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Language Problems

View Teenie Travels Around the World on chschen's travel map.

An odd end to an otherwise peaceful day:

After dinner tonight we went to the same restaurant as yesterday to order our piña licuado, but this time the proprietor was abrupt with us when we ordered. Yesterday his courtesy had been so elaborate and excessive it was nearly embarrassing. Tonight, as we were waiting for our order, I took out my camera to snap a photo of Chris; immediately, the proprietor approached our table and began speaking to us in a slow, adament Spanish that we nonetheless could not understand. We were stunned by the intensity of his gestures, which bespoke a controlled violence. Then he left our table without waiting for a response, and later we heard him cursing loudly in the yard.

During our long walk home, we tried to puzzle out what he might have said. Unaccountably, we could only remember the words "video," "grande," "consumo," and "pequeño." Trying to piece together the enigma of his fury distracted me from the vague feeling of menace that had crept into me. Yet, being meek, it also troubled me that we had unwittingly caused so much offense. We would not go again.

It seems to me that when you don't share a language with someone, sometimes your interactions lack consistency. A smiling, nodding woman one day can become sullen and impassive the next. Or someone who began warily can suddenly turn warm. I constantly feel at the mercy of others, and where we tend to go, our money, our business means little--maybe because we dole it out in such insignificant quantities. Yet, by and large, Isla de Ometepe strikes me as a welcoming place. Most people say "hola." Buying something is often rewarded with a "muchas gracias." Friendly, garrulous drunks abound. If only isolated incidents didn't tend to stick in my brain...

At any rate, tomorrow we will find another piña licuado place, and life will go on.

Posted by chschen 04:48 Archived in Nicaragua

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