Admitting it was hard.

I was on a biweekly zoom call with my college friends. One, a scientist lamenting over accidentally killing some laboratory mice. Another, a retired teacher in New Orleans, beating herself up for being a victim of identity theft. Then it was my turn to say something about how my life was going in Lima. Primarily, how I vowed to learn the language, unlike China, where I could only say Tīng bù dōng, which means, I don’t understand.

“So, how’s the Spanish going?”

“Yeah, Ginger, are you learning anything?”

Words didn’t come out of my mouth, not in English, Spanish, Chinese, or French which is the language that automatic responses still come out, thanks to a year of the language in college. But that wasn’t my problem. My eyes darted toward the Duo Lingo language app on my phone which I hadn’t clicked in way too many days. Which is why I got scammed by a local tailor and overcharged for pant hemming. Which is also why I ordered hot dog stir-fry instead of ceviche. And why I struggle at Saturday morning Yoga when the instructor says, “Pon las manos juntos al centro del corazón” (Let’s place our hands together at the heart center.) And which is also-also why I’m not understanding the weekly coupon prices at Wang’s, my grocery store, which is killing me.

I’m not practicing my Spanish with Duo Lingo because I’m clicking the app next to it, that being for the New York Times Puzzles, where I quickly got addicted to their word games.

Yes, I’m a wordle-addict.

I won’t mention her name, but a certain writer who owns a llama introduced me to Wordle, the gateway drug to NY times Puzzles.

If you haven’t dabbled with this verbivore recreational game, it’s like Hangman where you have six chances to guess a daily word. But a Hangman where three hundred of your closest friends post their daily wordle scores on Facebook. Did they guess the five-letter word was OFTEN in three tries or four? And why do I care? Is that post really more important than another friend’s sharing of her great aunt’s funeral visitation?

Before long, the high I got from my daily Wordle fix wasn’t enough. I began the NTY game speedball, a combination of Wordle and the dreaded Connections, a game which has gotten me to write a few heated letters to editors at the NYT. Have I ever written over the news? The border crisis? How frozen embryos are getting folks tax breaks as children? No. Just my frustration that I didn’t realize that button, dance, flop and laugh can all follow the word BELLY.

But soon, I moved to the Fentanyl of New York Times Puzzle games, the Spelling Bee. This game challenges the player to see how many words they can make out of seven letters, each including the honey-colored letter in the center. I keep my game running throughout the day, allowing myself to get my fix at lunch, a few minutes after school, and find a few more words while I’m trying to doze off (maybe that’s why I have insomnia). But once I hit the coveted Guiness status? That’s all I want. I’m chasing the NYT puzzle dragon.

But unlike another writer friend whose name I won’t mention but is from Detroit and loves baseball and hamburgers but not necessarily in that order, I refrain posting my Wordle or Spelling Bee scores. I do the I-rocked-Wordle dance in the privacy of my own home, in an unidentified location in Lima, Peru, not that far from the Paddington the Bear statue. If you didn’t know, this Paddington is from Peru. His parents were killed in an earthquake, leaving him a bear orphan that went to London to be adopted and hopelessly addicted to marmalade. But who has time to post about that? I have words to find.

The cool thing about Lima is that people LOVE to read. Maybe aliens really did land here back in the day. Seeing old men reading newspapers is a lot more impressive than the Nazca lines or that Machu-Pichu-whatever. And reading itself is a mystery. Think about it. Students who grew up on a diet of Mandarin can recognize an upward of eight-thousand characters, which uses a totally different part of the brain than what can solve the phonetic equation of C plus A plus T equals Kkkkk Aaaaa Ttttt.

Plus, as a teacher and writer, my brain swims in word trivia. I am drowning in small-talk conversation without a floatie or one of those noodle things. For instance, did you know that the average college educated person has an active vocabulary of twenty thousand words but a word bank of about fifty thousand? Or that the longest spelling word is pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis with forty-five letters, replacing antidisestablishmentarianism, with a mere twenty-eight? There are an upwards of four million words in the English language, many borrowed from other languages (mamahuhu), or invented lingo, such as Frappuccino, or uh, Wordle.

But is there a word for these pickle-avocado thingies?

So, as I contemplate deleting my NYT puzzle app from my phone, vowing to open my dusty Duo Lingo app, I hope that next time, I’ll have a better blog post about life in Lima, like about this mysterious jaguar-faced cat or his friend who belongs in Cirque du Soliel.

Or maybe I’ll blog about that hotdog stir-fry, which tastes better than it sounds. And in Spanish yet.

2 thoughts on “My name is Ginger and I’m a wordle-aholic.

  1. That must be exciting to be in a place where people enjoy and make time for reading. There could be some very interesting people to get to know in Lima! I’m also addicted to NYT games, so I get it. Do they have a Spanish Wordle yet? “ ¿ Dónde es el baño?” is a good question to know. I’m so glad you like Peru so far! I like that you can see cats in so many spaces. That rice dish reminds me of jambalaya with sausage in it. Are you going to try one of those pickle-avocado thingies? If so, let us know what it is like. ❤️ Thank you for being so encouraging!

    1. Hi Jane, I have not discovered a Spanish wordle yet. However, some of the exercises in Duo Lingo could qualify! I opted for the regular Haas avocados at the market and say hello to the cats every day. I might get a tutor. Gracious!

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