As Bogotán life starts taking its toll, so does my Spanish. I can no longer rely on others to help with my daily life. Calling to make reservation starts to be tricky when all you hear on the other side of the phone is a kind of machine gun sound. You have rehearsed the lines that you planned to say and anticipated the questions that they would ask you, only to get other questions of which you don’t understand a word. Spanish words can be similar to English – eg. mania = mania, proyecto = project, but you never would have expected efectivo = cash!? wtf? Anyway..
So the other night I got a phone call from Mario. He said he has already started driving and was heading home. And he said the magic word, ‘pizza’. ‘Ask my sister to help you call for pizza delivery. I want 1969 pizza.’ Ok. So once I hung up I ran upstairs looking for Irma. Not there. She was nowhere to be found. So I thought to myself that I needed to survive by myself eventually and by now my Spanish should be adequate to order delivery?! I went online and googled ‘1969 Bogotá’. (the word Bogotá is very important here and I will tell you why later). I found the website, looked for the phone number, selected the pizzas, and made the phone call. It was a breeze till then.
‘)@(*&(#*%^@_$)#(&^$_^(*&.’ Ok I never would have expected an answering machine. Recognising ‘uno and dos’, I figured that I had to press either 1 or 2. Ok, luckily Mario’s mom was in proximity. I went over asking her to listen to the voice recording and she said, ‘dos’. Ok. Thereafter the voice-recording put me on hold and I recognized the word ‘busy’ so I waited. Then I got through! She asked me for my telephone number, I dealt with that. She asked me for my name. Easy peasy. She asked me for address, I started telling her ‘81D…’ Before I even finished, she said, ‘I don’t understand.’ WHAT PART OF THE NUMBERS AND LETTERS IS HARD TO UNDERSTAND? ‘buussh!’ A slab in the face. Self-esteem completely destroyed. So I passed the phone to Mario’s mom to finish the conversation.
So, earlier I was emphasising how important it was to specify the location of your search. At the previous weekend, I had to call to make a reservation at a prestigious restaurant that is owned by the brother of a Colombian singer, Carlos Vives, whose success in the Spanish-speaking world compares to Robbie Williams’. I googled on my phone, and ‘La Gaira’ popped up on google with a little screenshot of the map, the telephone number and the address conveniently underneath. I clicked on the number, and my phone was already calling it. Sweet. A man answered the phone, and I asked for a table for 7, at 8. He strangely asked if I spoke French.. (WHY?) I said no. He asked me for my name. And then I told him I wanted the table right in front of the stage (it’s a club cum bar y restaurant). And then he said ok, all booked. To avoid any misunderstanding, I asked Mario to talk to him so that he could check that all the details had been correctly taken. He told the man that I was practicing my Spanish. The man said I was very good and he could understand everything. Mario confirmed all the details and in the end he instinctively asked for the address and the man told him something that he didn’t’ recognize. And he asked if they were located in Bogotá. ‘New York.’ OMG. All my minutes have gone to waste. I called America! So the moral of the story, guys, always check you’re calling the right place in the right country!