Also on Terran’s list of “things not to do when you don’t know the language”: trying to get internet connected in your short-term apartment. Woo.
The details are long and involved, but the key steps involved lots of three-way conversations between people who marginally spoke each others’ languages. Lots of stuff like “Tiene de internet? ADSL?” followed by lots of nods, head shakes, and looking confused.
The breakthrough was to get our incredibly helpful apartment agent involved, who speaks both Spanish and English fluently. He got on the line to Telefonica (local telco/ISP) and made the order concrete. Then lots of waiting for us. Then phone conversations with Telefonica representatives that went approximately like:
Them: “Hola! ??? ??? ??? Telefonica ??? ??? ??? Internet ??? ??? ???”
Me: “Er. Lo siente — no hablo espanole. Internet?”
Them: “Er. Si. Internet. ??? ??? ???”
Me: “Er. Que hora?”
Them: “[sigh] Hoy, de 4:00 a 6:00.”
Me: “Ah! Si! Muy bien.”
Having thus exhausted my Spanish conversational ability, we both gave up. But the important bits were conveyed. In the end, they called back to reschedule for the next day (i.e., today). And then the actual installer called this morning. All of these conversations were accompanied by much confusion on both ends, but in the end, it all worked out.
So early this afternoon, an incredibly helpful Telefonica representative showed up to do the actual install. His 4 words of English nicely complemented my 4 words of Spanish, but working together we got it all sorted. He seemed to be kind-of amused by the whole thing, and with lots of hand gestures, he got everything straightened out and even conveyed “Hey, don’t try to actually get on the ‘net yet. The WiFi router is booted and you can talk to it, but that doesn’t mean that you actually have internet. The line to the central switch at HQ hasn’t been activated yet. It should be live in 30 min-1 hour. If it’s not, give me a call. Here’s my cell phone number.” (I’m filling in some stuff that I inferred, but that’s the gist of it.)
It’s amazing what you can muddle through when both parties are trying and are willing to take it all with a grain of salt and a bit of humor. And, as always, I am touched by how many of the locals are very cheerfully willing to help overcome the communication barrier.
So in the end, the good news is that we now have decent (read: unmetered!) internet access in our apartment. That’s a huge relief. Now we should be able to communicate with family and friends a little bit more smoothly!