Learning a language while in a foreign land is a great way to do it because you're immersed but extremely frustrating because you're immersed. It is baptism by fire, being thrown to the wolves, complete trial and error. I ventured off today with the baby to visit the dogs at the house where they are being boarded. Not a big deal. I knew where they were and how to get there. I had a few basic questions in mind that I needed to know: 'Do they have enough food to last one more week?' and 'Have they gotten the flea/tick treatment?' Both of these are pretty easy questions but to a person who doesn't know much Spanish (Me) and another person who knows even less English (the lady who boards the dogs), the whole exchange was a challenge. She ended up grabbing her daughter's Spanish/English dictionary which helped immensely for a few key words. "How did Pablo get the scar on his leg?" I told her that he had surgery to remove a lump. "When will you be picking them up?" Next week Tuesday or Wednesday. "Where is the new house you're renting?", etc. The visit ended after about a half hour and I was proud of the things that we were able to communicate. We both tried really hard and had to resort to miming at points, but we got the point across. Oh Marcel Marceau would be so proud!!
On the walk home, I was hungry so I stopped by a panadería (bakery) to get something to snack on when I got back to the aparthotel. It was late in the day but I hoped that they would still have some empanadas (meat or cheese filled pastries). The veggie options are sometimes hard to find but necessary for my vegetarian husband. I pushed the stroller in and took a look in the display cases. One Cheese/Onion and one Cheese/Olive Empanada left. Perfect! I started by asking the lady for "Empanadas, por favor" and it all went down hill from there. She started asking me how many I want total (in order to get the right sized bag to put them in) and I thought she was talking about how many I want of each kind. We stood there for a moment, not knowing what to say because neither of us was being understood. I eventually understood what she was asking and told her I needed 4 total, then proceeded to place my order. We got them bagged and she passed them to the check-out lady who asked for "Ochenta Pesos". I know that means 80, I had exact change and handed it to the lady. She counted it out onto the counter and told me "Ochenta pesos" again along with a string of other words that I didn't understand. After a moment of talking to me, they ended up saying it's all good (in Spanish) and handing me my bag. I was so confused because I thought she was asking for more money, but I think she was just counting it and saying that I had exact change and to take my empanadas. I HOPE that's what it was! How a simple exchange can be so confusing!!
That's the way to learn, though. As much as it's painful and I want to avoid those uncomfortable situations, I also want to be immersed in the culture and have real experiences with the Uruguayan people. Through my whole day and those interactions, I think there were only two words in English! I'll be happy when I can start my Spanish lessons as I'm sure my language skills will progress quickly. One can hope!