Monday, January 12, 2015

Are Things Going Wrong or Right?

Viva Mexico!
 
For a week I've been checking the electrical company online to see if we owed money. Yesterday I saw there was a balance listed even though we'd received no bill. I tried to pay online with my credit card, but the system would have none if it.

I called our credit card company (with the fabulous MagicJack that allows you to make free internet phone calls), and they said there was nothing wrong on their end.

So today we drove 10 minutes to downtown Todos Santos to pay the bill in person. When we arrived, we found the office filled with construction workers, open beams, and not much else. I'm not sure if they were remodeling because of Hurricane Odile destruction, but it was clear there would be no paying a bill there.

I pulled out my Mexi cell phone. It suddenly had a mind of its own, blocking me from making calls to certain people. I was able to get through to a friend who suggested I go to the local bookstore, where the owner "knows everything." The bookstore woman directed us to a trailer down the street, in the parking lot of the Hotel California.

When we walked into the trailer, I asked the woman behind the desk, "Habla ingles?"

She fixed me with a cold stare and said, "No."

I fumbled around with my Spanish, trying to explain what I wanted. In a flurry of Spanish that might as well have been Arabic, she pointed outside to two pay machines that looked like ATMs.

Fortunately, a guy whose Spanish was a bit gentler (like his eyes) helped me out. He fed my pesos into the machine. He understood me when I asked in creaky Spanish if we could pay in advance for a few months. With a smile, he handed me the receipt.

Ah, Mexico. I'm getting better and better at not freaking out when things don't work the way I think they should. I'm developing more patience and more compassion.

I realized that walking into someone's office and asking, first thing, if they speak English puts them on the spot. If they don't, they have to--right away--admit there is something they don't know. And perhaps admit they can't help me. I've heard that Mexicans think it's rude to not help someone who needs it.

So next time I will start out doing my best with my Spanish. And if I hit a roadblock, I will apologize for not knowing enough Spanish. I've noticed whenever I do that, people smile and compliment me on what I do know. They like that I try. It's as though my use of Spanish suggests that I care about their culture and their country.

And I do. Even when things "go wrong." Or maybe, partly, because of that. The mañana spirit can mean that when things go wrong, they also go right.

Because of today's wild goose chase, I had the opportunity to practice more Spanish and to think about how I approach people. And because we couldn't pay online in the first place, we had to go into town.

That meant we "had" to go to our favorite sidewalk restaurant where, for just a few bucks, we ate melt-in-your-mouth fish tacos. Not a bad way to capitalize on a fiasco.

 
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