March 2, 2010

La Duena de la Casa Learns More Spanish

Today I went to Marla’s, the fabric/craft/hobby store in Santa Rosalia. It is small, but surprisingly well stocked and would be our version of New York Fabrics. This is where I buy Styrofoam balls to make into ornaments covered with shells, seeds and beans. My friend Don Diego’s mother taught me how to make these last year and she told me to go there for my supplies. For such a small town, I never would have suspected that Santa Rosalia could have such a fine store.

Today my mission was to buy curtain fabric for our bedroom as I have been busily making curtains for our little house. I ordered some lace fabric on the internet which we brought back with us from the States, but I wanted heavier fabric for one of our windows that has a motion detector light outside it. Periodically during the night the light goes on and lights up our room, waking us. I hoped to minimize its offensive glare by hanging a denser curtain.

So my plan was to buy the fabric, more Styrofoam balls, and straight pins. I meant to look up the word for pins before I left the house, but I forgot. Esperando came by to pick me up at noon. The stores are all open then, but the streets are really crowded and parking is the pits by then. He needed some chicken wire from the hardware store. He had already tried several other hardware stores with no luck and one of them recommended that he go to this one. So he would drop me off at Marla’s and drive around the block until I was done, then we would change drivers while he went for chicken wire and I drove around the block.

We got to Marla’s and I went in to survey what my fabric choices would be. I had really never checked out their fabrics before other than to realize that they had lots. I found colorful knits and lots of satins, some printed cottons, some upholstery fabric, colorful plastic tablecloths by the yard--and chose a mod pink floral pattern that wasn't really me because it was the only one that had colors that would go with our hot pink bedspread. While the girl was cutting my 6 meters of yardage I said in Spanish to the owner, a man whom I will call Mr. Marla, and the other girl at the counter, “I need an item but I don’t know its name in Spanish.” Then I thought, aha, maybe they know this word in English—so I said, “Straight pins!” I got the deer-in-the-headlights look.

So I tried again in Spanish, “this item is like a nail but skinnier and you use it to fasten two pieces of cloth together, but you don’t sew with it,” (thinking of a needle which I couldn’t remember the name for that either.) When I spoke to him, I confused the word for nail (clavo) with the word for hook (gancho). What I really said is ‘this item is like a hook but skinnier.’ Mr. Marla gave me a puzzled look. “No, we don’t have anything like that,” he said. Then I said, “Oh yes, you do, it’s not really a hook and it is really common. I just know you have it here.” I cast my gaze all around the wall, covered with various merchandise and swept my glance over the counter, missing the one critical spot.

I should mention here that neither of the girls even remotely wanted to participate in this guessing game, it was only Mr. Marla that would play, and not with much amusement. Finally a lightbulb went on for him and Mr. Marla said, “Ah, do you want peens?” “Oh yes, yes,” I said, “that is exactly it!!” I was very excited and then I saw under my very nose as he reached into the glass counter, heaps of safety pins. If I had only seen those first he wouldn’t have had to spend the last ten minutes trying to read my mind. I could have said, just like this but not bent. Fortunately I was the only customer in the store. “Alfiler,” said Mr. Marla, sniffing slightly like a disapproving professor. “Here we call those, alfiler, with the head on them like this they are alfiler de cabeza and a safety pin is alfiler de seguridad.” Ah, I said, “Alfiler. Muchas gracias.” My bill came to
US$40, the fabric was at least 54" wide, plus the pins, an embroidery hoop and the Styrofoam balls--the fabric cost less than $6/meter, a real bargain!

I got back to the car and by then Esperando had found a place to park. We traded drivers and I told him about my transaction. When we got close to the hardware store, he walked a block over and by the time I got around the block (I had to drive seven blocks further before I could turn back as there are so many one way streets here) he was coming out of the store with chicken wire in hand. I am sort of embarrassed to go back to Mr. Marlas—no doubt he’ll remember that crazy gringa if I ever get up my courage to darken their doorway again.

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