Master of smooth talking

28 September 2005
5:00 PM

As of late, I have peppered my stories with tales of my Spanish successes. Lest you think I am having delusions of adequacy, it’s fair to tell some failures too.

I was walking to the Institute when I passed Abraham Lincoln Park and saw my beloved flock of city sheep. No, seriously, I promise:

Sheep and landscape

Munching grass

They wander into town with their shepard every now and then to graze on city grass. It’s nothing short of hilarious to watch the sheep crossing city streets, wandering aimlessly in the park, and munching grass clipping from the gutter. They look almost as white and clueless as the gringos here in Cochabamba.

I sat in the park and watched them eat for about 10 minutes. Then, genius that I am, I thought it would be good practice to talk to the shepard. I approached her and asked, in Spanish, “Excuse me, how many sheep do you (formal) have?”

“I don’t know,” she replied.

Flustered, I said all I could think of to say. “Well, good luck with the sheep.” Then I left.

Smooth, Ryan, real smooth.

Update: I related this story to my Bolivian family and they explained that shepards are usually not very talkative because they are very leary of strangers. Apparently it isn’t uncommon for strangers to try to distract the shepard while a car pulls up, two men jump out, toss a sheep into the car, and drive off. I had to ask several times if they were joking because the thought of a sheepnapping in broad daylight seems straight out of a comedy with someone stupid like Adam Sandler or Chris Farley.