I ventured out, without much direction. I knew I wanted to be brave enough to order food from a street vendor with my broken Spanish, and I knew I wanted to go to Mercado Coyoacán. I stopped at the street stand a block from my house-finally after a week here-and surveyed what they had. It’s always crowded, which is a very good sign.
People were standing on the street eating away. They made tortillas on the spot, and were also making tortas. They had several meats, several salsas, lettuce, crema (better than our sour cream in the US, not sour), queso and onions. I got a quesadilla pollo with everything on it. While the two women cooked on a big steel plate over a gas burner, I talked to them and their children as much as I could in Spanish.
The little boy was sitting in an umbrella stroller and holding his mouth with a kleenex speckled in blood. He’d obviously just lost a tooth, and when I looked over, I saw the tiny thing in his big sister’s hand. I said, “pobrecito!” and tried to say congratulations (felicidades) but I couldn’t remember, so I said “bienvenido,” and the madres helped me out, correcting me kindly. He was acting stoic, but also pitiful, and kept showing his sister the blood. I asked if it was the first tooth he’d lost, but they said it was his third. They were over it, and the mamas kept rolling their eyes and smiling at me. Abuela was also there, asking me questions and smiling.
The big sister, I ascertained in Spanish, was 14, and the other girl was 15. They were acting teenagerish, like bored BFFs teens do in the summer, sitting on the little plastic stools in the street next to the taco cart, teasing the little boy mercilessly, and being exactly like every 14/15 year old I’ve ever known. The boy had just finished Kindergarten, or whatever they call it in Mexico, I don’t know. We connected immediately, but he wouldn’t talk to me, he told his sister what to say, and she told me.
I asked him if he liked school in Spanish. He was too shy. His big sister answered for him, and her mama and friend’s mama kept telling her to in Spanish to practice her English with me. Apparently the teenagers have an hour of English a day at school, and their Mamas were insisting they try. They didn’t speak a word of English with me the entire time, waving away the request with embarrassed faces. But they were fascinated by me, and kept talking with me. I told them I am a teacher of 5-6 year old students in US. I gave up saying Oregon days ago unless the person speaks any English. I say Norte California, and everyone knows what I mean. I told the mamas that I, too, have a 14 year old daughter. I smiled at them as if to say, “I GET YOU, ladies.” They were just trying to work, had kids out of school, and now the grunions are mucking up the works while they try to serve the lunch crowd.
I wanted to ask if they had a tooth fairy in Mexico, but even using translator, I had no idea if that would come across at all, so I didn’t attempt it.
I love connecting with real people, about real things, in real time. This was a truly great experience and made me really happy.
I came home after buying gifts for people at home at the market, and hung out for a few hours with another resident here at my house, Paulina from Paris. We just finally met today, but she’s been here a year. She’s Socrate the Cat’s mama. We had a great chat about all kinds of things. Another young traveler the same age as Piper, and also a film student and critic. She’s been here studying film and making film, and goes back to Paris the same day I go back to the US. Tomorrow she’s going to be my tour guide in the Zocalo and the Chapultepec Park.
When you’re ready to be open, dear reader, connections are everywhere.