You know, there's just nothing like sitting alone and eating dinner in a mall food court in a foreign country where they speak a foreign language. It really is quite amazing. I should know; I just did it tonight. But let me start from the beginning.
I decided to go to the mall after school today to pick up a few random yet necessary items. Now, in the States, I would know what to do. I would know which stores would carry what I needed at prices that I wanted, and I'd know where these stores were located, for the most part. And if not, I'd be able to search helpful websites to answer these questions. But here, well, none of that is true. I know a few stores down here, but I'm not familiar with the majority of the types of stores, let alone their names, price ranges, and stock. Throw on top of all that the fact that I didn't know the Spanish words for most of what I was looking for, and I was in for a long afternoon. I needed cheap sunglasses for my upcoming ski trip, guitar strings and bongos for the school's worship team, and that yellow mushy stuff that you use to stick things to the wall...what's it called?...I can't even think of the word in English now...Sticky tack? Man, that's going to bother me.
But I digress.
I invited a couple of friends to come with me, but by the time we got to the mall, they only had a half hour to stick around. Well, we found the bongos right away. Shocking? I thought so. I decided not to get them just yet so as to not have to lug them around as I did my other shopping. Smart move number one. Soon after my friends left, and I was on my own. Now, I have been to this mall several times, but I'm not overly familiar with the layout. I know where a few stores are, but that's it. I find it to be quite a confusing layout--like a rectangular tic-tac-toe board. For these reasons, I traversed the mall, right and left, up and down, back and forth, willy nilly, retracing my tracks and generally wasting time. I should also add that, having come straight from school, I was wearing my "nice" clothes, and my shoes were definitely not engineered for aimless marathon walking. They quickly grew uncomfortable and also had next to no traction on their soles. This made walking on the highly polished fake-marble tiled floors very treacherous! Especially when descending the slight ramp to the food court. I very nearly slipped and fell!
After wandering aimlessly and being discouraged at only finding sunglasses ranging from $70-$400, I decided to head to the one solace of the afternoon. This particular mall houses a Starbucks. And I'm not ashamed to admit that I indulged. And it was heavenly.
After this recharge, I was back on my quest for reasonably priced sunglasses and that sticky stuff. Well, I found $15 dollar sunglasses that look like bug-eyes, but at least they'll protect me from the wind as I fly (or should I say tumble) down the slopes on Thursday. I may never wear them again after that, but I had already resigned myself to that eventuality. I found the sticky stuff in a store where I had previously been to search for sunglasses. Oh the joys of not knowing your way around! This whole process took me approximately 17 times longer than it would in the States.
An hour and a half and 2 purchases later, I decided to go to the food court for dinner. I know if I didn't it would be very late until I got home and I certainly wouldn't feel like cooking anything. So I headed to Pizza Hut/Taco Bell. Interesting combo, huh? I waited in line for about a year and contemplated my choices. I noticed that they sell French fries as a side for everything: pizza, tacos, burritos, what have you. So I ordered a taco and papas fritas supreme, which is basically your typical nacho toppings (cheese, beef, sour cream, tomatoes, and chives) but instead glopped over French fries. This truly was an experience I could not pass up. It wasn't all that bad, although I had to eat it with a fork since the fries had become relatively soggy. I also had the wonderful privilege of experiencing taco sauce drip down the inside of my sleeve. That was thrilling, let me tell you.
Finally I was off for my last purchase: the bongos. I knew right where to go and I headed there like I was on a mission...the first time the whole shopping trip. I walk in to the tiny store and up to the counter. They smile and ask how they can help me. I falteringly tell them I need guitar strings (of which I suddenly can't remember the word for, so I just point at them right in front of me and say "these"...I don't even read the word printed on the packaging right in front of me), and then I point to and ask for bongos. This I remembered the word for because it's "bongos" just pronounced differently. They kind of give me this odd look, and one guy gives a quick, odd grunt/chuckle...a gruckle, if you will. I could read their thoughts in their eyes, "What the heck is this gringa who can barely say what she wants in our language going to do with guitar strings and bongos??" And then their look of thinly veiled bewilderment intensifies as I choose my items--a fairly high quality set of bongos and then the cheapest guitar strings they have. I am at times an enigma in this country. :o)
I leave the mall toting my large, bright yellow bag with the long bongo box in it. I decide that my best bet is to stop by school on my way home to drop the bongos off. It would be very difficult to travel with it in the cattle herding that it my morning commute. So I take a slightly longer path home in order to pass the school. Even still I run into some human traffic and inadvertently collide my box with some heels of people crowding in too close. This doesn't last long, thankfully, and I have room to breathe. Well, I make my stop at school, which basically involves getting off the metro that would take me almost straight home, walking about 8 minutes to school, making a much needed bathroom stop (thank you, Starbucks), trading my bongos for my backpack filled to near overflowing with school papers and clean laundry (I'm doing laundry at school since we still haven't bought a washer for our apartment...and we'll never be able to fit a dryer in here as well, anyway), and making the 8 minute walk back to the metro. It may have been the longest 20 minutes of my life.
At 8 o'clock I trudge into my apartment, having for the last hour ignored my feet's announcements of their displeasure at every step. I peel off the burdens of bookbag, purse, coat, scarf, and shoes and collapse onto my bed, wishing at that moment that I had a massage therapist at my beck and call. After a few minutes I come to grips with the reality that this is, in fact, not the case. I give myself some time to regroup, then pull out Uncle Tom's Cabin to prepare for class tomorrow...not an easy book to read when you're tired! I took a break from work to write this lovely commentary, and now I will head back to work and begin writing a test.
Is it Friday yet??