While I can’t understand some of the road signs and the altitude is exhausting, the most shocking thing about moving to Bogota is how tongue-tied I feel. In order not to seem rude, every person has to be addressed in Spanish. While there are places in the U.S. where I only hear Spanish spoken, the big difference is that I’m not expected to respond in Spanish. So far, here in Bogota, the people I’ve talked to have been incredibly nice about my stunted Spanish. But then again, the phrases have been extremely simple:
“Buenas” = “goods” for good morning, good afternoon, good evening.
“Muchisimas gracias” = a million thanks (rough translation)
“Muy amable” – you are so kind/so nice of you
“Que tenga buen dia” = “Have a nice day.”
The other night, I realized that after months and months of Spanish classes, I didn’t know how to say to the waiter, “yes, you may take my plate.”
I won’t go into all the mistakes that I’m making when I manage to actual get a few words out. So far, the funniest part of speaking Spanish was when I was ordering a sandwich and I thought I’d stick to something simple like a ham and cheese… then the sandwich lady asked me, “jamon de pavo o jamon de cerdo?” Turkey ham? Or pork ham? I wasn’t aware that “ham” was generic for “lunch meat.”
The other shocking thing is figuring out the currency. At the current exchange rate, it’s about 1,881 Colombian pesos to one U.S. dollar. So far, I’ve been knocking off three zeros, dividing by half and adding a little on top. Is it my new math?