Wednesday, April 29, 2009

El Gringo Triunfa!

The Gringo triumphs! I succeeded in buying an agua refresca at noon today. Moreover, this commercial transaction was conducted solely in Spanish.

After my first two failures to purchase an agua refresca, I painstakingly reviewed what had gone wrong and concluded that I had done too much talking. My broken Spanish had confused the lady at the counter. Therefore, the solution was to speak less, ask the lady what kind of aguas frescas they sold, and then choose one of the alternatives.

I marched into Rancho Liborio and presented myself at the counter. A lady -- a new lady, not the one who had served me on the two earlier visits -- came forward and said, "Hi". I recited my carefully polished sentences. First, I said that I desired an agua fresca. I wanted this fact established at the outset. I didn't want another cup of watermelon chunks or strawberries and cream. Then I asked what kind (tipo) she had. She directed me down the counter to four huge plastic jars, each the size of a pony keg. Each jar was filled with a different color of liquid. She pointed at them one by one and said, "Papaya, [a short word], Pina, [a long word]." I only understood the words for papaya and pineapple; the short word for the pink liquid and the long word for the purple liquid were unknown to me. I chose the papaya drink, as being the closest I could come to my original drink of choice, the mango smoothie. The lady asked me again, speaking slowly in Spanish, if I wanted papaya and pointed at the yellow-orange liquid. I confirmed this with a nod and said, "Si." (Given that my Spanish skills are comparable to those of a two-year-old, I am not offended at being spoken to like a toddler.)

The lady removed the lid from the jar and ladled about twelve ounces of agua fresca de papaya into a paper cup. She rang up a $1.40 charge. I paid. She said "Thanks" in unaccented English. I said "gracias" and walked out of the store with my head held high.

The papaya drink was pleasant, much like a Kern's papaya nectar. However, a Kern's papaya nectar costs about 65 cents per can at Wal-Mart. Counting all three trips to Rancho Liborio, I had spent nearly ten dollars, including gas, before I successfully purchased my agua fresca. But money is no matter when compared to such a personal triumph!