Yesterday Michelle, me and the kids along with Mike and Daysi got to the base after spending the night at a hotel in Oaxaca city. We started to get settled in to our new apartment. It’s quite nice and should work well. We also got to meet our neighbours. They’re from Ohio, but we won’t hold that against them. David and Joni have 4 girls and they’re a lot of fun. We’re pretty sure if we can’t find our kids, they’ll be next door.
Anyways, Michelle and I did a quick inventory of items we need in our place and figured the most important were a fridge and some chairs. Dave needed a fridge and Mike needed chairs so the three of us along with Jared and one of Dave’s daughters went into town. It is market day on Saturday and Dave knew of a bunch of furniture for sale at a good price.
Once we get into town, Mike, Jared and I get out of the van while Dave parks. We head to the furniture “store” and find the chairs that will work. Mike and I speak about the same level of Spanish, and we’re both able to ask “How much for 7?”. The problem is, we don’t know our numbers high enough to understand the answer. Uh oh, kind of hard to negotiate a price when you only know your numbers from 1 – 10.
So after about 5 minutes of attempting to communicate with blank stares and hand gestures (not very effective by the way) Mike and I come to the same conclusion at the same time; we should write the numbers!
“Escribe” I say (it means write)
The store guy goes to find a pencil and paper. Mike spots a bag of nails. “We could just write in the dirt, that’ll work!” He’s pretty smart.
So Mike grabs a nail and when the store guy comes back Mike shows him the nail and says we’ll write with that. The store guy understands, takes the nail, and proceeds to write the price ON HIS ARM. I guess he didn’t fully understand.
I would have loved to see the shock on our faces. It’s not that he was drawing blood, just scratching, but it was still not what we expected. But we look at the price, figure it’s too much, and want to lower it. (Please also understand that the currency conversion is not happening perfectly with Mike and I yet. The price was already a deal but we ignorantly wanted better).
So Mike gets into the spirit, grabs the nail, “erases” the number off the guys arm and writes a lower one. MIKE WRITES ON THE GUYS ARM. After all of this, Mike and discussed this and realized that at the point we should have agreed to any price. The guy is so committed to his store that he will negotiate prices on his arm.
But we didn’t think that way. We were here to barter and barter we would do. The store guy doesn’t like our low ball offer. Rightfully so. So he writes another number on his arm. At this point Mike and I agree to take his offer. 7 lovely chairs. I’ll get around to posting pictures.
Next up, fridges. Dave joins us and guides us to the store we were told knew where we lived and delivered. We find the store, and Dave asks the sales girl if they deliver to the Casa de Gringos. At least Dave thinks he asked that. He remarked later that he should have looked up the Spanish word for deliver before we came. Blank stare was the girl’s response.
We’re gonna be sick of blank stares after a few days here. But the day those stop and people understand us will be a momentous one!
Anyways, it took about 30 minutes of blank stares and us laughing about how “well” this was going before the shop owner sent someone out to grab someone who speaks English. A little insulting to us but well worth it! We eventually work it all out and even find someone in the store who knows where we are located. So we get that all done and the fridges will be delivered in about an hour (um ya, an hour. You won’t see the Brick or Leons do that. Pizza Hut barely makes it in an hour now)
I’m going to omit the next story of the market. It involved a couple of guys trying to sell us a fruit or vegetable of some kind. These two guys knew that we couldn’t speak Spanish and took full advantage of it. They kept describing the various qualities of this item, which I am sure were amazing, and every once in a while we would catch a word. The whole time this was going on there were a few older ladies sitting on the curb watching us and literally wetting themselves with laughter. Come to think of it, that has happened a lot already. We’re not a side show, we’re the main act. Glad to make them happy. Hmmmm, I thought I was going to omit this story. Guess not. Back to it, by the end of this little laughter fest we finally figure out that this vegetable is “muey caliente” and by eating it we would prove we are men. That’s the nice way of putting it. But the gestures used by the man selling it to us…. 🙂
OK, last story for now. Two guys show up with our two fridges within the hour. Again, wow. Dave heads down to show them where to bring them. We of course are thinking that it would take two trips by the two guys each time. No sir. The first guy grabs our fridge by himself, puts it on his shoulder and proceeds to walk right up the stairs to our second floor apartment. BY HIMSELF. No assistance required. I don’t remember saying it, but many witnesses say that I loudly proclaimed “You’ve gotta be kidding me.”
For Dave’s fridge, which is bigger than ours (they have something like 8 or 9 kids. Or perhaps 4.) the next guy (who is about half my height) picks it right up and puts it on his head and again heads for the stairs. Only this time he realizes that he can’t make the turn to the stairs easily so he takes a step back. Dave notices that there is a drop off and the mover is going to step off of it. Instant catastrophe it was not though. This guy doesn’t see the drop and steps off. I can imagine that Dave caught his breath and was ready to see a mess of fridge parts and little Oaxacan strong man all over the ground (Michelle commented to me just now that I should have put that Dave was ready to mess his pants. I think that she was right) Instead the guy just quickly adjusts his feet, keeps his balance and does a quick two minute river dance.
Then he brings the fridge upstairs without a scratch. Dave comments in English to me “I totally feel like less of a man.” I agree. Then my fabulous wife who I raved about in the previous post and has spent her time in Mexico NOT translating decides to translate that to the mover. He laughs. Dave and I don’t get it. Then Michelle tells us what she said. Thanks dear. You didn’t come to the market with us which would have helped, (not to mention that Mike’s wife is fluent in Spanish (actually is from El Salvador, hmmmmm am I allowed to do brackets within brackets?) and we could have used their help), and then you “openly” mock us in front of the moving guys.
So the end total of experiences of the day: 7 nice chairs bought, 2 fridges purchased and delivered, new friends made and a WHOLE lot of laughter by old ladies at the pathetic gringos. And never underestimate the strength of a little Mexican guy.
I love Mexico.