Hola! Me llamo None of Your Goddamn Business. Como estas?

Most people arrive in Hong Kong wanting to learn Cantonese, are persuaded to take Mandarin and leave a typical Gweilo, not knowing either. Not me. I want to learn Spanish. Or in my case, relearn Spanish.

You see, I grew up speaking English. Spanish was my abuela’s (Grandma’s) language. Spanish was our gardener’s language. Spanish was the language people ten miles South would speak when they’d beg you for change. Spanish was the language I heard when my dad would put on his favorite albums: “Amor de mis amores…”

Spanish was not the language my parents spoke to me and my sister. Spanish was not the language we were supposed to rely on. Spanish was not the language that would get you places in the U.S. I mean, you want to dine at the restaurant, not work in the kitchen. And I don’t mean as the waiter either. Where I grew up, white kids were waiters. Brown adults stayed in the kitchen and only came out to bus the tables. Brownies in the back ya’ll. Preppies up front.

Ever since my partner and I moved to Asia, I’ve noticed my Spanish slipping. I could always practice it with my students back in the states. But in Tokyo? Who could I speak Spanish with in Japan? Was I supposed to show up at the Mexican embassy and say, “Hola, amigo! Yo soy tu hermano!!” They would have kicked me in the nuts, called the police and sent me back to Bush Country.

Now that we’re in Hong Kong, where it’s relatively easy to get by in English, I have little interest in learning Cantonese. And don’t give me any of this culturally sensitive to my surroundings bullshit. When I was in Tokyo, I learned Japanese. Here, they don’t care what you speak as long as you can pay for what you’re holding. It’s like back in New York, the language of commerce rules. Besides, the English were here for a long time. Hong Kong is basically an English city, mostly. Somewhat? Vaguely? But I digress.

I met my Spanish teacher last week when I was having an early morning coffee before I caught the ferry to Macau. She was speaking in Spanish Spanish to this Chinese chick. I took advantage of the Chinese woman’s need to pee and asked the Spanish woman if she was a teacher. She said, “Si.”

I said, “Quiero hablar mas en Espanol y necesito un maestro. Puedes ayudarme?”

Impressed with my own Spanish at 7:30 in the morning, I raised my eyebrow as if to say, “Yeah, Baby. Mexico in da house.”

We had our first lesson this morning. She’s great! And very understanding when I explained to her that I could not speak like a Spaniard back in Texas without fearing for my life. “It’s like Madonna speaking with an English accent on TV. Everyone thought she was a stupid bitch. If I speak Spanish Spanish in Texas or Latin America, people will assume I’m some pretentious prick.”

“Madonna spoke with an English accent!?” my teacher asked.

“Si.” I said. “Muy estupida!”

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