Thursday, March 15, 2012

Featuring a Guest Post from Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak author, Mark Saunders

I am pleased to have Mark Saunders, author of Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak, guest posting today as part of his blog tour.

Mark is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter, and cartoonist, Mark Saunders tried standup comedy to get over shyness and failed spectacularly at it — the standup part, not the shyness. He once owned a Yugo and still can’t remember why. Nearly 30 of his plays have been staged, from California to New York - with several stops in-between - and two plays have been published.

With three scripts optioned, his screenplays, all comedies, have attracted awards but seem to be allergic to money. Back in his drawing days, more than 500 of his cartoons appeared nationally in publications as diverse as Writer’s Digest, The Twilight Zone Magazine, and The Saturday Evening Post.

As a freelancer, he also wrote gags for the popular comic strip “Frank and Ernest,” as well as jokes for professional comedians, including Jay Leno. Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak is his first book.  


The Spanish I Speak
by Mark Saunders

Facing the prospect of mutual job loss in our late 50s, my wife and I chose to drop out, sell almost everything, and move to the central highlands of Mexico. This extreme decision surprised even us, because at the time we didn’t know anyone south of the border, couldn’t speak Spanish, and should have been old enough to know better.

But we were products of a well-rounded liberal arts education during the rock and roll Sixties and the needles of our lives seemed stuck between the refrains of “What’s it all about, Alfie?” and “Is that all there is?” The Call of Adventure was calling.

Before relocating, we received advice or inquiries on a variety of topics from friends, neighbors, co-workers, and eavesdropping strangers in restaurants. Often they asked if we could speak Spanish.

Such questions about our language proficiency implied that if we could not speak the local lingo, maybe we should reconsider moving there. After about the fifteenth time I was asked, I found my way out of the loop. I said I had memorized three Spanish expressions I thought would be sufficient in almost any situation: Lo siento; Discúlpame; Perdoname.  All were ways of saying, “I’m sorry.”

Truth be told, Spanish R’s should have been rolling off my tongue like cheap computer parts on a conveyor belt in China. I was taught Spanish in Catholic school at an early age by Latin American nuns sent to the United States as a sort of delayed payback for Teddy Roosevelt’s Big Stick. During my college years I spent a night in Tijuana, the memory of which can still trigger a catatonic seizure. And I lived on Puerto Rico for nine months during an overseas tour of duty while in the U.S. Navy, where, unfortunately, I spent most of my time stuck on base getting dinged during inspections for not having enough starch in my hat.

Shortly after arriving in San Miguel, we enrolled in Level 1 Spanish at what many considered the most successful—and most expensive—language school in town. We were the best students imaginable during our first week. During the second week, we were lucky to finish half of our assignments. Our final week of class was a disaster.

Within days, our Spanish power verbs lost their potency and we fell back into a reliance on speaking English spiced with a wayward bit of Spanish and a lot of hand-waving and finger-pointing.

All was not lost on us, however. The class taught us the important role courtesy plays in conversation in Mexico. For example, always greet someone with an enthusiastic “Buenos Dias or Tardes or Noches.” Ask permission (Con permisso) when passing someone on the sidewalk. It is, after all, their space. And when in a restaurant and walking by a party that’s already been seated, remember to say, “Buen provecho,” a polite way of wishing them a good meal.

I plan on enrolling in a language class again. Until then, I warmly greet everyone with what little Spanish I know. I nod and smile and say, “Si, Si,” agreeing to God knows what. There’s only one word for my predicament: Discúlpame.


I love humor, so I'm looking forward to reading this book. Thanks, Mark for stopping by and for the lovely guest post. For more on Mark, please visit his website.

About Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak:

Ay, chihuahua! Ay, caramba! Oy vey!

In early December 2005, Mark Saunders and his wife, along with their dog and cat, packed up their 21st century jalopy, a black Audi Quattro with a luggage carrier on top, and left Portland, Oregon, for San Miguel de Allende, three thousand miles away in the middle of Mexico, where they knew no one and could barely speak the language.

Things fell apart almost from the beginning. The house they rented was as cold as a restaurant’s freezer. Their furniture took longer than expected to arrive. They couldn’t even get copies of their house keys made. They unintentionally filled their house with smoke and just as unintentionally knocked out the power to their entire neighborhood. In other words, they were clueless. This is their story.

Buy Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak

A special thank you to Nicole at Tribute Books for including me in this blog tour. For more information on Tribute Books Blog Tours, please visit their Facebook page.


Tribute Books said...

"Truth be told, Spanish R’s should have been rolling off my tongue like cheap computer parts on a conveyor belt in China."

Thanks for the chuckle, Mark and Tia :)

Tia Bach said...

Just his guest post made me want to read the book. Thanks for including me in his tour! Great stuff.