Back in D.C. we couldn’t help wondering how our little garden project was coming along.
Through the years we’d learned to deal with a deficit of information about what was going on in our little corner of paradise when we weren’t actually there, and although we knew we weren’t being deliberately kept in the dark…
…it led to some frustrating moments.
Sometimes we asked the same question three times and got no answer; other times we got three different answers. Most days we felt like our most important job was to “keep sending money, no questions please.”
But since Francisco was new to our team we decided to test his communication skills. After all, he had allegedly worked at Disney World, where the level of accountability was surely higher than your typical Vieques construction site (as I recall, Snow White ran a pretty tight ship).
Who knew, he might even slip up and throw us a scrap of information or two.
Luckily he had a cell phone (unlike many people we’d hired in Vieques through the years), and on occasion he even answered it.
And yet despite the fact that our Spanish had improved a bit over time, we weren’t up to the task of framing detailed horticultural questions.
And alas Francisco’s English wasn’t nearly good enough to make up the difference.
In desperation we emailed him several drawings we’d made of our garden ideas (yes, amazingly he had a computer and a cell phone—move over, Steve Jobs).
He called me at work the next day. “Your drawings I like.”
This sounded promising. “Great!”
“But too many plants you want.”
In the background I could hear loud, brassy music and assorted sounds of revelry.
“To make this much plants, I need more checks.”
Oh god. “More money?”
He named an amount almost exactly twice what we had originally agreed on.
“Si. The plants on this island is no good. I bring truck to Fajardo and buy plants in Puerto Rico.”
He’d already lost me with his request for “more checks” and now he was asking me to believe he couldn’t buy perfectly acceptable plants in Vieques.
“How about Arte Tropicale?” I asked. This was the nursery a mile from our house where we’d already bought tons of healthy bushes and shrubs.
“They is crap.”
“No, they is not,” I said in measured, ungrammatical tones.
I was definitely losing this battle.
The music on his end seemed to swell just as our call began to break up. “Okay, but make it beautiful!” I screamed.
“Beautiful, si,” he said, chuckling slightly.