In a follow up from yesterday, I thought I ought to dig up some Memorably Bad Expatresse Moments.
Here is one from Bratislava in 2001.
I wasn't blogging when we lived in Buenos Aires (late 1999 to March 2001), but I don't need to refer to any notes to recall The Incident at the Meat Counter.
I spoke a little Spanish when we arrived, having spent some time in Miami and taking a few classes while we lived there. But the Argentine accent really threw me for a loop. It took a while for me to understand anyone (not unlike my time at the Glasgow Airport Holiday Inn), especially in the shops and on the streets (by that, I mean that watching the news on TV wasn't too bad). But I took lessons twice a week and felt I made progress quickly. I enjoy Spanish and found it rewarding and relatively easy to learn.
As is typical when one studies a language, one day you understand everything and start to feel really good about yourself. Then the next day you don't get a word and feel about as verbal as the family dog.
This happened to me at the meat counter of our local grocery store.
The name of the store chain was Disco, as I recall. Until I realized that all Argentine housewives send the maid to the grocery store, I used to go myself. I often bought chicken. This involved talking to the the Disco employee behind the meat counter. I had accomplished this task, with no hitches, many times.
But for some reason, on this particular day, instead of just weighing and handing me my chicken breasts, the woman behind the counter, this awful, nasty woman wearing more bright blue eye shadow than Mimi Bobeck on The Drew Carey Show, upon hearing my request, said, "Mwwhha, mwa hwa huh eh?"
My regular trick, when I don't understand something someone has said in a foreign language, is to suggest I could not hear them by putting my hand behind my ear. This I did.
She repeated, ""Mwwhha, mwa hwa huh eh?"
All I got was radio static. I asked her to repeat it one more time.
"MWWHHA, MWA HWA HUH EH?"
Zip. Zilch. Nada. I got nuthin'
She sighed loudly, ROLLED HER EYES, and packaged up my chicken. It looked like every other package of chicken I had purchased at Disco. I had NO idea what she was on about, but I felt awful and the whole thing made me cry.
Later, when I told The Spouse about the Mean Lady with the Awful Blue Eye Shadow at the Disco, he hugged me and said something very kind and very wise.
He told me, "Beets, your Spanish is going to continue to improve, you know? And she's still gonna be pushin' chickens at the Disco."
It was, perhaps, one of the sweetest things he's ever said to me.
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