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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Living By Land Rules - on a Boat

Suddenly we have schedules to adhere to...
Appointments to keep...
Without meaning to exactly we've sprung from having leisurely, wake-up-when-your-body-tells-you TO...
Alarm clocks, appropriate dress and rushing about.
We live aboard Hotspur, but we live like land lubbers.

To top it off, now language REALLY is an issue!
I've said it before and I'll say it again:
Living in a Spanish speaking country and speaking Gringo Spanish is very helpful.
Finding items at the grocery store, for example, is so much easier if you speak some Spanish.
Try miming out 'carrot', or hand signals for 'milk'... or can you imagine, God forbid, 'toilet paper'?

Asking directions for locations around town is another biggie - and mainly because street signs in Mexico are a non-custom. Luckily, hand signs and miming really do work well when you are trying to understand where to go. But knowing the difference between
RIGHT (a la derecha)
TURN RIGHT (doble a la derecha) and
can mean the difference of finding your destination - or not.

And ordering food in a restaurant and knowing the difference between Bistek Hidalgo and Bistec Higado is the difference between having a nice meal and - well, not...just ask Jim.

I didn't say speaking Spanish would be easy. But once you've got Gringo Spanish 101 under your belt I think you'll find that life living in a Spanish speaking country is a little easier... except in situations where you have to speak Beareaucratic Spanish. That is the worst. And no amount of Spanish but FLUENT Spanish will help you maintain your sanity... and even then...

We arrived in La Paz with the goal of enrolling the kids in school-
that, my friends, requires more than just speaking Gringo Spanish.
It requires the finesse of pleasantries mixed with a large pail of BS and just the right sprinkling of firmness. It is a cultural language Salsa:
A side step here
and a swish of the hips there
and a coy smile,
batting of lashes,
and oozy sweetness mixed with name dropping,
papers peppered with large stamps and important signatures,
and in my case -
resorting to calling a local friend for help in exchange for buying her very expensive school uniforms v.s. going to Walmart for a fraction of the cost.
It's all about helping out, right?

As of Monday, Carolyne is thankfully in school and I am officially exhausted.
She attends a sweet little public school right around the corner - easy walking distance and very popular. So far, the cost has been her uniform - which with 3 blouses, 2 jumpers, 5 pairs of knee socks, 1 PE skort, 1 PE T-shirt and 1 pair of shoes has cost roughly $100US. And if we're lucky, the school will provide us with a voucher worth about $45US.

Carolyne is in a classroom with 32 other students. Her teacher speaks little English. We have arranged for Carolyne and Tim to have Spanish lessons at 50 pesos an hour each Tuesday and Thursday.

Carolyne, who told me, "Just so you know, Mom, I hate you for making me go to Mexican school", is loving her new school, teacher and classmates. By day 2, she corrected my Spanish - and was right! I am thrilled! Our daughter will be speaking fluent Spanish by the end of the school year! And her diagnostic test that she took placed her high in Math, Science, Social Studies and Mexican History... how she pulled off the Mexican History I will never know. But one thing is for sure - we've not done a shabby job with her homeschooling. (Yet I found a typo in this post but now I can't locate it - who cares... please deal.) We told her, "Whatever they ask you on your test about Mexican History the answer is BENITO JUAREZ."

As for our son, it has been much harder because he is much older and not fluent in Spanish. We need something close to a miracle to get him into school. After weeks of persistence, we finally have the Mexican Department of Education's approval for Tim to attend. Now, we just have to find a school to accept him. We've been turned down by three public schools so far.
On the flip-side, Tim has a job working at a restaurant this fall...IF we can get our Immigration status resolved. Dealing with Immigration is a whole different type of bureaucratic nightmare. And that, my friends, is another type of dance- one I haven't figured out yet.

(accent on the first syllable unless otherwise indicated)

Me puede dar... (may pway-day dar...)
Can you give me...

Use this phrase any time you want someone to give you something or pass something to you. We use it in the restaurants when ordering or at stores when there is an item behind the counter that we can't reach. We use it when we are asking for information or requesting anything from another person. It is a super useful phrase to learn!


  1. Been reading you blog for a while and we are inspired. please go to our new sailblog for any advice you can give. Thanks!

  2. Me puede dar,me puede dar,me puede dar a break?

  3. Love reading your blog. Now that the kids are either in school or working you have lots of energy for posting, right? =:)

    Great Spanish lesson and I sure agree with you.

  4. I can't get it out of my head,me puede dar,me puede dar.Make it stop!

  5. What an adorable little girl! My niece looks precious in her school uniform. She's going to learn so much this year. Go, Carolyne! I can't wait to see what Tim will be wearing.

  6. In anticipation of cruising to Mexico, my husband wanted to learn Spanish. I used to live in Chile and was fluent once upon a time, but I need to get it back, so we picked up the Pimsleur Spanish course and it's awesome! Just wanted to let you know in case you had any desire to try to keep up with the kids.

    S/V Kintala

    1. Live the dream Corbin and Gina! Thanks La Vita and Anna. Jesse - no comment - again. Deb... we purchased Pimsleur's Spanish I II and III and I couldn't agree with you more. I love the program. However, the kids find it boring. I find Pimsleur to be one of the best language programs out there. I even wrote a post about it.