It’s ok. I speak Spanish.
Lost in translation? In Cuba? No way. I mean, I speak a good amount of Spanish and have twice lived in Central America. I though traveling to a Spanish-speaking country 90 miles from the US would leave us with zero moments of cultural confusion.
Imagine my surprise when I KEPT DOING EVERYTHING WRONG!
Another Round of Espresso for the Table!
Café con leche. Not too complicated, right? I mean, it’s coffee with milk. I usually love my coffee black. However, when I watched how others poured the amount of espresso they desired from these tiny adorable pitchers into their mugs of steamed milk, I wanted it. Next time, I ordered the café con leche, too, and three steaming mugs of milk were delivered to the three of us sitting at our table. My little container of espresso was set in front of me. I poured and stirred, poured and stirred, poured and stirred—I like mine strong—and then topped it off with little more espresso. I smiled proudly at my creation, then looked up and asked where everyone else’s espresso was.
“That espresso was for the table…” they said.
A Pre-Dinner Breakfast
My husband and I sat down for dinner one night and ordered two chicken, rice and vegetable plates. But we were starving, so we selected “tortilla con queso” (did I mention that I speak Spanish?) to snack on before the meal arrived. A tortilla with cheese. A quesadilla, right? Or maybe fried tortilla and queso, like chips. Either way, delish.
He asked how many tortillas we wanted, and we decided on two. Two tortillas with cheese, one for each of us. So it must be like a quesadilla, then.
He looked confused and double-checked that we wanted it before the meal. Yes, we would have it right now, before the meal.
Out came two 12-inch omelets covered in cheese, right before our full chicken and rice meal.
In Cuba, tortilla means omelet.
Yes, I’ll have a wine goblet of coffee, please.
Though I’d never used the word before, I noticed “copa de vino” on a menu to mean “cup of wine”. Being smart (I speak Spanish, you know), I started ordering copas of Coke and copas of café and copas of water. Finally, somebody said, “You know we don’t usually drink all our beverages in wine glasses.”
Copa does not mean cup. It actually means wine glass.
This Orange Fruit in Front of Me
“I just love papaya juice!” “We don’t have papaya juice at home, you know, so I can’t get enough papaya.” “This papaya! So fresh!”
“We don’t say that word,” a member of the youth group told me on our last day at that church.
Papaya turned out to be slang for women’s private parts. Whoops.