The Name Game

I think it’s time for a little cultural lesson on names in Colombia.  To start everyone in Colombia has two last names.  i.e Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  His last name is Garcia Marquez.  Garcia is his father’s last name and Marquez is his mother’s last name.  Women in Colombia of my generation usually do not change their names to match their husbands but keep the two last names they inherited from their parents.  Children inherit their names with the same pattern.  So if Gabriel Garcia Marquez marries Isabel Allende Salvador then their child would be called Elian Garcia Allende.

Don’t worry I’m going somewhere with this.  And hopefully somewhere amusing.

A few weeks ago when we were buying our plane tickets to Bucaramanga we were buying them at 3:00pm on Dec. 31st, this is equivalent to trying to buy plane tickets at 4:55 on Christmas Eve.  All the employees are mentally checked out and ready to GET HOME ALREADY.

Enter us!  Ready to buy our tickets with our weird American names. So Arnold gives his name.  Great!  No problem.  Then comes my name and the guy is like What?  What do you mean you have the same last name?  Wh-Why?  Huh?

Apparently the rep’s stress was contagious because Arnold started blurting out random unsolicited information “She has two middle names” The guy is like, I don’t need any middle names but Arnold continues to not pay attention  “Two middle names.  Two middle names!”  Finally I had to step in and say chill…. He doesn’t care about my middle names.  My last name is Perez.  The rep begrudgingly accepts this and we all move on.

Then the guy goes “What’s the babies name” and Arnold goes “Uhhhhhhhh?????”

That’s right, he goes blank because Elian’s name is not his current legal name and multi-tasking information is not Arnold’s forte.   The rep is looking at Arnold as if he’s going to kill him. That’s when I have to intervene again  “Hi name is XX” This proved to be too much for our weary Aerorepublica rep.  “What? You two have the same last name but his is different?”  He starts to eye us as if we are kidnappers.  Then we have to step in with the “Adoption process, blah, blah, blah” explanation.  The rep’s eyes start to glaze over.  He hands us our confirmation number with a look on this face that says, “I can’t believe this is happening to me.”

If we were a normal couple… that’s where the story would end but we attract disaster like young women in horror films.

Satisfied with our purchase we sit down at Juan Valdez to celebrate the successful purchase of plane tickets.  Yay!  That’s when we realize that my first name is spelled wrong.  Ruh-oh!

In the US this would be a MAJOR problem so I send Arnold back to Aerorepublica.  It’s now about 5 minutes before their office will close on the eve of Colombia’s biggest holiday.  Elian and I settle in at Juan Valdez and enjoy our tintos while the employees noisly close up all around us.

Five minutes later Arnold returns giggling.  He says “When I told the guy about your name he freaked out.  He started saying Emili, Emily!  If I call her name “Emili” is she going to say “Who is Emily? I don’t know who Emili? is”  NO, SHE’S GOING TO SAY I’M EMILY.  What’s the PROBLEM?”  So yeah, needless to say I now know that in Colombia Emili=Emily and it’s NO PROBLEM!

Posted on January 21, 2010 and filed under Adventures in the World.