My most embarrassing moment

I woke up today, made some more of those delicious tortillas with vegan deshebrada, avocado, chile peppers, pico de gallo, and chiltepín sauce. Speaking of avocados I was kind of amused yesterday when I went to fill up my gas tank. I saw a rooster on the grass near where I parked my car at the station and started photographing it. Every time I got a little closer it ran away. It was kind of amusing because it was in a really busy area where I would not expect to find roosters. I went into the gas station to get a drink on the way to the beach and when I came out there was a sign for Avocado Toast. I guess it is such a foreign thing that they call it by its English name, avocado toast, they don’t even call them aguacates (the Spanish word for avocado)! It could just be that this was a gas station and if I happened to see avocado toast at a restaurant they would call it something else. So far I don’t think I have seen it at a restaurant. Montreal was the place that I saw avocado toast on pretty much every menu and I don’t know if it’s such a huge thing all around Canada or just in Montreal.

I did some major cleaning this morning. It took me about an hour. Usually it doesn’t take nearly that long to clean and I guess there was just a lot of stuff piling up to deal with. I’m not even quite done cleaning. There’s still lots of stuff scattered around the table and I need to sweep the floor. I was kind of sad to notice that a blue Coca Cola glass that was sitting behind the dish drying tray broke somehow. I have never pulled the bottom of the tray out to clean it before but when I did that this morning I saw this broken glass and I don’t even remember it existing. If I knew about it I certainly would have been drinking about it because it holds a lot more drink than the other glasses. It’s sad because apparently it is a commemorative glass from the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Maybe it’s worth a lot of money and I will have to forfeit my deposit.

There are a few other little things: I noticed one day that a back burner on the stove, that I never use, isn’t working. It is lighting but it’s not nearly enough to cook anything on it. There is a flame but it’s really weak and it kind of fizzles and goes out or the flame doesn’t make a full circle. It might or might not be time for a new showerhead as there are little leaks in it that make it splash a little bit. One of the light bulbs on the chandelier seems to have burned out. I only tried the back burner one day and discovered it wasn’t working and I don’t remember if the bulb was out when I arrived or if it happened after I got here. Oh, and I think I got some permanent stains on the dishrags and that is totally my fault. I guess when you are living in a place for three months you are bound to have some at least minor issues.

A little while ago when I walked into the 7-Eleven I had what might be my most embarrassing moment so far in México (at least this time around). I was walking to the store, feeling tired, not really expecting any kind of conversation with anybody. When I go to the convenience store it is usually pretty quiet and not a whole lot of conversation happens. This time, though, I was caught off guard when the cashier asked me, “Qué onda?” When I buy things at convenience stores in México I am never asked anything like that: it’s always just business, just buying my stuff and exchanging the money, rarely anything more than that. When I’m not expecting anybody to engage me in conversation, I can hardly think of a fluent response to that question in English. Somebody asks me “what’s up” and I say “good” or something which doesn’t see like it answers the question. Now, when someone asks you “Qué onda?” (what’s up?) you can answer it pretty much like they are asking you “Cómo estás?” (how are you) or you can actually get into more of what’s going on with you and… ah, if only I had just thought of it like, “how are you?” but in the moment I had no idea how to answer that question. Anyway, this is where the absolute worst Spanish I have ever spoken comes out of my mouth. I say: “Nada más.” Then I feel awkward. I know that what I just said doesn’t make sense. “Nothing more?” What? So I say, “Y tú, cómo está?” I was daring enough to then use “tú” with him rather than Ud. and often I am embarrassed to do that if I don’t know what someone is expecting of me. But then after saying tú I switched back to the Ud. form, “Cómo está?” so it looks like my Spanish is really, really bad. And when I asked him how he was, he said, “Un poquito sueño.” I said, “Entiendo.” And then I left, embarrassed, and started laughing out loud at myself, which made someone walking in the street in front of me turn around, twice!

He was nice but I think I might avoid that store for the next few days and go to the Oxxo a few blocks down because I am embarrassed for myself!!! It’s things like this that make me really look forward to leaving México, just for a while: to be in a place where I don’t feel the pressure I put on myself to be able to speak Spanish. In the Southwest of the US (stolen territory) Spanish is useful but there is probably not an expectation that I will be able to speak Spanish and any Spanish that I can speak is more like icing on the cake. Here, if I speak a little bit of Spanish, or get it all wrong, it feels different. Most people here *are* fluent in Spanish and if my Spanish is only mediocre that probably won’t be nearly as useful to anyone as my mediocre Spanish might be in the US…

When I get down on myself for my Spanish all the time it really isn’t good for learning. I think it would help me to go back to the United States and maybe practice speaking Spanish with people who don’t expect me to speak it. I remember this Guatemalan woman who I met years ago in the hospital who was so lonely. She didn’t speak English or much English and she was in this hospital, away from home, and away from her home country, and then I started talking to her in Spanish about going to Guatemala and… I could tell it was probably like the happiest she had been since she got to the hospital, and it didn’t take much, just… hearing a little bit of Spanish, talking to someone who knew *something* about Guatemala.

In México even if I am really fluent that’s just to be expected really and just making Spanish words come out of my mouth probably won’t make anyone happy (and if it does it won’t make me happy because I know I can be better). I don’t mind of course and I want to immerse myself in Mexican culture but I think I learn best when a little bit of Spanish coming out of my mouth makes someone happy, even if that’s just me, and when I am in México, it’s hard to be happy with the little bit of Spanish coming out of my mouth, at least right now, because I came here out of a bad situation where I really didn’t have any kind of ground, and I didn’t have an opportunity to get excited about Spanish before I came in a place that feels good and… is home. I don’t know if that makes sense, but that’s kind of how I’m feeling, and why I feel like it would be good to leave México for a bit, and fall in love with Spanish even more deeply while I am away, so I can come back and hopefully my Spanish will be useful to someone or other and it will be joyful to speak rather than sad because… of whatever it is that I’m trying to express here. If I had come here from just a slightly different place I would have such a different attitude about expressing myself in Spanish.

Anyway, I came back from the embarrassing experience and Rosalba walked out her door and said, “Buenos días!” She told me that she hopes, but she is not sure, that Alejandro is going to make chilequiles later and I am welcome to some. I am going to miss this place. It really has been a home over the last three months and I will miss it…

Log in to write a note