Spanish or something like it

Yesterday I had lunch with a woman from church who spends nine months out of the year in Peru and the other three months back in the United States. She and her husband are missionaries in Lima and this is the third year they have been here. In my mind, that makes her somewhat of an expert on adjusting to life in Peru. Her best advice? Embark on small quests and celebrate your small victories. Whether its dedicating an afternoon to finding a famous chocolate shop or successfully finding dill in the supermarket, it’s these quests and subsequent triumphs that have helped her adjust to Peruvian life.

Today I had a small language triumph.

I commute to work with a private taxi company and since I have become a regular customer, I have started to recognize the drivers. This morning, when dropping me off my driver asked if I was taking Spanish lessons at the school, to which I replied, “No, soy una profesora de inglés.” (No, I’m an English teacher). That small admission and my noticeably lighter hair and skin color tipped him off to my American citizenship.

The same driver picked me up to take me to Alvaro’s grandfather’s house for lunch. About ten minutes into the ride he said a quick sentence composed of several words I understood and a few that I didn’t. I replied, “I’m sorry, could you speak a little slower...” and then he repeated the question. He wanted to ask me about the economic crisis in the United States. Oh boy. I don’t know that I am qualified to speak about that situation in English, let alone in Spanish. I tried my best. I talked about interest rates and bank loans and home foreclosures. He asked why a lot of people don’t like Obama and I said because things haven’t changed as much as they would have liked. “I, however, do like him. The country was in a really bad place when he became President and la cambia (change) takes time.” We continued to chat about American policy regarding war and economics all the way to my destination. Before I exited the car I said, “Thank you for helping me practice my Spanish. I really need to speak but I am really afraid to.” He laughed, said that I did fine and reassured me that speaking English like that would be difficult for him.

As I opened the door he said, “Earlier you said la cambia, it’s actually el cambio.”

I said, “Ah, sí. Cambiar is the verb and cambio is the noun. Muchas gracias.”

“De nada, señorita. Feliz año y hasta luego.” (You’re welcome, ma’am. Happy New Year and see you later.)