Operator, This is Love Calling…

My friend Sarah Booth is a real estate investor who lives in Panama. She owns various types of property in several Latin American countries that she rents short-term to vacationers and others. These visitors come to spend a week or two…or even a month or more…in one of her seaside apartments in Mexico, or in her longer-term rental in Panama City, or in one of the casitas she has built on the grounds of her home at Playa Coronado on the coast about 70 minutes from Panama City.

As you might imagine, Sarah spends a lot of time on the Internet, answering questions, managing reservations, scheduling cleanings, paying bills, and more. And when she has visitors at her home in Panama, she enjoys playing tour guide and local go-to resource.

She loves her work, as it’s something she can do from anywhere in the world…and travel is her passion. She’s either on a trip, planning for one, or just returned from an excursion to some exotic location or another. (Last year it was an extended tour of India. This summer, she headed to Canada’s famous Calgary Stampede. In a few weeks, she’s off to Mexico’s Cozumel Island for scuba diving.)

But life isn’t all play, of course. One of the inevitable tasks that comes with owning rental properties is maintenance. Construction, electrical work, plumbing, landscaping, you name it…

Not long ago, Sarah needed some painting done at the new casita she was building…but the painter she normally used was unavailable. No worries. She grabbed her phone and dialed the number of a young Panama City painter who had given her his card some months before.

As luck would have it, she got his answering machine. In her best Spanish, Sarah explained who she was and what she needed. At the end of her message, she meant to say, “call me”… or “me llame” in Spanish.

However, what she actually said was a bad pronunciation of “te llamo”…which sounded like “te amo”…and she only realized its implication when she put down the phone.

“I’m sure he wondered why this crazy gringa was telling him she loved him,” she laughs. “I think I scared him because he never called me back. And that’s too bad because he’s really cute…but, unfortunately, married.”

By the way, this isn’t the only Spanish gaffe Sarah has made. As she says, “I have so many silly stories. And it’s funny…so many of my guests are nervous about using their Spanish. But I tell them to just do it. Panamanians—and Latin Americans in general—are so kind and patient and everything always gets figured out…and usually with lots of laughs involved.”

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