Monday, January 12, 2009

Lo Siento

December , 2007

A Hispanic couple comes in the store and asks for chicken quarters. I work the dairy department, but I happen to be passing by. I jump at the chance to practice my language skills.I walk inside the meat cooler looking for plastic ten pound bags of chicken thighs and drumsticks. There is nothing in stock, so, I walk back to the floor. I tell them in my best gringo Spanish, Lo Siento Nada. They smile and giggle. Despite the language barrier, they manage to tell me the translation for my response is, I'm not at all sorry. I utter a sheepish groan and laugh with them.

At the Mexican restaurant outside of Lacrosse, Enrique asks the standard question. How was your meal ? One of the reasons we frequent Fiesta Mexicana is that the food is outstandingly uniform. The only variant in quality is the heat of their salsa which runs from medium to hot. That's OK because hot is best. My reply to Enrique, "Mucho gusto." Mucho gusto? Enrique says, "I'm glad to meet you also." Another faux pas.

In Isla Mujeres we stay at a Canadien owned hotel. The guests include a party of four from Oregon. They're tired of the snowmobiling regimen of Oregon in winter. Drive. Drive some more to a tavern. Drink. Drink some more. Drive to another tavern. They are professional drinkers. The staff of the hotel is local people. The Oregonians do their best to speak the language. After the fourth hurricane every other word has an "O" added to the end. Please sir we need more huricanoes.

A friend is a mixed blood Ojibwa. He has several Menominee friends. The Menominees were the existing tribe in Wisconsin, long before the Ojibwa migrated from New York. Their language may be of the same linguistic group as the Ojibway. The friend is learning the language. The words for hello and eggs sound similar. Wywanin and Wyanin. To impress his friends he waves at a Menominee elder. The elder laughs at the fool waving at him shouting "eggs, eggs."

Dawn tells her boss about the Russian Orthodox people who lay the carpets and linoleum in our kitchen. Having lived in the southwest, our home has a Hispanic Catholic flavor. A good friend is a santero of some note. San Francisco, two crucifixes, San Ramon Nonato, Guadalupe, various lesser saints including two bultos I carve decorate our house. The Russians are somewhat perplexed by all the iconography out here in Lutheran America. I think they decide we need saving, and invite me to their church services. As recent immigrants, their speech is distinctly Russian flavored. "Do we need to put the moldings back on?" I ask the tall balding man installing the floor covering. He replies, eetelkerl, eettelkerl. When you separate the syllables, it translates as follows: eeet=it. eetel= it will. eetelkerl= it will curl, referring to the edges of the linoleum. In any given conversation Dawn will sometimes interject an eetelkerl in her narrative. Her boss looks at her with a puzzled look. She loudly utters her best EETELKERL.

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