Picture it: we’ve just flown into Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila. It’s nearing midnight, we’ve been flying for 12- and 16 hours respectively and are destroyed. We know that our accommodation won’t be perfect – the last time we stayed there, we had to wait an hour for the room to be prepared, the trash bin in the bathroom was strategically placed under the sink’s piping since water gushed into it each time the sink was turned on, there was no air conditioning and no screens on the windows to keep out potential roaches, mosquitoes, etc.
Why on earth would we come back a second time, you ask? A number of reasons: 1. Our aforementioned flight came in super late. This “hotel” was close to the airport and easy enough to find. 2. It was stinking cheap. 3. We had to leave some bits in Manila as we were flying temporarily to the U.S., and would be back in the Philippines for only a few days before eventually flying back to France for the longer term. Leaving them at the “hotel” just made things easier. 4. See #2.
At any rate, we thought, it couldn’t possibly be worse the second time around. Famous expletive-ing last words. In spite of the fact that I emailed to double check our reservation, to remind them that we’d be coming in at a very late hour, and received confirmation that all was set and all would be well, the people at front desk had “no record” of our reservation. Ergo, after around an hour of going around and around, and realizing that even though I’d pulled up the confirmation email on my computer, it was for nothing, because nothing could be (would be?) done, we just begged for an available room – as previously mentioned, it was nearing midnight and there was no chance we could find something affordable nearby and we had intentionally tried to stay awake during the flight to stave off the jet lag. Our exhaustion was nearing delirium.
The “room” we ended up with was just big enough for the single bunk beds in it. In fact, I’m positive those bunk beds were assembled in the room, because they could never have fit through the door. At the head of the top bunk was a broken window. Owing to this quaint feature, the top bunk was soaked through from the rain and stank of mildew. We shared the bottom bunk. Also: the electric fan didn’t work. Oh, what a night.
This essay does, in fact, have a point, so if you’re still with me, stay put and I’ll get there. The following morning we were livid. Seething. All we wanted was to find another place to stay and get the expletive out of there. A number of other things came up before we could do so, most interestingly among these the moment when a member of the “hotel’s” small café staff informed us that she had received the email and had shown it to the woman behind the counter a week ago, when I’d sent it. Outraged further – as if that was possible – I confided in this woman that our greatest frustration was that this woman kept telling us pasensya, Spanish (and presumably Tagalog) for “patience.”
“How dare she tell us to be patient after all of this?!” I whispered at the top of my lungs. Not sure why I bothered whispering – I’d told the woman flatly about 20 times to stop telling me to be patient – I’d been plenty patient by that point.
“Ma’am, pasensya means “sorry” in Tagalog,” was her response.
OK – let’s be honest – I was still annoyed, but my sense of self-righteousness was severely dented knowing that the woman had tried to apologize repeatedly, and I kept coming back with what must have seemed to her as absurd a response as what I’d understood her repeated apology to be. Not sure how I’d have reacted differently, but I’d like to think I’d have had a smidge more patience if I’d thought she was saying, “sorry,” and not, “be patient,” – but then who knows?
Language has been on my brain a lot lately, and it’s little surprise, seeing as how I’m simultaneously enrolled in obligatory French lessons to secure my visa and starting up my own private English language lessons to supplement my…let’s say often difficult writing salary.
In the many years Chris and I have been together, there has been some hilarity surrounding his English, although for the most part he got off lucky and it was only me who was around to take any notice. Additionally, I’ve been warned under threat of all things terrible not to share those things in public, so I suppose a forum like this would fall into that category. Even more amusing, though, is the amazing gaff I made at his mother’s surprise birthday party.
You see, in French, the word beaucoup means “many,” while the word plus means – most of the time – “more.” In much the same way the word personne can mean “person,” but also means “nobody,” depending on the circumstances, the word “plus” can also mean “no more,” if placed as the second part of a negative sentence, as in the following example:
Je t’aime plus: I love you more.
Je ne t’aime plus: I don’t love you anymore.
I knew this – I mean, come on people…I’ve been doing this French thing for a while now. What I didn’t know was that plus placed in front of beaucoup changes the meaning of the words completely. Which leads me to the case in point: When we finished singing “Happy Birthday” – Joyeaux Anniversaire, sung to the same tune – I decided to add my own little American twist – you know how we always say, “…and many more…” in that pseudo-lounge-jazzy voice at the end? Except I made the innocent mistake of saying “plus beaucoup” instead of “beaucoup plus” – effectively telling my mother-in-law, IN SONG, when the WHOLE ROOM of at least 25 family members had gone SILENT, that I wished her NO MORE BIRTHDAYS.
I know, right?