Thankfully, some good came from this embarrassing experience. I realized, unless I learned to master conjugating Spanish verbs in all the tenses and categories, I’d never be able to confidently have a Spanish conversation with a native speaker. And I’d certainly never become fully conversational in Spanish without Spanish verb mastery.
When I returned from my trip to Cali, Colombia, I spent the next couple of years fanatically reading Spanish verb conjugation charts, studying Spanish verb books and paying Spanish instructors to drill me with Spanish verb conjugation exercises. I even made my own flash cards – using index cards – to create my own Spanish verb conjugation drills.
Eventually, I mastered conjugating Spanish verbs in all the tenses. By the time I moved to Barranquilla, Colombia in 2007, and then Medellin, Colombia in 2008, I was so good at conjugating Spanish verbs that I could easily detect when a native Spanish speaker make a Spanish-verb-conjugation error.