Month: February 2017

La Gringa: Daily Adventures

I’ve often struggled with where and how I fit here as The Gringa in a Latin land.  The best way to describe it is the first day of middle school as the new kid to a well-established, tight-knit community.  Not only is it literally a different language but there is an unspoken cultural language that I don’t understand either.  For seven years, I’ve been embracing this “I don’t fit” mentality.  Yet, through the media encouragement of complete strangers, I’m reminded that “The adventure/action is here.” I’ve been waiting for something to hit me, for inspiration to jump out…thus, I’ve missed the exciting things along most of the way.

So today I share with you a small taste of what goes on in my routine trip to the grocery store.

  1. Two dogs literally stuck together back to back.
  2. Criminal in handcuffs in the bed of police pick-up truck.
  3. Taxi driving backwards into traffic.
  4. Two teens sitting on top of a water tank truck.
  5. A minivan stopped between two lanes of traffic to pick up/drop off passengers in the middle of the road.
  6. Open flame blazing on the side of the road, burning bushes.
  7. Countless street dogs.
  8. Ice cream guy pushing his cart up the steep hill.
  9. My nemesis boulder that was stuck under my car a week ago.

 

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La Gringa: The Beginning

Always a classic…it’s fun to look back at how this adventure started seven years ago.

I had been living in Honduras for 3 weeks, and only married for 4.  The first day I ventured to drive alone, I was heading to to meet my husband, Chris, for lunch. Driving in Honduras is a combination of the traffic of LA, the mountains of Denver, the honking of New York and the only road rule that exists is to play one big game of “Chicken”. Passing over double-yellow lines is fair game and you can expect cars to come head on into your lane at any time, reverse without warning, or even come to a complete stop on the freeway, all while dodging pedestrians along the way. It also includes driving over medians and curbs OR passing on the right to make a left-hand turn while another car is doing the same. The police don’t have cars so no one has to worry about the consequence of getting a ticket.

Halfway through my drive, I found that 3 lanes merged into 2 so I politely signaled to change lanes.  I allowed one semi to pass and then another as I slowly inched my way into the sardine-packed traffic. Now trapped between 2 semis, no one was going to let me in.  Sure enough, within seconds a huge semi screeched past me, only this time I cringe as I hear scraping metal. When I called Chris to tell him about the accident, he asked, “Did you stop him? He must not know that he hit you because it’s illegal to drive away without getting insurance.”

Thus began the chase. As I gunned it uphill, I tried to catch the barreling semi.  I laid on the horn the whole way, all while driving head-on into traffic so that I could come along side him since it was one lane each way.  As I’m honking, I rolled down my window, gesturing for him to pull over–the whole time thinking, “What am I going to say? I don’t speak Spanish.”

Sure enough, he pulled over and I quickly began gesturing that he hit my car while repeating the only words I knew, “Tu culpa, tu culpa” which means “your fault”. I knew enough to comprehend that he did not agree with me. So I tried to ask for his contact information though I’m pretty sure I didn’t use any verbs. He finally mentioned something about the police. So we drove to a nearby police checkpoint, and as I followed, I kept honking, as if to cause a scene in case he decided to drive away. He began to explain the situation to the policemen. By now, Chris had arrived and with his perfect Spanish, he argued my innocence. Now a crowd had gathered, as often does with any accident, and they all confirmed my blame.  I felt helpless, knowing that I couldn’t communicate.  Chris gathered the facts and concluded… “Cindy, it was your fault. I sat on the curb thinking, “Who was that today?  I would have never done this back home. Seriously, what am I doing here?” 

La Gringa: Drive-through Drama

Today I cried at the Pizza Hut drive-through.  Yes, that’s correct.  I cried.  At a fast food joint.

Why?  Because I could barely place the order.  One pizza, two drinks.  That’s it.  Nothing else.  There was no traffic to blame.  No culture to curse.  No crying baby to need to yell over to be heard.  Sure, I’m sleep-deprived and travel torn but that wasn’t it either.

I just picked my world-traveling husband up at the airport and we both desired nourishment before making the traffic trek.  I pulled a U-turn at the only fast food place I could find.  All was well until I pulled around into the narrow curve.  Rolling down my window, I ordered a simple “pizza”.  For those of you non-Spanish speakers, it’s the same word in Spanish.  So how hard could it be to order?

I repeated myself three times to the faceless black box before pulling around to actually look someone in the eye.  Maybe if I could do charades (for the millionth time), I could make my request known.

The kind employee smiled as she asked to clarify my order.  Exasperated, I pointed to the pizza box, sitting in the revolving heater.  Now we’re getting somewhere.  Wait, what?  There’s more questions?  What kind of drink do I want?  How many?  In cup or bottle?  I’ve survived this long with using generic words for everything.  But here, there can be several ways to say “bottle”.  Meanwhile, my husband is repeating these questions from the backseat, trying to clarify.  But more Spanish isn’t helping me right now.

Calmly, I reached for my wallet, but tears began to well.  My sunglasses masked them until they fell.  Tears of frustration.  It’s been seven years now.  And I can’t order freaking pizza.