I had some time alone yesterday while Wilfredo took the 5am bus three hours north to Bucaramanga for some work. Mogotes was bustling when I walked outside mid-morning on a hunt for frosted banana bar ingredients. It was the first time I went wandering by myself which was slightly intimidating as the only gringa in town only until two houses on when everyone started to smile at me and say “buenas” a greeting that works at any time of day.
It was easy to find everything I needed in the small supermarcado – butter (which is strangely not refrigerated), flour, powdered sugar, regular white sugar, vanilla. The only thing I couldn’t find was baking soda. “Tiene bicarbonate de soda? “, I asked the woman. “Si,” she smiled, and reached behind the counter and produced a small clear, suspicious-looking, unlabelled plastic bag. I wouldn’t have believed her if I hadn’t seen it at Wilfredo’s house earlier and used it in my zucchini bread!
So I went over to visit Machin (above) then, one of Wilfredo’s good friends who runs an internet “cafe” (sans cafe). He greeted me with the a big smile and the one cheek kiss typical among close friends in Colombia then invited me in to play Shithead. After Shithead, he clobbered me in checkers and we went back to Shithead for a few more games.
My Spanish isn’t good enough yet to hold a full conversation the way I would like to, but I can generally get my point across, however grammatically incorrect it may be. I explained to Machin that I wanted to go find some flowers for Wilfredo’s mom. It’s her last day working at the school today before she closes the books for retirement. I also wanted to find some porridge and bottled water.
Machin volunteered to come along and show me which shops had everything I needed. First we went to buy flowers. They had fake flowers and they had two lilies and some red roses. I took the roses – 6 pretty, perfect, long stem roses. The woman wrapped the stems in a pretty red ribbon and curled the ends. When it was time to pay, I thought she said “treinta mil pesos” which would still be cheap (about $10), but when I took out that amount, she smiled and took a smaller note and said, “No, tres mil pesos.”
I bought 6 roses for a grand total of $1.63 (£0.99). Muy barato. It felt like stealing.
So we walked on and I filled more bags with more things. Couldn’t find porridge but I did see plenty of Cocoa Krispies and Fruit Loops and other cereal I was missing in London. I’m a bit skeptical about drinking the milk though as it’s straight out the cow, unpasteurized. Porridge is still on the list.
I did, however, buy 2 bottles of water, 6 pieces of tropical fruit, a tin of Milo, q-tips, pads, 2 sticks of butter, 2 bags of flour, a bag of sugar, baking soda and two more bags of icing sugar, plus the roses. Guess how much I spent all day? A whopping total of $15.47 (£9.63).
Plus, at one shop, they gave me a free piece of mint candy.
When I came home, the senora who cooks for Wilfredo’s family had a big hot juicy steak waiting for me for lunch.
Some español for today:
Muy barato: very cheap
Gringa: foreign girl