Dual Entry #2
(Note: this will be a running
list throughout the year)
Language school has been very
interesting. We both knew that becoming fluent in Spanish
would be a challenge. While we both had some language training
in college, we were still very far from being able to star in an
Antonio Banderas movie.
Today, we're in better shape than
when we started, thanks to the fine folks at Centro Maya de
our one-on-one language school. Still, we have had some pretty
embarrassing flubs since arriving. We'll try to keep a running
chronicle here for your enjoyment.
Backwards OOPs #16
I love my brother-in-law,
Owen. He's always good for a laugh. And, if he's not in
the mood to be funny himself, he is always a good audience (ie, he
laughs at everything, so you feel funny even if you
When they were here to visit, we
went to Graciela's brother's house (Noe) to see their shop and
introduce the family. Well, Noe is one smooth cat and is
always so polite and cool, like his Dad. Anyway, we come in
and exchange pleasantries. Owen, having grown up in the valley
in TX speaks pretty good Spanish, so he busts out with a "Como
esta?". Noe, replies, as is his norm, "Gracias a
Dios, bien. Y usted?" (Thanks be to God, I am
fine. And you?)
But what Owen hears is,
"Gracias. Adios. Bien" (Thanks.
Goodbye. Fine.) Owen wondered for hours afterwards why
Noe wanted him to leave as soon as he arrived. It wasn't til a
few hours later when I was commenting on how much I like that Noe is
always "giving it up to God, even in his greetings" and
Owen starts laughing.
Ya gotta love him. Who knew I
was that funny.
This all started about six months
ago, right after language school. Wanting to be cool and learn all
the slang, I decide that I need to call Martin "pops"
instead of "Martin" or our "father" in
Guatemala. So one day after my first few weeks I walk in for
dinner and say, "Hola Popi (POPE EE)." Martin
immediately replies, while laughing, "No, Gaby, es Papi (PAH
PEE)." Have you ever had a time when in your head you see
two words being spelled the exact same way and while you know they
are pronounced differently, your brain refuses to get on board?
(Like read and read). Hence my problem. I didn't catch
on that they were actually spelled two different ways. This
would have been a big help.
So I stopped using it and decided
that 't at all cool and however I was saying it, it just wasn't coming
out right, if you know what I mean, and I think you will once I
tell you the good part.
It's now been six months that
we have been living with the family and one day, out of the blue I
decide to try out my chapina slang again.
"Hola Popi!" I say with
"Aye, Gaby, no, it's Papi,
P-A-P-I," says Martin. At this exact moment my brain
figures out the whole misunderstanding. Lightbulb!
"Oh, ahora, entiendo,"
(oh, now I understand), I say. "But what does "popi"
"Popi es como mierda pero mas
amable." EXCELLENT. So, it turns out for about a
month straight I was walking into the house and joyfully saying,
"Hi Poop!" Literal translation of Martin's is
"'Popi' is like shit but more polite."
Oops #14 (The best yet!)
I (Scott) am putting together a
website for the place where I work. It's a campus-like
environment where people come for schooling, or simply to rent the
As I was taking pictures of the
buildings, I decided it would be nice to include pictures of the
staff on the website as well. So, I went to the comedor
(cafeteria) and asked all of the women in the kitchen if they would
come outside for a group photo. Unfortunately, very few of the
women speak Spanish. Only one or two understood me.
However, Marcos, another staff person, was able to translate into
Quiché for me.
All of the women lined up, but none
were smiling. In english, we ask people to say,
"cheese" so they'll be smiling when they take the
picture. In spanish, "cheese" translates to "queso",
which doesn't do much for smiles. So, here people say
"whisky", and at times, I have heard them say "whiskil",
the name of a local vegetable.
In my attempt to get the women to
smile, I said, "WHISKIL" about a dozen times or so.
The women smiled, laughed, and looked a bit shocked. None of
them said it, but the pictures turned out decent.
About three hours later, my
supervisor and I were walking out of his office when he started giggling.
I asked, "What happened?" He replied, "I was
just thinking of how you told all of those women to say 'whiskil'
I said, "What's so funny about
that? It's just a vegetable, right?"
He replied, "Sure... in
Spanish it's just a vegetable. But those women only speak
My question came next, "So
what does "whiskil" mean in Quiché?"
That's when he let me know that
I am perhaps the first missionary in history to ask a group of women
to repeatedly say aloud the vulgar term for female genitalia.
My face is still red.
Gabby was retelling the story of how she had to trudge a mile
through thick mud. She was tryig to explain how the trip
wasn't so bad due to her rubber boots. So, she told our host
"Yo tuve suerte porque yo tuve
botas de huele."
He thought this was pretty
funny. It turns out that "hule" is the word for
rubber. What she said was:
"I was lucky because
I had boots of smell."
Gabby and Scott wanted to make their room feel more like
home so they decided to hang some stuff on the walls. Easy
enough. All you need is some nails and some stuff.
Stuff, check. Nails... missing. So Gabby suggests to Scott,
"hey, why don't you go ask Martin for some nails? I just
learned the word for them on my last trip. It's calvos."
Scott says, "Are you
sure?" "YES, (with an air of confidence)"
says Gabby. In her head, however, Gabby begins to doubt her
Scott goes to ask Martin in the
workshop and Gabby follows along.
Scott: "Hola Martin,
Martín: With a look of
bewilderment, "No, no tengo calvos!" While at the same
time pointing at his head with a new look of, what, can't you see
for yourself? The entire family present, laughs hysterically
at their built-in gringo entertainment.
Scott takes one look at Gabby and
makes note to self: must kill Gabby later.
Scott innocently asked for "balds"
instead of nails. Nails are "clavos". Bald is
"calvo". Oops. Sorry Scotty. The funny part is
that Scott knew what calvos meant but with some prompting from his
wife, he trustingly stumbled into yet another blooper, God love him.
Having A Bad Reaction To Gabby's Spanish
was attending the regional meeting of the organization he's working
for this year. There were 50 pastors and community leaders in
attendance. Scott was asked to stand up and deliver a small
introduction and inspirational message. Being the poetic type,
he took a sincere tone of voice and began... "Yo estoy
emocionado para estar con ustedes. Yo puedo ver el amor de
Cristo en sus acciones, sus ojos, y sus rastros"
he meant to say was... "I am really excited to be here with
you. I can see the love of Christ in your actions, your eyes,
and your faces."
the poetic word for "faces" isn't "rastro", but
rather "rostro." So.. what Scott said was..
am really excited to be here with you. I can see the love of
Christ in your actions, your eyes, and your meat packing
everyone in Guatemala thinks Jesus works at the local slaughterhouse
clubbing cows with a big hammer. Nice one!
Here is a blooper that has now been
made by Caridad AND Scott. One day, a man came up and asked
Scott where the bathroom was. Being kind and considerate, he
gestured toward the back of the establishment and said "Alli'!"
He looked at me as if I had insulted him, and walked toward the
bathroom. Mission accomplished.
Similarly, Caridad was explaining
to another student that the ayudantes of the buses often try to
overcharge you. Their audacity requires you to be very
confident and assertive. So, she told the student that the
ayudante might try to charge 8 quetzales for the trip, so you need
to forcefully point to him with your five fingers and say, "NO,
cinco quetzales!" (No! Five quetzales!)
What neither of them knew is that
gesturing in Guatemala is dangerous business. Our language
instructors later informed us that it's OK to point with one finger,
or even with your whole hand, so long as your fingers are together,
side-by-side. instead, both Scott and Caridad thrust their
hand forward with fingers casually spread (kinda' like they we're
trying to say "five"... which Caridad was.
Unfortunately, the bus driver and the man asking about the bathroom
were greeted not only by words, but by our actions which said...
"$#%@ Your MOTHER!"
Thank the Lord that none of them
ended up in jail or in the hospital.
Is Studying Law At The Local University
He's Also Her Host Dad For 5 Weeks
After a long morning of shopping n
the market, Scott's new host dad struck up a conversation with him.
Martin: Hola Scott,
esta cansado? (Hello, Scott! Are you tired?)
What he meant to say was, "No,
I'm not tired, but I AM hungry! I want a big chocolate donut
from the bakery!" Instead, he said...
Scott: "No, no
estoy cansado, pero tengo hambre! Yo quiero una doña grande,
cubierto de chocolate!"
However, he should have said "dona"
instead of "doña." So, his phrase translated
I'm not tired,
but I AM hungry! I want a big lady covered in chocolate!
the laughter subsided, Scott realized that this probably wasn't the
best phrase to use. However, after some consideration... and
remembering that his wife is on the trip... he is anxiously trying
to talk Gabby into dunking herself in a vat of melted Hershey bars.
could be the best one yet! Caridad, is our resident
"glass is totally-full" volunteer. Her spirit is
always uplifting, and we all admire how she takes things in
stride. She also has a heart the size of Texas - which makes
this story so poignant.
week, we indulged and found an Italian restaurant here in
Xela. We all ordered our favorites (pizza, pasta or calzone).
It was a real TREAT! Caridad and Jen split a calzone the size
of a sofa cushion. Unfortunately, they couldn't eat it all, so
Caridad took the remaining portion "para llevar" (to go.)
bag in hand, Caridad was walking through downtown Xela after the
meal. She noticed a little, tiny, very old, hobbit-like homeless
man. He was dirty, shoeless, and
shivering. Her big heart guiding her actions, she approached
the man and asked...
"Tienes Hambre?" (Are you hungry)
MAN: "Si, tengo hambre." (Yes, I am hungry)
follows is perhaps the best language flub in history.
(With a soul full of sincerity) "Muy Bien! Yo tengo
un calzon in este bolsa para ti. Tu quires? Es muy bueno.
Todavia esta caliente, y no es muy viejo. Solamente dos horas!
Por favor, lo tomas y come!"
MAN: (Looking confused and little scared or surprised... she's
not sure. He said nothing.)
Caridad meant to say was, "I have a calzone in this bag.
Would you like it? It's really good! It's still hot and
only two hours old. Please, take and eat it.
what she said was...
well then! I have women's panties in this bag for you! Do you
want them? They are very good! They're really hot and
not very old -only two hours! Please take them and eat them!
wasn't until a week later that Caridad learned that he word "calzon"
in Spanish (in Guatemala) is women's panties. The man has yet
to be seen again, but he now believes that women from the U.S. are
the nicest people on the planet.
Daniel Is Jen's
One Heck Of A Great Guy
Caridad was trying to explain the
slogan of Jello commercials to her language instructor Pedro.
She told him how, no matter how full your stomach is, the commercial
says, "There's always room for Jell-O!"
Pedro looks at her, disbelieving
and says with a Guatemalan accent...
"There's always room for
J-Lo?! Jennifer Lopez!? How interesting!"
Studying Economics At The University
Scott was making a phone call to
Brian, another volunteer, to invite him to lunch. He was
really nervous about making the call, becaus it's really hard to
understand a new language without body language and being able to
read lips, too.
He picked up the phone and
dialed. On the third ring, a man picked up the phone.
Buenos Dias. (Hello! Good day)
SCOTT: Hola, Brian
esta alli? (Hi, is Brian there)
MAN: "De parte de
quien? (Literally translated, this phrase means "of part of
whom?"... but figuratively means something else. Still,
Scott responded to the literal)
parte de mi?" Translated, this means
"Which part of me would he
like to speak with?
So, this man now thinks I have
multiple talking body parts.
In one of his first days of Spanish
school, Scott was talking to his instructors about how he was a
little shy to speak Spanish. He meant to say, "I'm
embarassed." ("Yo estoy embarasada.")
Apparently, that phrase translates to...
going to be joining a local freak show to begin touring the country.
There is an awesome Mennonite bakery
here, and they make killer pastries. Pie is an especially big
hit. During our stay here, we have both made statements
relating to pie such as "I love apple pie." (A Mi me gusta
"pee-ay" de manzana"). The pronunciation of the
word "pie" SHOULD be just like we pronounce it in the
states if we're talking about the pastry... because our
pronunciation translated to...
love feet of apples!"
Scott has been really fascinated by
how women here carry huge loads balanced on their heads.
Since his teacher is Mayan, he wanted to know if she could carry
stuff on her head, too. So, he asked, "Can you carry on
your head, too?" ("Puedes cagar en tu cabeza,
Apparently, the verb "to carry" is not CAGAR, but CARGAR.
The direct translation of what he asked is...
you $&^% (poop) on your own head, too?"
One morning while reading the back
of a coffee can label, Scott discerned that the verb "disfrutar"
means "to enjoy." So, when his female instructor
asked him what he thought of the presentation that he had seen the day
before, Scott replied "I enjoyed myself very much."
("me disfruto mucho"). Apparently, "ME
disfruto mucho" means something entirely different than
"YO disfruto mucho".
direct translation of that statement means that Scott was enjoying
himself if in manner that should be kept very private.
red face finally subsided after 10 minutes. The laughter lasts
to this day.
was typing up one of her first e-mails home that was solely in
Spanish. She copied her sister and a few other folks.
Well, her sister Kerri plugged the e-mail into the language
translator on the Google website. What Gabby intended to say
was, "We didn't get to see the house, but on Sunday, we did go
to the church that will be our church for the year."
Instead, the translation came out...
do not see the house but in Domingo, we went to our church for this
if you don't put the little squiggly line over the ñ in the word
"año" (meaning "year"), the word "ano"
translates to "anus." Lesson learned.