Here are three short anecdotes from San Pancho. Two are somewhat random stories, and the third – about my dating life – comes in response to reader inquiries. You ask, I tell.
Que es “FedEx”?
As I mentioned in an earlier post, there’s no mail service here in San Pancho: no newspaper, no letters, no UPS, nothing. If you want something from out of town, you go get it from a neighboring town or city. Want a fan (like I did)? Take a bus to La Peñita (15 miles north). Pillows? Puerto Vallarta (28 miles south). Electric bills are delivered every month or so when a random guy in a uniform leaves a slip of paper in Paula’s gate. To communicate with out-of-town relatives or friends, you don’t send postcards (not that anyone does anymore), you use “What’sApp.” Seriously, Facebook’s $19B acquisition of What’sApp started to make more sense to me after living here a couple months; everyone uses it, even businesses.
Anyway, I recently needed a new Schwab debit card after mine was compromised at a local ATM. (There are two ATMs here. I had been using one, but when I branched out and used the second, I paid the price.) My pleas for a simple reactivation of my card - there had been no fraudulent charges, so I thought a simple PIN change might suffice - fell on deaf ears as the Schwab rep insisted on sending me a new card.
Me: “Ok then, let’s see if you guys can get the new card to a tiny village in Mexico.”
Rep: “We’ll try, what’s your address?”
Me: “Um, I don’t know.”
I wasn’t being rude; I honestly didn’t know my address. And, after putting the rep on hold to search the outside of Paula’s house for clues, I found the below. Not too reassuring.
Me: Tell you what, let’s try sending it to a business address near me.
Rep: Great idea, what’s the business name?
Me: I think it’s called Uno Mas (the taco place across the street).
Rep: What? Can you spell that?
Ultimately, the rep was able to enter the address – which I found on Google – into the system, thus commencing the “Can I get mail in San Pancho?” experiment. A couple days later I received a tracking number - a good sign. Now, it was time to fill in Socorro.
Me: Hola Socorro!
Socorro: Hola! Tacos?
Me: [Speaking in Spanish, but I’ll use English here for readability.] Nope! Well, yes, but I have another reason for coming here. Do you know what FedEx is?
Socorro: Mande? Que es “FedEx”? (Huh? What is FedEx?)
Me: Ok, maybe UPS (“Mande?”), DHL (Mande?”), mail, packages, when a man brings you something in a box? ("Mande, mande, mande?")
At this point, Lupe, Claudia, and Socorro’s husband Alejandro gathered around as I sketched out a credit card, envelope, and little truck on a napkin. I knew I was making progress when Socorro's eye lit up: “Ahhh si claro! Voy a ir de compras con eso!” (Yes of course! I’m going to go shopping with it!).
When delivery day came, I made sure to keep an eye on Uno Mas. Much to my amazement, a tiny FedEx van pulled up around 2pm, and I scurried over to intercept the delivery. (I should have snapped a photo, because never before nor after have I seen a FedEx vehicle in San Pancho . . . much like the police.)
Socorro, Lupe, and Claudia all gathered around as I signed for the package, and Socorro cracked another “if you hadn’t come over we were all going shopping” joke, as well as other Spanish jokes I didn’t understand. I joined in the laughter, clutched my new card, and headed back to my house. Just joking, I stayed for some tacos and Pepsi.
When I first arrived in San Pancho, I had trouble sleeping. My “Oh God, what have I done?” anxiety was high, the weather was hot and humid, and I had discovered Paula lived next to a family of loud, seemingly-nocturnal roosters. (The roosters turned out to be transients, wandering to a new yard after a couple weeks. I glare and mutter English curses at them when I see them around town; they squawk back at me with equal disdain.)
I was worried that killing the roosters and hanging them from the clothesline to set an example for their friends would paint me as an ugly, rude American, so I decided instead to visit the local drugstore for some Motrin or Tylenol PM. (FYI: I would never hurt any animal.) Turns out that you can’t buy Tylenol, Motrin, or the PM equivalents here. “Hmm, tienes algo que ayudame dormer?” (Hmm, do you have anything to help me sleep?) I asked the clerk.
“Claro!” (Sure!) he responded, pulling out a huge cardboard box under the cash register. “We have Xanax, Ambien, Valium, Ativan, . . . .” The box was filled with pills, the kind you’d need a prescription for in the US. “Umm . . . .” I was initially taken aback. In the US you could get arrested for having these illegally; here, you can buy them like candy! “Quiero Ambien, por favor,” I finally said, and paid 500 pesos ($27) for 10 pills. Chalk up another advantage for Mexican healthcare!
Let me start out by tempering any hopes for stories of wild trysts with exotic Spanish women; that hasn’t happened . . . yet. I haven’t been actively seeking out dates, and while I’ve met some great, smart, attractive women here, most are married, have boyfriends, and or have kids. Women here typically start dating in their early teens, and get married and have babies soon after.
There are only two stories here worth mentioning. First came the woman I met at Entre Amigos, who I asked out for tacos soon after. If you’ll recall from my earlier post, I received a “Mexican no” (that is, a polite “yes” which really means “no”) at the time. A couple months later, however, we DID go out (she may have just felt sorry for me after I started joking about her veiled rejection). Much to my chagrin, it wasn’t for tacos, but for drinks on the beach at sunset. Her choice, not mine. I guess it was an okay alternative. I had a great time, and she did as well, and we repeated the date again a couple weeks later. However, we haven’t talked much since then (about three weeks ago), and I’m not sure if we’ll go out again. I have a theory that she may have started dating a boyfriend she had when I first arrived, though I can’t prove it. Maybe I’ll ask her that. (If you have any advice for me, feel free to leave it in the comments section!)
The second story involves a woman who works out at the local gym. She’s stunningly attractive, and one day I noticed her doing squats with a heavy barbell and a decent amount of weight. Up to then, I hadn’t seen any other woman try the exercise, so I wanted to let her know I was impressed. With my heart beating out of my chest, I approached her. “Disculpe,” (Excuse me) I managed to squeak out, prompting her to turn and look at me. At this point, however, I realized I had no plan; not only had I no clue what to say in Spanish, I didn’t even know what I wanted to say in English! “Ummm, tu eres (you are)…umm…impressive.”
Me: “Uhhhhh . . . eres impressive.”
Woman: “No se ingles.” (I don't know English.)
Okay, um, what’s another word for impressive? Think Keith, think! Ahhhhh I can't do this!
Me: “Voy a discubir la palabra en espanol y hablar mas tarde” (I’m going to discover the word in Spanish and to talk later.)
Woman: “Ha. Okay.”
Later that week, after I looked up “impressive” (impresionable), I managed to convey my sentiment to the woman. She laughed, said thank you, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief and quickly hurried back to my exercises. When I saw her at the drug store right up the street from my apartment the next day – she had just started working there – I thought it was fate’s way of saying we were meant to be together. The next day, I asked her out in the most embarrassing way possible.
My apartment’s location is extremely convenient: next to my favorite taqueria and the hospital, and across the street from the aforementioned drugstore. It also happens to be the meeting ground for the three or four taxis in San Pancho, so often a couple drivers will be drinking Coke and lounging around, waiting for people to come by and request a ride somewhere. Of course, I purposely picked a time to go the drugstore and profess my undying, everlasting love to the woman when there were no guys outside.
Everything was going according to plan when I showed up; no one was inside buying anything, no one was outside chatting. Perfect.
Me: “Hola [name redacted in case she ever finds this blog], como estas?" (How are you?)
Woman: “Hola Keith! Bien bien y tu?”
Me: "Bien. [Deep breath.] Tengo una pregunta para ti.” (I have a question for you.)
Me: “Yo sé esta es un poco loco, porque tu no hablas ingles y yo no hablo espanol, y nos acabo de conocer, pero quisiera comer tacos conmigo?” ([sic] I know that is a little crazy, because you don’t speak English and I don’t speak Spanish, and we just met, but would you like to eat tacos with me?)
Woman: [A little taken aback, but smiling as she pieced together what I was trying to ask.] “Ummm . . . .”
At this point, a little girl popped into the store to buy some gum. As fate would have it, the gum is located on the counter right next to the cashier, so she wedged herself right between the woman and me and started picking out some Chiclets, the only kind of gum in San Pancho. I paused, the woman paused, and we both laughed nervously. The oblivious little girl continued scouring the jar for a flavor she liked while I stood at the counter wanting to curl up into a ball and die. To make matters worse, a couple taxi drivers had just returned from jobs, and though I didn’t know if they’d caught the conversation, I turned red with embarrassment.
“So . . . ,” I started after what felt like an hour for the girl to buy her Chiclets, “what do you think?” I resorted to English in my anxious state, but quickly reverted back. “Tienes novio? Lo siento si si.” (Do you have a boyfriend? Sorry if yes.)
Woman: “No, no tengo novio, pero tengo un hijo!” (No, I don’t have a boyfriend, but I have a son!)
Me: “What?? Tienes un hijo?!” (What? You have a kid?!)
Me: [In English, thanks to the state of shock I was in.] “That’s a gamechanger.”
In the end, we exchanged numbers, and I started to wonder if I was going to end up playing the role of Jay on ABC's sitcom "Modern Family" (the character who ends up marrying a beautiful Spanish woman with a child). I called her a week later, after the surprise of her having a child wore off, and learned the hard way how difficult it is to communicate in Spanish without the benefit of body language. The call was a disaster – I couldn’t understand anything she said, and couldn’t produce the words to convey anything resembling a conversation. I actually ended it by inadvertently wishing her “buen trabajo” (good job) when I intended to say “Have a good time at your job” (mistakenly thinking she was at her job, when actually she was at a taqueria with a friend).
We haven’t connected since then, although we exchange “holas” and short conversation at the gym. Maybe I’ll (try to) ask her out again.
I’m just now realizing my dating stories seem to have to come to a common ending. Maybe that’s a sign that I need to learn more Spanish so I can communicate more effectively with the chicas here. Message received, world, message received.
I’ll keep you all posted on future developments, but don’t hold your breath.