Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Por favor, hable inglés..

It has been a long time since I didn't understand the language of the city/country I was visiting. I almost forgot what it was like to not understand anything that is going on around you (and it made me empathize with Jeff a bit :P ).

I went to Barcelona, Spain for five days. It was my second visit to the city and I quite liked it - the city is nice, the food is good and the people are very helpful (and understanding). Thank goodness for that. Within ten minutes of entering the country, I ran into trouble with the language.

I am on the train from Marseille to Barcelona. I, being the planner that I am, bought my train ticket in Canada before I left to ensure that I had a way to the conference. I got the ticket on sale, which was awesome. Go me, the bargain shopper.

When we cross the France-Spain border, someone comes around and checks our tickets. I whip mine out, expecting no problem; however, instead I hear:

"blah blah blah (in Spanish)".

"Perdón" I reply - having no idea what the man is saying to me.

"Ticket. You need euro-rail pass for ticket".

It is at this point that I start to panic. I do not have a euro-rail pass - this is the ticket that Travel Cuts sold me. They told me they had a sale on. I try to explain to the train man that I don't have a pass, this was all that was sold to me, please don't kick me off the train. At this point, some nice man starts acting as a translator and the end result is me paying 22 euros. Oh well, paying money was better than getting kicked off the train.

So, that was my first few minutes in Spain. My first morning in Spain, I also ran into trouble with the language. You see, in Europe, they don't have what I consider normal coffee. And I, being lactose intolerance, am not going to have a "café con leche". So I walk to a coffee shop at 9:30 am and look at the menu trying to find the closest thing to a regular coffee. I see café Colombian and café Brasilian. To me, these seemed like brewed coffees so I went for it. I order a café Brasil.

I watch the woman make me a coffee and then I start to panic. Oh. My. God. Did she just put liquor in the coffee? It is 9:30 am! What did I just order? Can I run away? She comes to me with the coffee and tries to charge me 4 euro for it and I knew the café Brasil was only 1,50 euros. I say "no. café Brasil". Apparently this second attempt at saying Brasil was better than the first because she understands me and makes me the coffee. Unfortunately, it is not a normal coffee but is the strongest cup of espresso I have ever had. I went with it.

So good times with the language, and Spanish being a language that I can somewhat get by in because it is so closely related to French. I am sure you can only imagine how well I did when I was in Japan a few years ago.

" But sometimes this thick confusion grows until I cannot bear it at all" - DMB

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