Friday, October 2, 2015


I showed up in León about eight days ago and was greeted by a young friendly face.  This face belongs to Rafael, a kid from the city who would become a unique friend of mine.  As you walk into a hostel or any situation in Latin America you immediately have this subtle conversation which comes to show your level of Spanish and likewise the English of the person you're talking with.  I'm not sure why we do this but perhaps it's a pride thing we do to assert that we've put in our time with each other's languages.  Maybe we want the other to know that we plan on having conversations later or perhaps we are available when the other needs help.  This is exactly what happened with Rafael, or Rafita as his diminutive implies.

Rafita and I share a love of a common interest for reggaeton music.  This is a dance based form of music from the Caribbean that has repetitive beats and often comes out in the form of a male vocalist persistently flirting with a female. It's kinda funny actually and learning the Spanish used in reggaeton can be especially useful when speaking in slang. Rafita became a sort of teacher to me after my consistent questions in Spanish.  Actually he studied communications and once explained to me the necessity for him to use perfect grammar in his line of work which follows something like a three strikes you're out standard.  He sat me down a few times and implied that my Spanish is pretty good, an upper intermediate level yet I could definitely use some improvement.

I won't get into the details yet these such conversations are really valuable to me and I often pay him in candy bars as a token of my appreciation.  I like the kid.  We both like Calle 13, a group of reggaeton/hip hop/cumbia origin from Puerto Rico.

So as it came to be Rafita asked me to explain hip hop lyrics to him from USA.  Wow.  If there has ever been a more difficult moment in the history of my second/third language skills then I'm stuck for examples.  I've talked about politics lately and the history of Nicaragua but I found this task exceptionally challenging.  It's really funny how this conversation unfolded.  How does one explain "I'm gonna" or "whatchu gonna do"?  How does one explain lyrics to offensive songs about women or drugs and keep a straight face?  It's kinda funny but equally ironic because as it goes we were both talking about the same things however in different genres of music.  I love this.  I love bridging the gaps of culture through music and I love doing so in a language that is not my own.  Cheers Rafita, you made my week.