I learned a great deal in my high school Spanish classes, not the least of which was a handy amount of conversational Spanish. One of the best lessons I learned, though, was a two-parter: 1. Embarrassing language mistakes happen, no matter how hard you work to avoid them; and 2. Embarrassing language mistakes are often hilarious, and it’s far better to laugh at yourself than to be embarrassed. This is a story about that.
Spanish, like all languages, has its own colloquialisms. One word can mean any number of different things. The word in question today is caliente. At its most basic, it translates to “hot.” However (and this is another thing I learned in high school Spanish), among native speakers, it’s more commonly used to mean “hot and bothered”/”excited”/”all worked up” — in an adult sense, if you get my drift (and I think you do) — than it is to describe the temperature of something. This is an important fact to remember if you wish to avoid making an embarrassing language mistake. It is also a very easy fact to forget when you’re in a hotel lobby in Barcelona, having a conversation with the front desk clerk, trying to scrape up whatever vocabulary you can from high school and college Spanish classes after it’s sat dormant in the corner of your brain for the better part of six years.
Which brings us to October 2010, in a hotel lobby in Barcelona, where Tim and I, exhausted after a full day wherein I had tried to show Tim all my favorite things about the city I’d spent six weeks in six years earlier, tried to determine whether the hotel had a hot tub in which we could soak our tired muscles.
In retrospect, I don’t know why we didn’t just go to the pool area and see for ourselves rather than trying to ask the nice woman at the front desk. I’m glad we didn’t, though, because if we had, then I wouldn’t have this embarrassing story for us all to laugh at now.
So. Back to the lobby. I’m trying to inquire at the front desk whether the hotel has a hot tub, but it’s been a long time since I’ve really used my Spanish, and I can’t remember the word for “hot tub.” Honestly, I’m not sure I ever knew the word to begin with. So I go for the next best thing and attempt to describe the term that’s missing from my vocabulary — like a one-sided game of Catch Phrase in which the person who knows she’s playing doesn’t speak the language, and the other player is very confused but trying very patiently to help the crazy rambling American. It went a little bit like this:
Me: In this hotel, do you have a “hot tub”? [In which the entire sentence was in Spanish, except the term "hot tub," which I said in English.]
Front Desk Clerk: [Blank stare to indicate she has no idea what a hot tub is.]
Me: [Again with the Spanish] It’s like a swimming pool, only more…hot.
Front Desk Clerk: [Gives me an odd look and assures me that the hotel does not have any such amenity.]
We returned to our room and swim-suited up, thinking that even a non-hot swimming pool would feel pretty good on our muscles. When we arrived at the pool and discovered that there was, indeed, a hot tub, I reflected on our lobby conversation and realized my mistake.
See, when I asked for a hot swimming pool, I didn’t really say “hot,” not in the correct sense, anyway. What I said was “caliente,” which you’ll remember from a few paragraphs above has an entirely different meaning than the one I intended.
Basically, I asked for a horny swimming pool.
No wonder the woman at the front desk was so confused.
Alexander turned one month old yesterday. It’s been an incredible month, and there are so many things I want to remember about it. A few highlights from the past month, interspersed with some of my favorite pictures:
We were discharged from the hospital the day after he was born. We were in the hospital for about 36 hours, and as we were leaving, I remarked to Tim, “You know, some women are in labor for 36 hours. I’m so glad I wasn’t one of them.” I very much preferred my five-and-a-half hour labor.
Alexander timed his birth almost perfectly. He arrived one week before Tim’s two-week fall break began, so other than going in to school for a few parent-teacher conferences, Tim essentially got the first three weeks of Alexander’s life off of work. We couldn’t have timed it better if we’d tried.
As someone who’s never been super well-endowed in the…shall we say, chestal area?…I was astounded to watch “the girls” triple in size over the course of one afternoon when my milk came in. Tim and Alexander were both thrilled by that particular development. I’m still trying to get used to this new, cleavage-y me.
At six days old, Alexander rolled himself over. Granted, he was on a slightly slanted couch cushion and therefore had gravity on his side, but still. He’s basically a genius child.
Early in life, Alexander perfected “Blue Steel.” He’s since mostly abandoned it, and we never got a perfect picture of it, but this one’s pretty close.
On my fist day home alone with Alexander when Tim went back to work, I was really hoping to get an afternoon nap in. Instead, I got to spend the afternoon watching Alexander interact with a toy for the first time. He was on his play mat, and I put the toy elephant my parents had brought when they first met him next to him. For the next hour, he stared very intently at the elephant and repeatedly reached out to touch it and/or knock it over. The elephant is still his favorite toy, and he’s figured out that when he grabs its ears, he’s rewarded with a fun crinkly noise.
It’s so amazing watching Alexander process the world around him. He’s an incredibly fast learner. Last week, I read him a couple of “touch and feel” books — the ones that have different textures on the pages for babies to, well, touch. And feel. As I read, I guided his hand to the pages so he could feel all the different textures. After finishing those two books, we moved on to a regular, non-textured book. As soon as I opened the book, Alexander reached out his hand to touch the pages. He’s a brilliant boy.
The child is incredibly frustrated by pacifiers. He will usually accept the pacifier, suck at it enthusiastically for a minute, and then his brow will furrow as he realizes he’s been tricked into sucking on something that is not providing any milk in return. He tries with all his might to resist the imposter’s pacifying effects, but he usually succumbs, albeit very reluctantly.
To celebrate his first Halloween, Alexander dressed up as a tiger.
The real highlight of the night, though, was when we put the baby in a pumpkin. He really seemed to enjoy sitting in there, surveying the room from the comfort of his pumpkin throne.
When he was born, Alexander weighed 6 pounds, 15 ounces, and was about 20 inches long. At his one-month checkup, he weighed in at 9.3 pounds and measured 21 3/4 inches. He’s a good grower, our Little Man.