I feel sorry for all the Mexican people who have to listen to me butcher their language on our upcoming vacation. Already, I’ve been having some communication struggles with the resort where we’ll be staying. Before we booked the room, we wanted to ask a few questions about the amenities, and I drew the short straw and ended up calling Mexico.
I took a year of Spanish classes prior to our honeymoon to the Mayan Rivera. We were engaged for a year, so I thought I might as well spend that time planning well. My instructor was patient with me, but she frequently declared that I simply spoke French with a Spanish accent.
I called the resort and was greeted by the first person on the phone chain. I asked, somewhat unconfidently, “Hablo Español?” (Do I speak Spanish?)
“Un momento, por favor.” Came a response, and I heard chirpy mariachi band music.
“Reservaciones,” A woman answered.
“Hablo Inglés?” (Do I speak English?) I said with more confidence. I realized that I’d misspoken the last time. So I’d tried to correct it.
“Si, how can I help you?” She replied without missing a beat. She must be used to American morons calling there.
Further down the phone tree, I tried to perfect my approach even more.
“Habla Español?” (Do you speak Spanish), I asked? I’d finally remembered my verbs.
A patient man answered the phone. “Si, how can I help you?”
He answered all my questions, in English, for the most part.
I asked his name, so if I needed to call again, I could ask for him directly and avoid the embarrassing phone tree moments.
“Quambolo,” he said.
“Would you mind saying that again?” I said, thinking it was one of the strangest sounding names I’d ever heard.
“Certainly. It’s Quam-bo-lo.” He said it slowly, so the dumb American could catch on. I figured it must have been a Native American, Aztec sort of name. Maybe it’s a common one in those parts.
I thanked him for his time and hung up.
Later that week, I sent him an e-mail with some more questions. It went like this:
Thanks for all your help the other day…”
He sent back a response within a few hours. It was signed “Juan Pablo.”