I'm not the kind of guy that likes being in a country surrounded by people whose language I don't speak....like Miami, for example.
Being a visitor in such a place always reminds me just how lazy I am that I never learned another language. Yes, I realize that the core of my “Slacker Credo” is never to do more than I absolutely have to, but I wish I had given myself special dispensation to apply myself in the arena of language learning.
|Some of the pool area at the Fiesta Americana Grand Coral Beach Resort.|
Currently adrift in Mexico – Cancun to be exact – I find myself concentrating on moving mouths, nodding like a fool and not understanding much of what is being said to me. Fortunately the language hurdle isn't too high, but that's because of the people I am coming in contact with and not with anything to do with my efforts.
|A couple members of the pool staff.|
I am always amazed by people in other countries – some of whom probably never finished high school – who are perfectly comfortable conversing in English. In fact, they probably have a better grasp of English than many college-bound students graduated from our public school system. Ask the average high school junior the use of “whom” versus “who.” I'm just sayin'.
My awe at this command of English came roaring back to me in my first few hours at the Fiesta American Grand Coral Beach Resort, where the Mexico tourism folks are hosting several of us.
|Manning one of the pool huts. All English speakers.|
It's among the scrum of hotels, motels and resorts crowding Cancun's coast. A high-end luxury joint, it has 10 restaurants and bars, a spa and a swimming pool that extends across most of its considerable width. My room is huge with a pool/ocean view. Fiesta Americana is populated with a staff of uber accommodating people who seem genuinely concerned with my happiness. I like that.
Nearly every uniformed staff person I've come in contact with speaks English – many almost flawlessly. It simply amazes me. I mean nearly every one of them. How is that possible. I know a lot of people in the U.S. who speak Spanish, but they are all Hispanic, for crying out loud.
|The lovely ladies who greeted me in English at the entrance to the restaurant where I breakfasted.|
I had a shot at learning Spanish, having taken it all three years of high school, but it just didn't take. I remember a word here and there, but for the most part, no hablo. I gave it another shot when I found myself out of work several years ago. Having loads of time on my hands, I purchased a teach-yourself-Spanish program for my laptop. I was chugging right along with it, learning vocabulary and repeating simple sentences back to the program. “Yes, I have a red pencil box.” Things were going swimmingly until I arrived at past participles. It was the shoal on which I crashed my Spanish-learning ship. I doggie paddled away and never looked back.
|I'll have another Sol, please!|
I'm not totally without skill, however. After being in a Spanish-speaking destination for a day or two, I'll squeak out “Cafe con leche,” at breakfast. If I have a pressing biological imperative I'll cry, “Donde es el banyo?” (I do remember enough of my high school Spanish to know there's supposed to be an upside-down question mark before that question. I just couldn't find it on my keyboard.) Or, if I have a few under my belt, I'll shout “Mas cerveza, por favor!” at the bar.
That's about the sum total of my Spanish.
I am in Cancun at the behest of AAA Go Magazine to participate in the Tianguis Turistico Mexico 2014. What's that? you may wonder. After all, that was my first question when my editor assigned the story. As far as I can tell, it's a huge conclave of travel agents, travel writers and assorted industry hangers on gathered to have tourism talking heads wax poetically about their respective areas. Some political muckety mucks tooting their own horns are tossed in for good measure. Somewhere in the mix, for reasons no one seems able to explain, the actor Kevin Spacey will also make an appearance.
I will be immersed in all things tourista this week.
|President Pena Nieto speaking to our group.|