Recently I left behind a competitive job in London in favour of an adventure travelling around Central America. After being away just over a week I can understand why people described me as crazy, brave and even stupid. I have already found myself in some bizarre situations.
My three month trip will take me across Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama and Cuba (find out more here). While travelling I have decided to enrol in Spanish school to pick up the lingo, and hopefully avoid a few awkward situations! Just a few days before leaving the UK, I visited a friend from university who is hosting foreign students in her home. They stay around three weeks at a time, while they attend a local language school. For her and her husband, it not only boosts their household income, but is a great opportunity to broaden their horizons and meet some interesting people.
Fresh off a flight from Naples are Rafaela and Giovanni who speak virtually no English. Before that were two giggly Italian teenage girls, and before them a Spanish wannabe politician. Already, phrases they've said to their new hosts include:
"We go now, hello"
"We get off Pullman at 6" (apparently their coach was owned by Pullham rather than they
were on a very old fashioned train!)
"My clothes run away if I don't wash them in a basin" (he meant the colours may run)
"Your mum is very good" (your guess is as good as mine!)
Getting by in a foreign country is always going to be difficult and intimidating. Since arriving in Mexico, I found out the hard way that shouting "estoy caliente" at the top of your voice will get some odd looks. Yes, I am hot, it's 32 degrees here... but what I was actually saying translated not as 'I am hot' but as 'I am horny'. It was an unfortunate mistake to make as I said it to an old man selling ice creams on the beach.
Just one letter makes a lot of difference.. You don't want to mix up "soy cansado" and "soy casado" - the first means that you're tired, the second that you're married. As for the word for eggs also being slang in this part of the world for a certain male body part, I'm starting to feel nervous ordering in a restaurant! Oh and in case you wondered, embarazada means pregnant, rather than embarrassed. So as I apologised to the ice cream seller for my mistake with the lingo, I justified it by saying I was married and pregnant. All while holding a large cocktail. Stranger still, he didn't bat an eyelid.