Phyllis, Kathi, and I are preparing for the Christmas posada for the old folks in Nestipac, Jocotepec, Jalisco, which is to take place this upcoming Wednesday, 11 December 2013. Kathi has done an inordinate amount of work on this since Phyllis has been extremely busy working on a new edition of her late husband Georg Rauch’s book, The Jew With the Iron Cross (http://www.amazon.com/The-Jew-Iron-Cross-Survival/dp/0595379877), and writing and giving a speech at the international book fair held annually in Guadalajara (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guadalajara_International_Book_Fair), and I’ve been my usual lackidaisical self.
But somehow, as in years past, things seem to falling into place, and we’re all delighted about it. Our local gringo friends have once again come through for us in the form of donations of money and blankets and clothing, and our Mexican friends are giving their time, talents (dancing and music), and skills (in the form of making atole and tamales to feed the crowd).
Yesterday it was my turn to make my contribution to the posada. I had volunteered to provide all the “paper products” for the event. This included styrofoam plates and cups, napkins, and large trash bags. Easily enough done, of course, but, by volition, done with a Mexican flair. Instead, for example, purchasing the cups and plates at Costco last week when Kathi and I were up there, we elected to purchase them from a Jocotepec vendor. Good for the local economy and, it turns out, a real-life example of trickle-down economics.
So yesterday, Sunday, I set out to purchase what we needed. Kathi had told me about an abarrote that had what I needed and away I went. I took it as an excellent sign when I found a half-legal parking spot right on the corner next to the shop. By “half-legal” I mean that Stormy the truck was half in a yellow no-parking zone, and half in a white parking zone. (And you know I’m all about the “signs.”)
By all standards, this should have been a rather mundane activity, but it turned out to SO not be one. Here’s what I wrote to my friend Ed about it this morning. Enjoy!
Yesterday morning, about 8am, I went over to a little abarrote to purchase the styrofoam plates and cups that we need for the posada (we serve atole and homemade tamales, one pork tamale, one tamale dulce). Phyllis, my friend who “runs” the whole thing, said that we needed about 175 of each. We had some left plates left over from last year, but my contribution this year is to purchase all the “paper products” that we need.
And since I like giving the local folks some business, instead of buying the things at Costco last week, I went over to the abarrote that my friend Antonio re-did for some folks a couple of months ago. (Wheels within wheels within wheels…..and the real ‘trickle down’ economics at work.) When I walked in, the guy working there dropped everything to wait on me, even though there was a young Mexican couple in front of me. ”No, no,” I told him, “I am second. Please take care of these folks first.” And so he did.
He disappeared into the back room and came out with a large baggie of absolutely clear liquid. I could NOT figure out what it was, so I asked the young man what was in the bag. ”Vinegar?”, I asked him. He laughed and said “No, it’s alcohol.” Now I know for a fact that nobody buys rubbing alcohol in a plastic baggie and when he said it was “for cinnamon” I knew exactly what he was going to do with it. It was for a pajarete. (Google it if you don’t know what that means.) I’m thinking now that maybe the abarrote owner and/or the young couple thought I would be offended by it for some reason, which is why the owner wanted me to go first.
Anyhow, having taken care of the young couple, the owner came back to me and asked me what I needed. I pointed at the 12-ounce styrofoam cups (25 per sleeve) and told him that I needed seven sleeves. The cups were on the very top shelf, so the owner got out a stick and started knocking them down into his hands, then laying them on the open containers of spices and nuts that he also sells. That being done, I told him that I also needed three 50-count packs of rectangular plates. Well, actually, I didn’t tell him that since I don’t have a clue how to say rectangular in Spanish, so I had to use hand gestures to indicate what I wanted.
At first he didn’t seem to understand and knocked down some bowls and then some divided plates. I finally wised up and said “they are for tamales” and the light above his head came on and he knocked down the three packets of what I wanted. (Now, mind you, this is all being conducted in my atrocious Spanish, so it’s not going too fast.)
Having received what I wanted, we bundled the stuff over to the checkout counter (and I use the term loosely) and he proceeded to look up the prices and add up what I owed him on the calculator. He did this several times and I thought maybe he was having trouble finding the price for the 12-ounce cups since they also sell 8-ounce and 16-ounce cups. But, no, that wasn’t the problem. Finally satisfied with the total, he looked at me and said, very solemnly, “es mucho dinero.” I momentarily panicked since I had not asked the price of anything and I only had about 500 pesos on me.
But he slowly turned the calculator around and showed me the total price….a little less than 160 pesos (about $12US). So I whipped out a 100-peso note and three 20-peso notes and he looked so relieved. Honestly, I think he was fretting more about having to come up with change at that hour on a Sunday morning than he was about the ‘high price.’ Because gringos around Lake Chapala (although not so much in Joco) often thoughtlessly throw out 500-peso notes willy-nilly in all sorts of little shops. I think he was just thrilled to see my small bills and handle my “large order.”
Have I told you lately how much I love Mexico