C'mon Inner Peace… I Don't Have All Damn Day
Somewhere around 2003 my company sent me to Mexico City to help open a few lounges in a trendy new W hotel, located in the posh Mexican neighborhood of Polanco.
It was surrounded by mansions and lush tropical gardens, nothing like one would picture when you think of over crowded, polluted Mexico City.
I consider myself fluent in Spanish; I taught myself the entire language when I was about 13 years old because I refused to have the kids on the Atlantic City boardwalk say things that I did not understand.
I didn’t realize that my combination of Puerto Rican Spanish and Costa Rican Spanish were VERY different than Mexican Spanish, which I was about to find out.
My boss who speaks zero espanol had asked me to go to Sam’s club (yes, Sam’s club in Mexico) to get some peanut butter and jelly to keep in the office during our 18 hour work days.
Well, at what point would I have learned these words?
Peanut butter and jelly? In Spanish…YIKES
Anyway, wandering around the store I found a yellow bag of M&M’s and brilliantly tried to explain to an employee that I want the “thing” that was inside the chocolate.
With confused look on her face she said, “cacaguate?”
Now, in Costa Rica the name for peanut is “mani” so I am completely lost, but I smile an uncertain American smile and say “si?”
Once the peanut situation was under control, I tried to connect the two words and ask for butter.
“Cacaguate mantequilla!” I proclaimed.
She laughed and said “crema?” Peanut… creme?
After a silly game of back and forth, I finally had the peanut butter in my hand, and assumed the jelly should be in close vicinity correct?
I started to think to myself quickly, “OK in England they call jelly “preserves” so, I’ll just do the old gringo trick by adding an “O” at the end of a similar word!
That should work!!!”
Again, I ask confidently for “preservativo de uva” , grape jelly I think? She calls over a friend; they giggle at me and send me to the pharmacy.
I never did find that jelly.
After returning to the hotel, I asked our trainees how to say jelly, they tell me “mermalada”
MARMALADE???? UGHHH, who uses marmalade?
I tell them my dramatic story about the adventure to the store, explaining that I was confused by being sent to the pharmacy. The entire staff starts laughing and tells me that “preservativo” means CONDOM in Mexican Spanish.
I was adamantly asking for grape condoms to go with my peanut butter!
My employees were laughing so hard they had tears in their eyes. when I said in my best Puerto Rican “I am so…. emabarasada”, which sadly means pregnant.
I WAS SO PREGNANT, WHILE ASKING FOR MY GRAPE CONDOMS, AND PEANUT BUTTER.
Oh… My… Gawd.
I had a blast living and working in Mexico. The long days never once felt like work. I loved every second of my job and I learned so much about Mexican laws, government and culture.
It’s NOTHING like Americans envision with sombreros and mariachi bands. Our employees were as beautiful as you see on the Spanish novellas.
We opened a 50 story hotel, with 6 floors of basement. Each floor was built without heavy machines, so they could put more people to work. Just imagine 6 floors under ground being dug with shovels and buckets… insane!
The wealthy patrons would arrive with body guards and the police themselves were the most corrupt and scariest part about living there.
I loved being immersed in the culture as a local and not a tourist. We got to see the incredible pyramids and spend a day of debauchery at the “Mexican Venice” they call Xolchimilco. We were invited to see the Presidential Palace, and partied like rocks stars in a part of town called Condessa.
I fell in love with Mexico, it’s people and return often to visit my lifelong friends.
OK, so rewind the tape… How did I get this fantabulous job that I loved so much?
Years ago, I was a cocktail waitress. I had been with the same company for more than a decade; we were/are like a tight knit family.
The company was expanding and went from a single small lounge inside the Paramount hotel in New York, to partnering with a major hotel chain. I had been with the company from the very early days of a single bar and had watched it grow immensely.
When the managing partner said they were going to open the first international spot in Mexico City, I assumed they would see all the glory that was ME, and magically ask me to go to Mexico.
They did not.
Months of planning was going on for the Mexico location, and chatter became more frequent. I could feel my chances slipping away, and was green with envy.
I was DYING to go live in Mexico City for a few months. What could be better than being PAID to travel?
ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in my book!
Two days before my boss was set to go down there, he was sitting at my table having a drink. I sat down… and asked if I could go to Mexico to help open up the new bar.
I had presented my strong points in pure Lisa fashion, such as knowing the company like the back of my hand, having top seniority, but also, I was fluent in Spanish!
He said a loud, grumpy “NO”, and I went about the night with my tail between my legs.
Two days after my boss was in Mexico, I got a call from corporate asking if I could be on a plane ASAP.
I said “HELL FREAKING YES” and my life changed forever. From that moment on, I was a corporate trainer.
Just like that. I JUST ASKED… and I got it.
I never had to be a waitress again.
The point I am trying to make is, if I did not speak up, they would not have considered me for the job.
They didn’t know I wanted it; they didn’t realize I was fluent in Spanish and they didn’t think I wanted to become management.
Honestly, a corporate trainer was not a job that I even realized existed. I just kind of fell into a niche that I LOVED.
Dreams do not come true by sitting on the sidelines, waiting to be discovered. Well, maybe for a certain few sitting in a soda shop in 1955, but in real life, you must go after what you want with determination by letting people know that you want it!
Do you see? Had I not asked, NONE of this would have happened. I would not have my funny stories, amazing memories or kick ass resume.
That one moment changed my life, I sat down on the sofa with my boss and… ASKED for it!
This is what my room looked like, a bathtub with a view! Ain’t to shabby eh?
I loved my job!
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