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Keeping It In The Family Circle

, , , , , | Related | December 20, 2018

(I’m visiting my extended family for the holidays. Nobody bothered to get things ready for the upcoming party, so a handful of my relatives and I are hectic, running around the house, cooking and decorating. Since we’re so busy, my young cousin is left without supervision in the living room, and is currently drawing gigantic circles on the wall.)

Me: “[Cousin]! Look at this mess! You can’t just go and draw such big circles on the walls!”

Cousin: “Sowwy…”

(I leave and come back sometime later. He’s still drawing circles, but this time, they’re the size of pennies.)

Me: “[Cousin], stop that! Your dad will be mad!”

Cousin: “Okay.”

(I left and came back yet again. He was nowhere to be seen, but he’d left a message on the wall. It read, “Don’t be mad, Daddy.”)

Bigotry Is Ugly In Any Language

, , , , , , , | Friendly | December 11, 2018

My friend and I are taking the subway. We are both Mexicans and both look like Mexicans, but my friend asked me to talk to him exclusively in Mandarin, in which I’m fluent, so that he can practise.

A middle-aged woman gets on the subway and stares, giving us a strange look. I think nothing about it since it’s not common to hear a conversation in Mandarin in a Mexico City subway.

Suddenly, she suddenly says, quite loudly, in Spanish, “D*** Chinese. They’re everywhere! They come, open a restaurant, exploit their Mexican employees, and take all of our money back to China; they don’t even try to learn Spanish.” Then she goes, “Ching chang chun li,” trying to imitate Chinese.

My friend and I begin to laugh, which only makes her get angrier and turn blood red.

I respond to her, in Spanish, “Ma’am, we’re both Mexicans, and most surely can speak better Spanish than you do!”

A few people on the subway laugh really hard. The woman turns an even brighter shade of red and suddenly remembers she has to get off at the next station.

This story is part of our Subway roundup!

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Read the Subway roundup!

Hopefully She Isn’t Teaching Money Management

, , , | Learning | November 23, 2018

(I’ve been hired to teach English in a Mexican school. The school is clear that pay will be low and we will not be able to pay down US debt on our salaries. I’m talking to a new hire, a middle-aged woman.)

Woman: “I’m going to have real trouble paying my mortgage on this pay.”

Me: “You know, the documentation they sent us said not to come here if we had debts.”

Woman: “I don’t have debts. I have a mortgage.”

(She was later fired for chronic absenteeism.)

Forget Wine, We Can Turn Water Into Guacamole

, , , | Right | November 21, 2018

(My parents and I are on vacation in Mexico. We go to a local supermarket to get some groceries, and also to get back a deposit on a ten-liter jug of water my mom bought the week before I arrived. My mom drags me over to the desk to help with translations, as she doesn’t understand or speak Spanish at all.)

Mom: *returns jug to customer service cashier, speaking in English* “I’m here to collect my deposit on this jug.”

(I translate roughly.)

Cashier: *in Spanish* “There is no deposit on water. You don’t even need to return this jug.”

(I’m struggling with translating as we go.)

Mom: “What? But when I bought this jug of water, the man who sold it to me assured me there was a deposit that I could get back if I returned the jug!”

Cashier: “I don’t know who you talked to, but we don’t charge a deposit on water. If you wish to leave the jug with us, we’ll take it, but there’s no deposit to be returned.”

Mom: “Then tell me why I was charged 40 pesos for this water on top of what I paid!”

Cashier: “There is no deposit on water. You can’t have been charged 40 pesos for a deposit. The water is only about 20 pesos. That doesn’t make sense.”

Mom: “No, I know I paid that deposit! I looked at the receipt carefully. The man told me there was a deposit, and I want that deposit back now that I’ve returned the jug!”

Cashier: “We don’t charge deposit on water jugs here. I’m sorry, but we never have.”

(This goes on for a while. Finally, I just want to end it.)

Me: “Mom, can you just show her the receipt? Just to prove that you paid that deposit.”

(Mom fishes it out and gives it to me.)

Mom: “See?! There. Show her. It’s the second line item. Under the line item for the water!”

(I look at the receipt. At the top, it says, “[Brand] agua, 10L — 26 pesos,” and then the next line, “Aguacate – especiale — 40 pesos.” I lean over to show it to the cashier, and as I do, I remember what ‘aguacate’ means.)

Me: “Um, Mom? That says, ‘aguacate.’”

Mom: “Right! ‘Agua’ means water! I know that much. ‘Especiale’ means special! Special price for the deposit!”

Me: *feeling a headache coming on* “No, Mom. ‘Aguacate’ means ‘avocado.’ Did you buy a bunch of avocados when you shopped here last week? And were they on sale?”

Mom: “I…!” *she pauses* “Oh, yeah! So, ‘aguacate’ doesn’t have anything to do with that water?”

Me: “No.” *turns to the cashier* “Lo siento!” *I’m sorry.* “Muy, muy… Um… lo siento.”

(I walked away, leaving my mother there to sputter her own apologies to the tightly-smiling cashier.)

What’s The Chinese Word For “Owned”?

, , , , , | Friendly | November 19, 2018

(My friend is a very attractive woman who likes to dress nicely, but when this happens she has been going through a rough patch. She’s not wearing nice clothes, nor wearing any jewellery or makeup. She also has red, swollen eyes from crying. I’m taking her to have dinner at her favourite restaurant to cheer her up, when a group of Chinese girls gets on the same bus we’re riding and stands right in front of where we’re sitting. I have been studying Chinese for four years. This takes place in Chinese.)

Chinese Girl #1: “Oh, God… Look at that girl in the black shirt. She looks awful.”

Chinese Girl #2: *laughs* “Yeah… Why did she go out like this? She’s so ugly.”

Chinese Girl #1: “Look at her friend, though. He looks nice.”

Chinese Girl #3: *to me* “Hey, handsome. Don’t pay attention to that ugly girl. Come with us.”

(They all begin to laugh, thinking no one has understood anything they’ve said.)

Me: *in Chinese* “No, thanks. Being with her, what would I need someone like any of you for?”

(The three girls stared at me before one of them asked if I understood all that they said. I nodded, and they all turned a bright red colour I never even knew people could get. They moved to the back of the bus and tried to avoid eye contact with me.)