sales pitch.

on the bright side, people are people and people want to communicate even if the language you're trying to use isn't quite correct. like so many other countries we've been through before, a few verbs, a few nouns and a lot of body language gets you a very, VERY long way. even if i can't form a complete sentence i can tell a taxi driver where to take us in the city. we've received complete meals that we actually ordered, found ATMs by asking directions and made good friends with the guy that makes the best empanadas in buenos aires. he speaks no english at all yet we seem to have some very fun conversations.

again, we ALL know what this means.
and thank god, too, with the prices
in buenos aires, happy hour is the
only way to stay under budget!
huge respect for the bi, tri-linguists of the world: we've been taking advantage of free events produced by the city of buenos aires. they really have an extensive list of walking tours, music and museum programs. inevitably, on a walking tour, we end up being surrounded by people from many different countries and the sheer number of them who speak two, three, four languages is astonishing.

we met a student yesterday who is argentinian, lived in germany and now is back home. he spoke perfect english, spanish of course, and a tremendous sounding german. along with the group was a wonderful woman from buenos aires who teaches english as well as speaks french and italian. "oh, i dabble in german but it's really not my strength." she then went on to have a short conversation with the earlier mentioned young man in german! they're argentinian, what business do they have speaking german? i mean, come on.

so, buenos aires, please consider this a heartfelt apology for not being fluent. but please also know, we are trying and we really appreciate your help. especially all of the nice waiters around town who bring us the food and drink we are loving so much. you guys are always the first ones to interact with us tourists and in buenos aires, at least, you do it so well.

muchas gracias por su ayuda!

mataderos fair. truly a feast for eyes, ears and bellies. wow, what a great afternoon in one of the more far-flung barrios of buenos aires. 


  1. I am so bloody Jealous you guys are still out and about !

  2. Did you have fun in BA? I´m sure you did. Did you go to The Bridge of the Woman in Puerto Madero? The name of the bridge refers to the naming pattern of the district of Puerto Madero, where all the streets are named for important women (the only major city in the world with such a neighborhood.) A sign between docks 2 and 3 gives biographies of the women.
    All the buenos aires apartments I got when I was there, were close to it. It is nice to go in the afternoon to look at the river!