Friday, July 27, 2012

Un Poco

Un Poco – that’s the Spanish word for “a little,” which is exactly the amount of Spanish that I understand and speak.  But, I leave on Monday for a mission trip to Panama, so that, combined with my general desire to possess at least some understanding of a second language have me studying Spanish.   

A few years ago, before leaving on a mission trip to Russia, I was given Pimsleur’s Conversational Language CD’s and was able to learn some rudimentary Russian.  Not enough, really, to converse but enough to get by for the eight days I was there.  So, now that it’s time to learn a little Spanish, I decided that Pimsleur would be my choice for getting started. Besides, the beginning (quick and simple) guide was only $8.50.  What did I have to lose?   
I did take a year of Spanish in both high school and college so I figured that would give me an edge.  It has, but it’s a slim, slim edge and I’m fairly certain there is a direct correlation between giving birth three times and the death of my language learning brain cells.  (Not that I wouldn’t do it all again.)  
What I noticed about both the Russian and Spanish version of Pimsleur’s language CD’s is that the first phrase you learn is “Do you understand English?”  I guess they figure that if you can coerce someone into speaking YOUR language, you can immediately drop any pretense of knowing theirs.  Personally, I think this is a brilliant scheme. 
So far, I know how to say, “I don’t speak Spanish”, “I don’t understand Spanish”, “Where is the Columbus Hotel?” (which would be really handy were that the name of the hotel where we’re staying), “I’m from Chicago” (which I’m not), and “I have lots of pesos” (which doesn’t really seem like the kind of thing you’d want to brag about.)
When my husband and I were in Cozumel a few years ago there were lots of merchants trying to get us to come into their stores and spend our money.  Someone taught my husband how to say “I don’t have any money” in Spanish - “No tengo dinero.”  The next time a guy tried to get us to come into his store my husband said, “No tengo dinero,” and in response the man said, “We take credit cards,” in perfect English.  It still cracks us up.  Then, when it came time to learn “I have” and “I don’t have” on my Spanish CD’s they connected it to money – pesos and dรณlares.  Consequently, I have it in my brain that the word “tengo” only ever has to do with having money.  I’m guessing this is not the case. 
I’m only on lesson six of the first ten beginner CD’s.  The price for subsequent lessons goes up substantially, so we’ll see if I make it through the first ten before ordering more.  I’m hoping by lesson ten I will have learned to say “Please talk more slowly,” because that is going to be key to me actually understanding anyone. 
Other than a million more words that I’ll need to learn in order to be fluent in Spanish there is one other thing I’ll need to master – rolling my “r’s.”  How do they do that? 

Friday, July 6, 2012

What's a Shuttle Elevator?

The other day I had the opportunity to meet a couple of friends in downtown Minneapolis during their lunch break.  I got detailed instructions on how to find the building my friends work in, how to park in the building’s private lot, and how to find one of their desks.  It all seemed very simple; “turn right into the driveway marked ‘private’, come up the shuttle elevator to level 2, turn right and walk straight ahead to find me.” Easy peasey.  But wait, what exactly is a shuttle elevator?  In hindsight, I probably should have clarified this point.
All went as planned.  I pulled into the driveway marked “Private”, rang the buzzer, and told the security guy who I was visiting.  He responded with “is this Nancy?”  I was impressed and felt ever so slightly important.  It’s the little things. 
I had been told to drive to the first unreserved spot which ended up being a few levels down.  So far, so good; now to find the “shuttle elevator.”  I glanced around the parking lot and saw nothing that even slightly resembled an elevator; shuttle or otherwise.   I did see a sign for stairs and elevators are always close to stairs, right?  I noticed a set of metal doors next to the stairwell and thought perhaps I should check to see where that led.  Sure enough, behind those doors was a dark closet, about three feet deep and six feet wide, and in the darkness I could make out what looked to be an elevator.  It all seemed a little scary to me, but not seeing any other options I bravely stepped inside the doors and pushed the elevator button.  As it turned out the “closet” did have a light which was activated by a motion sensor and gave off about 20 watts of light – at least until it warmed up a bit – which it had plenty of time to do while I waited for the very slow elevator to arrive. 
I remember thinking it odd that the men and women who came to work here every day had to step into such a dark spot but hey, if you have your own private parking lot, I suppose you can put up with a few inconveniences.  Once the elevator doors finally opened I noted that every wall was covered in what appeared to be bullet proof/fire proof metal.  It wasn’t terribly attractive but it did seem to me that this is what a “shuttle elevator” should look like.  
I emerged on the second floor a few seconds later and began the hunt for my friend’s desk. It certainly wasn’t just to the right.  Turning to the right, it seemed, would take me past the dry cleaning business and out of the building.  Why, I wondered, didn’t I get my friend’s phone number before leaving home?   Eventually, after a bit of perplexed wandering, I found my friend at her desk - to the left.  When I told her which elevator I’d used and she laughed, “That’s the freight elevator!”  Well, that explains the industrial strength walls!  Can you imagine what people walking through the skyway thought when I emerged from the freight elevator? 
When it came time to go home my friend walked me to the “shuttle elevator” and used her pass key to open it. I figured out that “shuttle elevator” refers to the one that takes people to and from the parking lot but is not for use by the general public.  But now, I had to decide which level to go to.  Couldn’t I just go back down the freight elevator?  It’s right across from my car!   It took a few minutes of searching, and a couple of “beeps” from my car’s locking system but soon enough I located my car and before I knew it I was heading home; with a brief stop to bid good-bye to George – the security guy.