As a little girl, I wanted to be dropped off in the middle of some country and left there to learn the language. In those wild dreams, I was always the heroine of some adventurous novel where I magically learned the language and somehow saved the day. I think my daydreams about the Dominican Republic subtly followed those same absurd dreams. Therefore, unprepared for the reality that I didn’t speak Spanish fluently, I woke one morning expecting fluency. That morning began very rudely indeed.
Rolling out of my bed proved difficult as my body seemed to have had dreams of becoming a butterfly overnight since my sheets tightly cocooned me under mint green mosquito net. In the darkened room, I fumbled around for my flip flops. Sleepily, I wandered to the pink bathroom to relieve my bowels. Trying to ignore the overabundance of bugs that hummed near my head and hung in webs above my head, I pooped.
Now, normally, I would shudder at the thought of being so frank with you, my readers, but in the D.R., one becomes intimately acquainted with the bowel movements of all their companions that speak the same language, that is. Lack of pooping or diarrhea can both be very bad and up to this morning I had not pooped. Therefore, pooping was a great relief to me.
After carefully depositing my soiled toilet paper in the waste basket beside the toilet, I yanked up my pants and turned to flush the toilet. The relief of pooping greatly satisfied me and I wanted to proclaim to the world that I temporarily no longer feared constipation. This strange joy abruptly halted when the toilet refused to swallow my lovingly bestowed gift. I peered into the toilet. In my head, I whispered, “Please, please…go down…” as I again tried to flush the toilet. Hoping against hope, I waited. Nothing happened. “Crap.” I whispered and then I chuckled to myself for indeed it was just that – crap.
As I washed my hands, I prepared to face my Dominican mother. In my head, I ran over what I would say to her in Spanish. I walked out of the bathroom with purpose yet with embarrassment following close behind. My mami bustled around the kitchen. I approached her and with great eloquence said, “uh…..” She looked up at me with a sweet patience mixed with a tad bit of confusion.
Suddenly, I realized that I had absolutely no idea how to say, “I plugged the toilet” in Spanish. I did not even know the world for toilet. I was in deep doo-doo, more so than I had originally thought. Through a smattering of hand motions and the word ‘baño’ repeated over and over, my Dominican mother soon became aware of the situation that I had caused. Apparently, the toilet decided without my consent that I would have the joy of sharing my pooping success with my Dominican family.
I’d like to report that I never plugged the toilet again after that first morning. Sadly, this is not the case. After the third time of telling my mami in Spanish, “La silla de el baño no me gusta. (The chair of the bathroom I don’t like)” I finally demanded to learn how to unplug the dumb toilet myself. The chair of the bathroom had it in for me.To the hoots of laughter coming from my roommate, mami informed us that the toilet often gets plugged and it’s not just me.
It seems that one does not become fluent in Spanish just from sleeping in a Dominican bed. I’m certain that I heard my bubble burst somewhere during that entire event. Welcome to reality.