It's amazing the amount of classes, tests, and homework assignments, that      
cycle through my mind as I stand in line in a tapas restaurant in Barcelona,          
Spain. Every single minute studying a foreign language have led up to this             
moment to prepare me to partake in an act of commerce in another country. I       
search the catacombs of my brain for some lost phrase that may have snuck i n     
while I slept through Introduction to Spanish in junior high. If I find it, I might  
pull off not looking like another ignorant American tourist. I step up to the            
counter and order a beer. I haven't looked this unsure of myself trying to buy        
beer since I was 16 years old and tried to buy beerwith my older sister's driver's   
licensee. The incredibly busy Barcelona bar tender turns around, makes eye         
contact with me and raises his eyebrows. The raising of eyebrows is the                  
international bartender sign for, "You got three seconds, order!"
  It's go time.

  "Olah! Yo Quiro un mas cervasa eh, eh. umm, eh,
and my tab pour favor?"

  So lame. Not only did I run out of spanish words and just say english, but I      
did the classic american jerk move of saying the english words in a spanish            
accent. As if the guy will understand english as long as I do an impression of         
him while I speak it. With that mentality I could get by in Spain speaking              
ebonics as long as I'm salsa dancing the whole time. I'm not sure why we think     
changing our accent can make english universal. Maybe subconsciously were       
thinking,"This guys says he doesn't understand english, but I bet he'll                     
understand english if I do impression of him while I speak it."

                                                                  I took french for three years in high              
                                                                   school and was excited to finally use it          
                                                                   in Europe. I stepped into a Patisserre          
                                                                   in Monte Carlo. I decided to order a              
                                                                   quiche purely for the fact that I knew           
                                                                   the french word for it. The smiling lady        
                                                                   behind the counter greeted me with a           
                                                                   very friendly "Bonjour!"

                                                                  I returned with, "Bonjour! Je voudras          
                                                                   un quiche sil vous plait."

  At least I think that's what I said.

  Her face then went from smiling to this confused/disappointed look on her      
face. As if a squirrel in a tiny top hat had just walked in the store and farted. I       
can only assume that she was taken aback by how efficiently I was able to              
butcher her language. I'm not even sure I said quiche right. Since then, every      
time we port in France I spend most of my time getting directions to the library    
and asking if people are sad only because those are the only french phrases I         

   While going out for food and drinks does have it's trip ups at least I can get     
by. I had to send a package from Vigo, Spain. I figured with the three years I         
spent waiting tables in a mexican restaurant and lifetime of experience mailing    
things I'd be able to accomplish this simple task. After three minutes in the Vigo  
post office I realized that unless I was going to ask some one to stock glasses or    
clean  off table 82, my restaurant spanish didn't contain one word I would need    
for mailing. The post lady and I basically played charades to figure out what the    
other needed. Eventually I just started drawing in the air with my index finger     
whatever I was saying. That is the mark of a man who has completely run out of   

  "....I need a box... to send these things here... around the world."

  Sadly it worked, and she gave me a mailing slip to put the address on. Not        
only was it completely in spanish, but it appeared to ask for way more                      
information than an american mailing slip. I put various parts of the                       
destination's address in  places I guessed were right. Afterwards the slip was        
still half blank. I gave it to the lady with a twenty euro note. She gave me change  
and we awkwardly stared at each other for a moment. I tried to say the phrase      
for, "So, is that everything, are we cool, is that gona get to the U.S.?" which I         
decided was, "Beuno?"

   She replied "Si."

   And I walked out of the Post Office with about as much confidence that my    
package would reach its destination had I just flung it in the ocean.