Posted by: feltface | September 18, 2011

Forced Conversation

Before I left for Florida, I expressed my excitement for the opportunity to brush up on my Spanish. In a way, I admit, that’s one of those things that sounds good when you say it. I’ve found the challenging part is actually owning that. If I’m being honest with myself, I know it’s a pride thing. I don’t enjoy being incompetent; not many people do. I don’t want to do something if I’m not sure I’ll be able to do it 110%. I’m a perfectionist, and will go to great lengths to avoid something if I feel I can’t perform well. I need to let go of that. My journey down the road to Spanish immersion in Miami began with two words, “es agua”.

One Saturday morning, I was drinking a cup of water while I drove to work. The condensation from my cup dripped conveniently in the same spot on my lap. I figured it would dry and forgot about it. As I was standing next to a table of children at work, I noticed a little girl whispering to her friend and pointing to the wet spot on my pants. I was the only English speaker in a room full of 40+ Hispanics. I looked that little cherub right in the face with a smile and said “es agua”. At first she just stared at me. I could tell she was stunned that I understood her poking fun of the gringa who peed herself. After she got over the initial shock, they both began to giggle and in that moment, there was a cute little understanding that we established. She caught me and I caught her. It’s like we were mentally high-fiving each other and it didn’t matter what language we spoke. I wish I could say every encounter was that easy.

There have been several times at work where I have reluctantly answered the phone, knowing there’s about a 90% chance the caller will be speaking Spanish and expect the same from me, since the rest of my co-workers are all native speakers. I shamefully confess there have been a few times I’ve been stubborn and tried to force through in English, but the callers just sat in silence and confusion. In moments like that, I’m learning to suck up my pride and say to myself, “here goes nothing”. Thankfully, everyone I’ve graced with my broken Spanish hasn’t even batted an eye and has been very patient. God bless them.

In other news, I finished my certification course to be an HIV Counselor. It was an incredibly intense few days packed with invaluable information about both the virus as well as counseling practices. It was frightening to hear the lack of education and knowledge that my classmates and the other members of our community have on basic safe sex practices and the risks involved in carelessness. Also, I will admit that after learning about the bazillion ways one can contract different forms of Hepatitis, my germaphobia has returned with a vengeance. I’m in the process of trying to come up with a creative yet non-offensive way to never shake people’s hands. I’m thinking most of the older generation would be lost with a fist-bump, however hugging strangers might expose me to other things, not to mention social awkwardness. Haha, you probably think I’m kidding about this, but I’m seriously considering ways to not ever touch hands. Judge me. I also learned, that hand sanitizer only kills bacteria, not viruses. So much for all my tiny little bottles of sanity.

After a long, exhausting week of training, I spent the weekend relaxing my brain on South Beach and in glorious drum circles in Little Haiti. Today I continued my church shopping. I will reserve my reflections for now, because I feel it’s best to attend multiple services to get a good feel for any church before deciding if it’s a good fit. I will say that when the entire congregation linked hands to pray at the end of the service, I was humbled in that moment, despite my recently renewed germaphobia. I know some people who might think that’s a little too kum-baya, but really, I’ve always enjoyed some of the cheesy, campfirey aspects of Christianity.



  1. I see you looking right at me with your “kum-baya” comment. 🙂

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