‘Estafeta’ and other useless Spanish words for people with voices

A guide to communicating randomly, ineffectively and with great effort. 

I would really like to learn Spanish, but here on the ship, I use all my free time communicating in English (like right now) or swimming in the sea because I’m something of a mermaid and I like swimming in the sea. On my previous ships, when I was cruising out of Miami, a number of the Latino guests didn’t speak a word of English and I managed to pick up some of the very basic basics. For example ‘Tarjeta' is ‘key card’. That’s the Spanish word I probably use the most. Then ‘restaurante’, ‘teatro’ and ‘identificación’ are what they sound like in English, teaching us that when looking for a word in Spanish just say the English word with a Spanish accent - It probably wont be the Spanish word you’re looking for, but you’re bound to offend someone and that’ll make for a great story. 

On my first ship I would also drink tea and cookies with the Colombian Filipino Band and they would teach me more Spanish - this time of the useless variety that I will probably never use in real life. For example:
‘Galletas' = Cookies
‘Reloj' = Watch
‘Moño’ = Hairband
‘Dame un beso’  = …uh, nevermind. 

It was mostly ‘Tarjeta’ that I used when talking to the guests. And when that didn’t work I would rely on charades. My charades skills really improved on that ship. Here in Tampa, all the guests I’ve communicated with so far all speak English, but about two weeks ago my charade skills were really put to the test.

You see, I was hosting karaoke on the night of the White Hot Party and most of the Spring Breakers (Yes, I know what I said in my last blog, but they have since actually come to cruise) were either there or recovering from Costa Maya (and its cheap alcohol probably while passed out in deflating balloon hats) and so the shortened karaoke session was very quiet. I had two very committed karaoke-ers (serious but not necessarily talented) and about three spectators. So after one of them got a bit “sea-sick” (after Costa Maya) I took the opportunity to actually sing as this is probably the closest I will come to my ideal karaoke audience size (zero) in quite some time. It was a bad idea. 

I must have done a good job as an evil sea witch mistook me for a siren and stole my voice. …Well, it took a while. First it started with tonsillitis and a sore throat and then two days later I was mute …and about another day after that pretty close to deaf as well, which really sucks when your two favourite pastimes are swimming in the sea (I’m still not allowed to get my ears wet) and communicating in English (oh yeah, I also like laughing). 

Now, I love the Little Mermaid (what person with a soul doesn’t love Disney? - Yes, I know they’re the competition, shhhh!), but I could never willingly give up my voice to win the heart of a man. Really, it’s not worth it. (And there ain’t no princes on this ship!) I do see though, how not having a voice for three days could push you into throwing yourself overboard though. (That would be the non-Disney version.)

On the whole, it was an interesting experiment. On the first day, I invented a number of fun new activities like ‘ring toss charades’, ‘beanbag toss charades’ and ‘goofy golf charades’. It’s like ring toss, beanbag toss and goofy golf but you explain the rules in charades.

It got a little bit more complicated when guests asked me questions not knowing my predicament. I would either whisper the answer or try to gesture that I had no voice. I was amazed at how many people whispered back to me  - as if the location of the nearest restroom was in fact top secret information! And on two occasions the clever people I was speaking to (well, trying to) turned to the person next to them and said “she doesn’t speak English”.

After honing my charades skills for three days I was very happy when my voice returned, and set about using it to learn even more useless Spanish! Yay! You see, on this ship, the people I have bonded with the most in the time I have been here are the Mexican Filipino band. (Okay, okay, so it was probably just the company I worked for before and the first one with this company that all had Filipino bands on them, and I should probably start referring to them by their more official title as the ‘Party band’ as they are clearly from other nations too). The Mexicans picked up where the Colombian Filipin- …Party band left off in teaching me useless Spanish and generally being my friends. 

Elevator party with Hangar 70
The timing of my muteness (and sickness) was not ideal as it fell in their last week on board and we didn’t get to hang out as much as I would have liked. Fortunately, on their last port day I was on the mend and I got to hang out with them in a port belonging to their home country, Cozumel. 

The first part of the day was spent driving around with odd shaped boxes (containing shoes, a left-handed guitar and a drum-pedal thing if you must know, Mom) looking for courier so they could save themselves some of the luggage fees by sending them home.  We found an ‘estafeta’ - that’s your Spanish word for the day - meaning ‘relay race’ (a bit like a post office), only to discover that they actually didn’t send packages only letters. So then we carried the boxes through some awesomely random Cozumel backstreets to a DHL which does send packages despite it’s way less awesome name. Say it with me: “estafeta!” And then we went for tacos. The proper Mexican kind which are never ever in hard taco shells, just so you know. (Mexico has pretty much asked me to communicate that to America and the rest of the world.) Oh and somewhere in between, we stumbled upon a hotel that had a life-size barbie box and I got to climb inside it. Day = made! 

Now, whenever you are surrounded by Latinos and they are speaking Spanish there are two words you need to know: “Si” and “qué” or “porque”?” If you throw those in randomly people will not know that you have absolutely no idea what they are talking about and you will totally feel like part of the conversation. You can say “Claro” occasionally which means “clearly” because clearly you have no idea what the hell is going on. 

Other words you need to know to be friends with Latinos who are way cooler than you: 

“Tesalon” - It’s just a coincidence that there is a brand of cough syrup by that name. It means “bless you” in Mexican but you use it, not when someone sneezes, but when they cough. True story. …Okay, I’m lying. It is just the name of a cough syrup but I’m hoping our use for it will catch on. 

“Cochi" - That means pig. But you can use it for anything: dogs, cats, birds. People who are pigs are “cochinos"  

And finally “hermosuras bebé” which means “precious baby”. Not only is it pretty much the catch phrase of some of the most awesome people I’ve met, but it’s really fun to make people from diverse backgrounds try to say it. That’s probably why they made this video:

If you have a voice what else would you want to use it for?

My amazing friends in Hangar 70 (that’s their band name) have left me now, so I haven't been communicating in useless Spanish so much this last week. It’s very sad, I’ve been almost as quiet as I was that time an evil sea witch stole my voice. Cretino! (Ooh! There’s another one!) 

In other news

I am still sort of a minority
The South African Cruise staff with the English white-girl sounding name arrived, Megan, and I was super happy to find out that despite being from Weltevreden-freaking-Park on top of it all -(That’s where I’m from! …well, sort of. It’s where I went to school and where I’m from on days when I want to sound hardcore or when I want to highlight how far I’ve come since my humble beginnings. The rest of the time I’m kinda embarrassed about my West Rand associations and tell people I’m from Randpark Ridge which is also true). …Anyway, Megan, turned out to be not white. Yay!!!! (If you think I’m being weird and racist read my last blog.) She was also super nice. It was her first time ever on ships and it was cool to see everything through her eyes and I enjoyed having a beach buddy (together with the Mexicans, obviously). Then, just when we got attached to her, the company realised that they had accidentally over-staffed our ship and moved her to a different one. We miss her. She was cool.

Team: Cruise Staff SA
Everyone cool is leaving me
Apart from Hangar 70 and Megan, Jinnine, the Entertainment Admin lady and a good friend from the Sky who would always steal cookies for me (Hi!), left the week after. This weekend coming we lose two awesome team members and the week after that our amazing supervisor, Simon. It’s very sad but that’s #shiplife!

Jinnine with Rodrigo in Honduras

Spring break arrived a bit late but it came 
The day I posted my last blog, Tampa University arrived in all their drunken stupor. There wasn’t as many hot ab-covered but stupidly intoxicated kids as we had on the Sky but there were a fair amount of them and they were pretty stupidly intoxicated. After the first day’s beer pong tournament (which pretty much took over the whole pool deck), I was ready to stab the next person who chanted “Tits out for the boys, tits out for the boys”  (to the rhythm of “Up town funk you up, up town funk you up”). If the tackiness of that doesn’t blow your mind then the girls’ response to these degrading chants will: “Tits out for the girls, tits out for the girls.” What? Great comeback ladies! (Kristin, you may want to think about sending your kids to university in a different state?) The cruise after that had another large amount of spring breakers from a different university. I can’t remember which one, probably because of their lack of a charming catch phrase/chant. The season is starting to die down now which is good. Bring back the sober older people and their sing-a-longs!  

I saw my friends from the Getaway
When you work on ships for a while it’s not uncommon for you to run into people you know from previous ships in port when your ships dock together. So last week Evan and I made a plan to get together in Belize. Then yesterday my amazing friend Andrew drove all the way from Orlando to take me for breakfast. He works for Disney World now and totally knows Mickey and Elsa and Anna. He’s so cool. It was so nice to catch up with him again. Before I was back on board I saw another friend from the Getaway who now works at the Florida Aquarium right near where we dock, Grey. I guess you can never quite getaway from the Getaway!

Tea has become like currency
I have mentioned that onboard they have this craptastic ‘Organic’ tea that takes three tea bags to make a weak not nice cup of tea. Well, I am not the only person who has noticed. The crew (mostly those from the UK and South Africa) have been rallying together to survive this atrocity. Every now and then (like once every two weeks) we find Lipton English Breakfast Tea in one of the messes and we steal all of it and distribute it to those who appreciate it. If people catch wind of the fact that you have a stash they do come asking. I recently found an almost a full box and now I’m really popular. (And it’s not even good tea!) The only person more popular than me is Olaf, one of the Youth Counselors, she has a whole box of PJ Tips. Everyone wants to be her friend. - For now! Our South African HR lady is going home on vacation for a few weeks in a few weeks and when she returns she said she’d bring me back Five Roses. Boom! I’m going to be more popular than Harry Styles in a room full of 14-year-old girls.

I’m finding new and exciting ways to incorporate Unicorns into all of my activities. 
I often shy away from making any of my activities too much about me, but I have decided that that’s silly because, well, people like me, and I like unicorns and people like unicorns. So, from now on all of my bonus questions at Trivia are going to be unicorn-themed. E.g. Which country in the UK considers the Unicorn their national animal? The answer is Scotland. You can google it yourself. And when we play “Sing it if you know it” on this ship, two people host it instead of one. They usually each adopt a team and name them ‘tequila’ and ‘margarita’! From now on when I play it’s ‘Tequila’ vs. ‘Team Unicorn’ which works because they are natural enemies, obviously. And then when we trash talk each other Team Unicorn threatens to stab the other team with our faces! Now I just need some cheesy unicorn bingo jokes. (Suggestions welcome.)

And that’s about it. My life rocks!

5 Cruises down, roughly 21 more to go
Lipton English Breakfast teabags stashed in my drawer: 17 (Shhh! Don’t tell)




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Sharon Waugh

Sharon is a writer, cruise ship entertainment host and freelance unicorn wrangler. She is currently taking a break from her seafaring adventures to explore some more landlocked locations from her homebase in Johannesburg, South Africa. She likes to photograph a plastic lawn flamingo 'Rodrigo' on her travels because it seemed like a good idea ten years ago and 53 countries later, it’s probably too late to turn back now.

 Sharon greatly dislikes reading 'travel blogs' by people who are just rephrasing press releases or composing lists like '15 ways to travel the world for cheap', specifically formulated for SEO, with absolutely no evidence that the writers have ever left their bedrooms. (This is not one of those blogs.) Sharon also dislikes bigotry and referring to herself in first person, apparently.

To find out more about Sharon and Rodrigo’s travel aspirations read this.

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