A traveler’s language challenges


Tonight’s plan was for me and two friends to hear a woman from Argentina perform at the bar in the Crowne Plaza two short blocks from where I am staying.

I’d walked over there this afternoon to learn the times and even find out that her performance coincided with the last half hour of happy hour so we’d enjoy two-for-one draft beer in the warm evening’s air. I was happy that I’d gone over there and inquired in Spanish, gotten the information, and relayed it to my two local friends.

However, we arrived to find she is not performing tonight. One of my friends’ response to me: “So your Spanish is not so good.” (Not meant in a bad way.)

Really, I didn’t understand what I’d done wrong. I am certainly not fluent in Spanish. I lack many, many words. But I knew how to ask about a female singer from Argentina, how to ask the start time and end time, and to find out the details of the happy hour promotion that the bartender told me of. I get by. I just can’t have a normal conversation.

I was embarrassed and was sorry for causing my friends to drive over there for nothing, but I was also conflicted because I know I am not stupid and my livelihood as a writer has been based on getting facts right. How could I have failed so badly?

But my friend asked for the future performance details and, well I don’t know what else she said. But soon one of the women there came over to explain that the bartender had, indeed told me the performance was tonight and that it was not my lack. The schedule had changed and he had not been informed.

I felt much better as we enjoyed cocktails at the Crowne Plaza. Then, we went across the street to Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse El Salvador to have a light dinner there. We’ll return to the Crowne Plaza to see the performance another day, on one when she is actually performing.

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