August 25, 2009

Language barriers

This morning, the new cook (who is replacing ours on vacation) and one of the maids, were outside sweeping the patio and the maid wanted to point out a cachorra to me. I thought they were trying to tell me that someone had put yet another puppy in the yard, the word for puppy is cachorro. My mind immediately jumped to the next level and was trying to figure out if I could get one of the maids to adopt this one too. It turns out a cachorra is a gecko. So, we put Sour Pickle the cat in his crate so he couldn’t escape or hurt it and also put Sweet Pickle the dog in his crate so he wouldn’t get in the middle of it. The crates are stacked on top of one another like a condominium complex. With both of them occupied, it is heavy stack to move around. Then we opened the door to the bedroom that leads onto the outside patio. The gecko or cachorra was lurking very close to the door and when the cook leaned over to touch it with a rag, it raced into my room. It was such a tiny delicate thing, no more than 2 inches long with kind of pebbly skin that was sort of transparent. I was so glad it was not another puppy.

We looked everywhere for it. We took the dog out of the crate and sent him out of the room. Then we slid the dog crate around as that is where it appeared to run under, but it was not there. I lifted the crate up—no gecko! Next we moved the couch. I left the room to take a phone call, and when I came back they had found it. In the violence that ensued in moving furniture around to look for it, it had lost a back leg. Poor little thing! I put it back outside in some leaves in the hope that it might recover.

After that I had quite a discussion with the maids and Señor Jueves, who had arrived to get the order for today’s groceries. This is where they clarified for me that cachorra and cachorro were different words, one meaning gecko and the other puppy. Then Señor Jueves popped up with the fact that cachorras were poisonous, this is after I had picked it up and put it outside. Who knows I thought, some salamanders and frogs are poisonous. I went and looked it up on the internet and found that they are not poisonous, but in Mexico local inhabitants often believe they are venomous and have poisonous skin.

This explains what happened when we had the water turned on at Casa Abeja, our antique French house that we are remodeling. When the water guys came and found a couple of geckos by the pipes in the ground they freaked out and started stomping on them; although Esperando tried to get them to stop they seemed unreasonably frightened. I told Señor Jueves, the maids and the cook that those guys were calling them alacran (which is the word for scorpion). No, no, that is a different animal and it is poisonous, they said. So we sorted out that the water men were miscalling the geckos and that a scorpion is a scorpion and not a gecko. It is amazing how you can discuss something to death without ever getting total clarification when you are not speaking a language that you know as well as your own. Now the maid was worried that I didn’t know what a scorpion was so I had to go into my photo file to show her I did know, and I showed her the picture of the scorpion they found at the mine, carrying her babies around on her back. The maid told me their cat kills scorpions. Now in that I have complete confidence in our semi-feral cats Frida and Carmen, they both have a strong hunting instinct. I think they would kill a scorpion, they are fast pouncers and study a thing to death before they make a move. Frida will sit mesmerized for hours in contemplation of a fruit fly on the window. I think Sour Pickle is fast but he doesn’t study things first and he might get stung. We hope we never have to find out.

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