Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The search for eggs and meaning.

I'd only been in Bucerias a few days and was already tired of eating in restaurants every single meal. As delighted as I was at the complete surprises I received by pointing to my best guess on the menu, my mouth was finally set on a breakfast I could recognise, a breakfast I could count on.

I had moved to this quaint little town on the Mexican Riviera without speaking a word of Spanish. I had my reasons but that tale is for another day. I was at least wise enough to bring a Spanish/English dictionary with me. I began looking up and jotting down the words for the breakfast items I wanted to purchase taking care to get them right, practicing pronunciation while I wrote a list. I had to be clear about what I wanted because I didn't speak enough Spanish to be able to explain myself if asked.

With my list in hand, dictionary tucked under my arm and my basket, I headed to a family run grocery just around the corner. It was a small building hugging the uneven sidewalk with a tiny open door, its frame speckled with the finger smudges of every person in the neighbourhood. Inside behind a long wooden counter separating the goods from the shoppers, the walls were packed high with cans, bottles and boxes of food on tight shelves. Along the sides and under the counter were paper and cleaning supplies and in the back room there were a few noisy refrigerators and a freezer.

I sidled up to the counter with my list and was greeted by the owner, a wrinkly man with sharp eyes that suggested he'd had a very good nights sleep. I took a deep breath while he waited with his hand on his apron covered waist.

I cleared my voice and then timidly uttered "Leche, por favor". To my amazement he headed to fridge and brought back milk. "Jugo de Naranja, por favor" and he brought the orange juice. With my confidence building, I asked for bread and it came. Mantaquilla? Back to the fridge for the butter he went. This wasn't so hard.

With my ego bolstered to new heights, I searched for a verb. Being a native English speaker without a clue about personal and impersonal verbs, armed with a dictionary I would later learn was meant for Spain rather than Mexico, I landed on the verb "tener" meaning "to have". I'd had an introductory two week course in Junior High School a couple decades ago and was sure I could remember a bit about verb conjugation.

I wanted eggs to complete my shopping and had added them to my list before coming to the shop without bothering to look them up in the dictionary. I'd eaten Huevos Rancheros a multitude of times and certainly knew the word for eggs. Huevos.

Thinking quickly as there were people now waiting behind me for groceries of their own, I very politely and proudly asked "Tienas huevos?" and smiled widely.

There was an audible chortle and snort from the women in the now crowded entry behind me as the man behind the counter put his hand on his hip and seemingly cross proclaimed "Si, como no!" "Of course I have!" Then with a laugh, he trundled off to get the eggs from the refrigerator.

A woman beside me who spoke English very well, seeing I might be feeling a bit bewildered and left out of the joke, explained quite nicely that I had inquired about the mans testicles. I'd asked if he personally had any balls.

Feeling greatly embarrassed, I put my goods in my basket blushing from ear to ear. On his return with the eggs I paid for my things. Recovering slightly I looked up at the man and said "Lo siento" "I'm sorry". In English plain as day he replied with a smile "It's okay. There are things you can't really know or prepare for until you get there."

The saga continues next week when more lessons are learned.
#1 The difference between La Madra Pura and La Pura Madre
#2 Agencia de Viajes and Agencia de Viejas
#3 Running from immigration in Mexico (I know...lol)