I will never forget the first time I entered a Mexican store as an eight-year-old and tried to buy something. It was after I had emigrated from the United States to Mexico. I had trouble with ordinary words, like asking to use the bathroom. I had to tell one of my older sisters to do it for me, because they knew more Spanish than I did.
One day, my dad sent me to the store to buy leche (milk). I had a very puzzled expression, so my sister slapped me across the head and said, “It’s milk, you retard.”
“Well, sorry, miss know-it-all!” I answered her back while rubbing my head.
As it turned out, my sister went for the milk.
A few months later, my grandma needed some stuff from the store. It seemed like she trusted my Spanish, because she didn’t send my sister.
“Bring me one pound of cheese and one liter of milk. Don’t forget,” she told me with this look on her face that said, Am I really sending her?
I started on my way to the store, repeating it in my head over and over: “One liter of milk and one pound of cheese . . .”
When I got to the store, though, I asked the lady at the counter, “Can I please have a kilometer of cheese and a pound of milk?”
She turned red, grabbed her stomach, and fell to the ground. I got really scared. I thought I had done or said something wrong, so I left.
When I got home, my mom said, “Where’s the stuff that we sent you for?” She sounded upset.
“I asked her for the stuff, and she turned red and fell to the ground. I got scared, so I left.”
“What did you ask for?’ she said in a curious way.
“For a kilometer of cheese and a pound of milk.”
“Ha, ha, ha! Don’t you think that’s enough cheese, kid? No one could find that much cheese in a store,” my uncle said.
Ten years have passed, and I am back in the United States. Whenever I call my grandma or uncle, they always ask me, “Are you done with that cheese you asked for?” I just laugh.
Now I know how Hispanics struggle when they come to the United States.
Janaly Farias is a GED and ABE student at the Area Adult Learning Center in Gaylord. Although born in the United States, she lived in Mexico during her middle childhood. Janaly works at Michael Foods/MN Pullet (producers of eggs and egg products) and enjoys drawing, listening to all types of music, spending time with friends, and playing soccer, tennis, and volleyball. She wants to get a baccalaureate degree so she can have a professional career. She is interested in being an interpreter.
Photo courtesy of Sharyn Morrow. Visit Sharyn’s photostream on Flickr.