Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Friends, Moving, and Losing Your Linguistic Elegance

We're rounding out our second year here in the DF this week, and there have been so many changes/transitions in the past few weeks to make me feel like we're starting this adventure from scratch.

One of the most difficult things about living abroad is seeing the friends you've made leave. This summer, we said goodbye to six friends, all of whom moved to far away places. I suppose it's in mental storage that this happens amongst the Mexico City expat community, but it never fails to bother me. I am a creature of routine and comfort, so if you leave me, be assured that you have ruffled my feathers. :)

We are also uprooting ourselves from the lovely boho Colonia Roma to move to a place closer to Nick's work. We decided against the apartment a block away (in hindsight, a very good thing since a new club has just opened across the street, and they play freakishly loud music from Wednesday to Saturday) and will be moving to a new neighborhood which, from many accounts, is also a very amiable place. All I ask for is good street food, ok? Preferably less than two blocks from my door. Thank you.

And, related to the move, I know it'll really feel like starting over when I have to make contact with the utilities, cable, and phone people. As happens every time I encounter these people, blood rushes to my face, the temperature in the room suddenly rises, and I become linguistically debilitated to the point of providing ridiculous answers to standard questions.

Examples of linguistic debilitation:

Census taker: How many bathrooms do you have in your house?
Husband : 95 (the number of meters in our apartment)

Census taker: Do you speak any indigenous languages?
Husband: Yes
Census taker: (mystified) Which ones?
Husband: English

Store clerk: ¿Con quien le atendió? (Who helped you?)
Me: Mi nombre es Alice
Store clerk: (annoyed) No, no, no. ¿Con quien le atendió?
Me: Alice
Store clerk: Un segundo...
(only after post-phone reflection did I realize what he was saying)

In the next few weeks, I will be making quite a few "Why hasn't your service worker showed up the past three times he's made an appointment with me?" conversations, but, hopefully, all my insides won't come unraveled. But, if they do, I'll make a note of it so we can all have a good laugh.


  1. You are doing great, Alice. I think that you are too modest. I'll bet that it won't be long until you are speaking Spanish like a regular "Chatty Kathy" :)

  2. I don't envy your dealing with any CSR's here. One of the advantages of having a Mexican husband is that I can usually send him to deal with them. ;-)

  3. Bob -- Ok, so maybe I am not SO bad, but you read those examples, right? Those were 100% real and recent, the last one happening yesterday! The phone gets me every time!

    Leah -- Another reason I need a Mexican husband (the other reason being a free Spanish teacher) :)

  4. Alice,
    It took me about three years of total immersion before I got comfortable on the phone. Relax and don't worry about it. Enjoy the ride. The one suggestion that I would make is to memorize dialogs so that your ear will already be tuned to what may be being said and the right phrases to use in reply will leap to your tongue.

  5. Wow, 2 years, felicidades!!!!

    Also, 6 friends have left you??? WOW, I haven't even made 6 friends here yet!! I know, I suck!!! I often hear other expats say that they have given up on new expats as they never know how long they'll be around. Kinda sad. I'd still rather make a friend, and have em leave!! Like you, my feathers would be a little ruffled! LOL!!

  6. 6 and a few more leaving in the next month! Making friends and watching them leave is hard, but like you, I'd rather make a new friend and hopefully keep in touch and have people to visit all over the world. I even now have a friend living in Antarctica!

    We have lots of family in Edmonton, and they RV it to Banff every summer. It was snowing when we went in July! Looking forward to your grizzly pics.