Monday, 15 April 2013

Is it True?

Fred & Sigred had been living in Ecuador for 4 years and their Spanish was no where near what they'd expected it to be at when they'd first arrived.  Sigred has a "party story" she likes to tell as follows:

We studied Spanish every day for an hour and a half for a year and then at that point, we decided to give ourselves the weekend off.  So then we studied Spanish every day for an hour and a half for about six months and at that point we decided, since we shop on Monday, we'd stop studying on Monday as it made the day kind of rushed.  About 6 months later Fred got sick, so we stopped studying while Fred had his operation and recuperated.  We promised ourselves we'd start soon as life was back to normal.

At this point, Fred usually pipes up and puts the back of his hand against his forehead and moans and Sigred goes on to explain that since 2 years has now gone by since Fred's operation, his recuperation seems to be extremely slow. 

Good guests then dutifully laugh. 

There's usually further explanation that in Canada people are required to take 5 years of French in school, that Fred was pretty good with his French and that Sigred was "poopy".  This explanation is necessary because as the U.S.'s population compared to Canada's is 10 to 1, so this fraction holds true in the expat community in Ecuador.  The extrapolation from Sigred's explanation of the Canadian school system then is that Fred's Spanish is much better than Sigred's...  And it is.   

As a consequence of Sigred's poor Spanish language skills, she has a tendency, when going to get her hair cut, to place both her hands at the side of her head just below her ears and then with a rather hopeless beseeching expression on her face says something like:  "Corte recto por aquí."  Which she hopes tells the hairdresser that they're to cut it straight across at that position.  In any case, that's (usually) what ends up happening.  The lovely women who cut her hair smile indulgently and then proceed to chatter at her in Spanish while tipping her head to their needed position and being quite astonished that Sigred neither wants her hair back-combed or gelled.

In any case, another exPat in town told Sigred about a fairly new hairdresser, an Ecuadorian, who trained and then worked in Chicago for 25 years before coming home to Cuenca.  Sigred quickly gleaned this would mean the hairdresser spoke English!  Sigred could describe in detail what she wanted and be reasonably sure she'd get the result she was aiming for. 

Fred & Princess took Sigred up to the hairdresser and determined that "yes" in fact the proprietor spoke English and was available.  At that point, Fred took off to do his own chores, and Sigred waited for the proprietor to arrive. 

During her hair cut, the almost middle-aged man chattered away with Sigred in English and with his staff in Spanish.  Wondering why Sigred was getting her hair cut much shorter than it was, Sigred explained it used to be that way until she moved to Ecuador and couldn't communicate well enough.  He then told her that a shorter haircut made a woman her age "look younger".  He also advised she needed to use a special shampoo because her hair was turning yellow.  (Note:  After several inquiries Sigred has at this point been unable to find this special shampoo in Ecuador.  Very few Ecuadorian's have white or salt & pepper hair.)  Chattering away the young man also told her he was cutting her hair just like his Mother's. 

In the end, Sigred got exactly the kind of hair cut she wanted plus a big dose of constructive criticism, just in case sitting in a chair with a sheet wrapped around her right up to her aging neck & chin and under a bright light would go to her head and make her somewhat conceited. 

The next day Fred & Sigred went to the hot springs (a regular weekly event for them) and soaked in the thermal waters for an hour or so.  While there several people they knew also arrived.  As one must wear a cloth shower type cap in the pool no one noticed Sigred new cut until she'd left the pool, gotten dressed and was saying goodbye.  The 3 women of the group profusely admired Sigred's new cut.  Sigred dutifully told them about the new hairdresser who spoke English and offered his telephone number and/or address to all.  All were silent.  She then, dutifully waiting for Fred to emerge from the change room, told them the story of the hairdresser "stroking her ego".  They weakly laughed just as Fred was emerging and off they went in a flurry of friendly goodbyes.

That afternoon during Sigred's computer time, she ran across the following internet ditty:

Men, when they are socializing, insult each other 
and don't really mean it.
Women, when they are socializing, compliment each other 
and don't really mean it. 

 The River