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¿Quieres Pisar?

An anecdote from the Visitors' Comments Section
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Since I first pronounced my first words in Spanish, I become an unconditional passionate for this idioma. I can never get enough of it. So although I still am very far from fluency in Spanish, It's the ongoing learning process that I'm addicted to. I measure my progress on every trip I do to Mexico. But other people are shy and afraid to try and speak a language they do not possess. For me, it's all the contrary. I just love making the ridiculous mistakes of the beginner which most of the time will get you a friendly reaction from the person you are talking to.

All of this is a pretext to tell you about an anecdote of mine which happened on the second day of my first trip to Mexico. It was in Tulum, Yucatan, some 12 years ago. There were only a few cabañas there at the time. I was discovering a new world. Never had I spoken a word of Spanish before. At that time, very little Mexicans of that area knew a few words english, and of course, nothing of French. So the only way to communicate was by gestures and by "mistakes".

On the beach, while swimming and snorkling amongst a group of foreigners, I had noticed this Mexican guy, just a few scrawls away, who was obviously alone in our group of foreigners disfrutando the turquoise sea of Tulum. No one was talking to him, and he was simply looking at everyone with a half hidden smile. I could see in this Mexican's eyes that he was open for a contact to be made. I went for it: Hola!, which I had heard a lot during the first day, and guessing from the situations I heard it used in, meant something like Hi!, Salut! He answered back: Hola! Then I thought to myself: What next? There was a difficult silence. After what seemed like an eternity, he finally said something else that I understood nothing of. At that point, looking at my distress, he realized I knew nothing of his language. He continued with: No Spik engliche... with a big smile, but at the same time this look on his face showing the disappointment that we were not going to be able to communicate. I replied: No parlar espagnol. After living through a second eternity, I noticed that he braced himself, recovered from his disappointment, and, with another big smile, said: Cerveza... (I knew that word from the night before) adding an accentuated question mark in the pronunciation. I answered SI!, returning the warm smile. So we got out of the water and went for our cervezas under the palapa at the Santa Fe. I ordered the two Dos Equis (It's only later that I found out that "equis" meant "X") and we started on the journey to getting to know each other. I don't remember how many cervesas we drank, but the more we drank, the easier the communication got, a mixture of gestures, French, English, and Spanish words, a real tropical burlesque theater scene for the onlookers. We were not understanding each other very well, but still, enough to follow the meaning of what we each wanted to express.

At one point, with all that beer, I felt an urgent need for a piss. I just couldn't hold it anymore. I really had to go. But I didn't want to just get up and go, leaving him there wondering if I had left or what, perhaps leaving him with the impression I had just walked away, as if that was all, and bye. No, I said to myself, it can't be that difficult to find the word in Spanish for piss. So I ventured: NECESITO PISAR. I figured it had to be the word or at least it would be very close. He looked at me with interrogation marks in his eyes and then, after a brief moment and with that "Oh well..." look on his face, he pointed to the ground and said: Pisa, pisa... I realized something was wrong. Was he really asking me to have my relief right there, amongst the tables and chairs, under the palapa, and in front of all the other patrons of the Santa Fe. This time it's me who looked at him with question marks in my eyes, and I started to try explaining to him with gestures and other incomprehensible words, together with the necessary expressions on my face, that this wasn't something I was used to do, that I felt very uncomfortable doing that. Anyway, to make it short, and after having to use all of the physical explicit gestures that would make him understand clearly what I needed badly, he finally exclaimed: AHHH.!.... Quieres ORINAR!!

At that point, people around us hearing us and seeing our gesticulation, got to understand the imbroglio we were caught in and became very amused. All those present who understood or spoke Spanish got a real good laugh from the spectacle.

You see..., the verb PISAR in Spanish means walk on, like "no pisar la cesped" which means "do not walk on the grass". The verbs "piss" in English, and "pisser" in French, have no common measure with the verb used for that action in Spanish. They say orinar, closer to your urinate in English and our uriner in French.

That's how started my love affair with Spanish and Mexico. It happened some 10 years ago and Marcos and I became the greatest friends, cuates (buddies) actually (I love that Spanish word), and as the years go by, still meet and keep in touch all the time, the kind of friendship we'll share till death.

I felt like relating this little anecdote to you following Frank's comments on how "daring" is part of the learning process. We "do" learn from our mistakes. A language is learned one word after the other, one mistake after another, and the process goes on and on, upwards all the way. It has no limitations with regards to age, sex, race, religion, politics, etc... it's a pure and simple pleasure of the mind.

Don't let the opportunity go by when it's there in front of you, jump right onto it.

Montreal, Canada

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