Ken and I still laugh-cry every day about our shopping experiences. It is just so different.
I wanted something to read and so we found our way to the english book store. And, of course we chose exactly the wrong day to shop there. It was the Saturday before classes begin, and all the students who attend english institutes buy their books there. The word crowded qualifies as a classic understatement. Ken even refused to go in, but I dragged him. The store is not very big, and much longer than it is wide. The back half of the store was roped off (no idea why). The front half of the store was literally shoulder to shoulder and back to front. I know this sounds like exaggeration, but I promise you it is not. I squeeze and wiggle and push my way to the paperback books looking for Maeve Binchy. I find her!! I claim my square foot of space and look thru her section until I find "The Copper Beach". Meanwhile, thank God, Ken has found the number-ticket machine and taken a number. They are on number 79 and we have number 1,240 (Ok, that is an exaggeration). We wait our turn and when she calls my number I worm my way to the front and hand her my book. I also ask how much another small paperback book that is located behind the counter costs. Many minutes pass. She looks it up. God forbid the price should be actually ON or Under the book. 110 pesos!! Nevermind, I'll just take this. More minutes pass and she produces a computerized 8" x 6" sheet of paper with the name of the book on it. I try to hand her my money, but she directs me to another line. I have no idea why she cannot take the payment - that is just the system. I stand in the payment line. I wait again. At this point we notice the store is thinning out. My turn!! 32 freaking pesos for a paperback book!! This is a lot of money if you live on pesos.
Meanwhile, the reason the store is thinning out, is because it closes early on Saturday. The security man has not only locked the door, but lowered the security gate. The security gate has this little Hobbit door in it that is about 3 feet tall by 18 inches wide. Each customer must bend down and squeeze thru this little door to exit the store. This is common.
One last thing about the book. As I am reading page 24, it ends with the sentence, "Perhaps she thought her daugher Madeleine was intended for something more elevated than workin in .... page 25..."Jesus, you're a stubborn woman". HUH? I look again. OK, now I am on page 153. I assume the pages are out of order. I look for page 153 expecting it to be missing. Nope. Its there. I have pages 153-184 of another book called "Out of the Shadows" by Kay Hooper, and am missing pages 25-56 of "The Copper Beach". Confundas? Try shopping here.
Now for Ken - -
Here is a picture of Helen and Monica in Córdoba at the neighborhood almacen getting some groceries. Notice that the store is a fortress. Unless you know what they have, you can't buy it. Often we do not know the names for items here, but we can bring them to the counter and buy them anyway--in this case, if you can't ask for it, you can't have it.
I bought some shoes the other day. I was very proud of myself that I could use my Castellano to tell the girl what I wanted and what size and then ask for a different style and size. Then, once i had the right size and style, I began to walk around a bit to see how they felt. "Señor, no puedes." she says. (You can'tdo that). ¿Por qué? I ask. "Porque es sucio. (Because it is dirty), she replies. She tells me I cannot walk in the shoes I want to buy because I will get them dirty! Ana--the woman from whom we rent and whom we like very much--says that many shoe stores have a small length of carpet that customers are welcome to use to tryout the shoe. This store had no such accommodation.
To paraphrase Waylon Jennings: "It 'aint wrong--it's just different."