E-mailing in Cuban
I always think my Spanish is pretty decent until I’m faced with the task of composing an e-mail to my Cuban suegra.
I never really know what to say because there’s rarely anything new to report and when I really want to tell her something or just be my immensely funny self I just don’t know how to put it in words.
I just hit send on an e-mail to her. I sent it from my husband’s account, so he’s sure to get a laugh or 10 when he opens his e-mail tomorrow. It was such a short note, just telling her how glad I was that she loved the pictures, the videos and all the other miscellaneous cosas we love to send. I did have one bit of news, but I’m fairly certain it’s worded in the strangest of ways.
Frankly, if she gets a laugh at my expense, it’s really my husband’s fault. He’s supposed to correct all my mistakes and then tease me until I’m rosy-cheeked with embarrassment. I guess I get an A for effort this time.
I feel much more comfortable talking and I’m pretty sure that’s one reason I fit in so well with my Cuban familia. However, it took a while for them to find that out.
I remember my husband prepping me for our first visit:
“Mami, it’s like a contest. Whoever talks the loudest wins.”
I replied, “Oh, so it’s just like my house, but in Spanish. Okay.”
And it was exactly like that. Exactly. When we were visiting, I would have to lie down in our guest room because I was so exhausted from trying to follow everybody. I was so tired that I never opened my mouth except to shovel in the delicious food and guzzle cafecito. I’m pretty sure they thought I was mute. And for the record, I’m pretty sure my husband prefers me that way.
When I was one-on-one, it was much better. One day we went to the beach and rented a paddle boat. Mi suegra and I were lounging in the sand while the others were off on the boat. That was when I realized I could actually carry on a conversation by employing a couple of tricks: Big hand gestures and a few English words. We talked for hours at a time from then on. My husband told me later that he saw us from the boat. “What were you talking about? How in the hell did you understand each other?”
On our most recent visit, la familia learned how much I really can talk. After two advanced Spanish courses (a requirement for my degree) I finally felt confident enough to elbow my way in. I think I may have even won a contest or two.
Back to my e-mail tonight…it took me a good 20 minutes to write a seven line e-mail. Okay, maybe it was 10, but that’s only because I ended it by telling my mother-in-law that I’m sure she already had un gran dolor de cabeza from reading my few measly lines.
Too bad you can’t do big Cuban hand gestures in an e-mail.
Laura Feo-Fernandez is a graduate student in music performance. She lives in Memphis, TN with her husband, Alexis, and their young son.