Saturday, May 11, 2013

What We Have is a Failure to Communicate

Although we are already in serious trouble luggage-wise regarding our Guatemalan purchases, last weekend Mike suggested we walk to the demo to pick up the aprons I was desperately wanting to add to my stash.  The apron lady had been closed when we were there last, and the quality of hers far exceeds others we have seen in our travels.  We got an early start and her tienda was open.  I queried her about the prices and gathered from the bits and pieces of Spanish I was picking up that they weren't all the same price.  Actually paying for them, however, was painful.  My desire to have them exceeded my confusion over the price and I came home poor, but happy.  

The next week this downhill slide in communication reached its all-time low for me.  Mike and I have bought dish towels from a sweet lady who maintains a table on the sidewalk that is covered overhead by a plastic tarp in case of rain.  I bought medium sized dish towels from her once and wanted to buy several more.  We have tried to communicate this to her a few different times, but ended up disappointed.  When we stopped this week she had what we wanted, but in large, not medium size.  I gave it my best shot and thought all my carefully chosen Spanish words made sense.  At first she replied in the negative, then when I told her I needed many of them, she said she had some in another location.  Before I knew what hit me I was left watching her little store and she indicated she would be back in fifteen minutes.  The fellow at the table next to hers kept a close, distrustful eye on us. Fifteen minutes later I see her running down the street with a bag on her back.  Sadly, she unloads more of the same cloths she has on the table.  This was my worst survival Spanish failure of our last 16 months in Guatemala.  Sheepishly, I buy several from her to make it worth her while, all the time wondering what I will do with these ginormous things.  They are too large for one cloth and too small to cut into two cloths.

We were expecting company for dinner and both the stores where we normally find decent butter have been out of stock for weeks.  In a flash of inspiration, we have lunch at our favorite pizza place where they have a little store in the front with top quality food products from Europe.  I find the butter in their dairy case and think I've scored!  Once I get it home I glance at the expiration date and realize that in my elation I forgot to be observant.  The butter is ten months old and almost ready to expire.  I taste it and the taste is slightly off, but I'm a desperate woman; so, I add extra vanilla to the cookies and all is well.  In one day I have spent almost Q300 on items that were not what I wanted/expected.  That's only $36 U.S., but highly discouraging when I should be more able to conduct business here than I could six months ago.  In the United States we are used to listening to broken English from all over the world, so we can piece together meaning from a few mispronounced words.  I have found here that people give up on you if you don't say it exactly as they do.  That is, unless they have spent time living in the U.S.

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