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Saturday, April 23, 2011


I'm frequently confounded by things, like the success of anything produced by Tyler Perry, or the fact that the New York Times thinks for even a second that I'm going to pay them to read more than twenty articles a month on their site. But I'll just turn the channel if I see a tall black dude in drag, or I'll switch to a different browser when the window pops up on my screen that says, "To keep reading, sign up today." Unfortunately, I have no such options when forced to speak a language with which I have only a fleeting familiarity.

The Colombian has gone back to the motherland to visit her family and to produce a documentary, and due to constraints of making international calls from there to New York, the burden of initiating calls has fallen upon me. "Just ask for me," she said, when I told her I'd be uncomfortable speaking to her family if she didn't pick up when I called. I told her I thought it would be rude just to ask for her without engaging in even the slightest bit of small talk with her mother or grandmother, or any of the other three dozen or so friends and relatives that always just happen to be over, celebrating some event or holiday...or revolution.

I grabbed a pen before she left and I asked her to tell me exactly what to say.

"Just say, 'Hola. Jo soy Marc. Eeesabel, por favor."

"Jo?" I asked, perplexed. "What's Jo? I thought it was Yo."

"Jo is fine too," she said.

"Is Jo slang? Who says Jo?"

"That's how they say it in Argentina."

"But I'm not calling Argentina. How do they say it in Colombia?"

She sighed, exasperated by my unabashed gringo-osity.

"Anyone who speaks Spanish will understand what you mean when you say Jo."

"But why am I saying jo? Why can't I say yo? What's with you people confusing the Js and the Ys? First you say Neuva Jork, and then Nueva Yersey...Make up your damn minds"

"Say whatever you want."

"And Eeesabel? Do I have to say that too? Are they gonna make fun of me if I ask for Isabel."

"No one's gonna make fun of you," she said, trying to reassure me. "They can't speak English, so why would they make fun of you for not speaking Spanish?"

I believed her until I called the other day and I heard some jerk-off laughing, as he handed her the phone.

"Ih-saw-bel, pawer farvawer," he told her, mocking me, doing what he thought was a funny sounding gringo impression, but what sounded more like Mr. Furley ordering escar-GOTS. This is what qualifies as humor over there? I thought. Tyler Perry must be fucking huge in Colombia.

"Who was that asshole?" I asked when she picked up.

"That was my uncle," she said, laughing, too.

"It's make fun of the gringo day over there, huh?"

"Oh, stop. Don't take it so seriously."

"I'll remember that next time your English gets a little questionable. Whenever you say 'instead that,' instead of 'instead of,' I'm gonna record it and send it to my uncle, so he can laugh at you."

"So how's my favorite gringo doing?" she asked, unfazed. "I miss you."

"Ah, screw jou and jour whole family...I miss jou too."



Linda said...

Great post. Love your humor.

Bethany said...

This is the first time I´ve read your blog. I´m a gringa currently living in Central America and constantly struggling with my Spanish skills. This post made me laugh out loud. Can´t wait to read more, good luck with the Columbian.... and the Spanish.

Anonymous said...

This is funny. I am currently going out on Lesbian dates, but it's all the same...