The language "barrier" can often be used in my favor. Today, I walked into La Bodegona (what I call "the everything store") in Antigua wearing my backpack. Now, I often have a messenger bag which I take in there, pretend is my purse, and never hear a word about, but I didn't bring it on this trip just because it wasn't the most effective use of the allowed space on the plane (and I didn't have room to cram it in any of my bags). So, yes, I nonchalantly wander past this sign which literally says (in Spanish) "NO BACKPACKS! [and some other things which weren't important for me to take note of]" because I really didn't want to carry on me everything of value in that backpack...nor did I want the backpack to mysteriously vanish while I was in the store. However, for me there is a real language barrier of sorts which bit me in the behind three times today (and really had/has me seriously considering the 3 months instead of 6+).
It all started first thing this morning. I woke up and decided to tackle some e-mails before breakfast. Breakfast is generally at 8; so I was up at 7 typing away on the computer. The only window in this room I am currently in points due east; so, despite being heavily covered, there is a good amount of light in the room at that hour. I had no reason to turn on additional lights. 8 am rolls around and then 8:15, and I'm not hearing any sounds of breakfast preparation. So, around 8:30, I wander out to see what is going on. As I leave the room, the teacher of the Peques notices me and says (in Spanish) "You got up?" and I'm thinking, "Obviously, I got up, lady. I'm not still laying down sleeping. I'm even dressed for the day," but later as I'm going about my business, I start hearing murmurs about the lazy gringa who sleeps in very late in the morning. Apparently, the teacher had meant "Did you just wake up?" and my "Si" ("Yes") started a bunch of lovely rumors.
The second event happened later. Daniel and I went into Antigua. We needed to drop of the four remaining folks from the Melia Family Foundation group at the Candelaria. Then, I needed to do some shopping and go to the post office and bank while Daniel talked to the people at the University. He knew what he would have to do would take about an hour, and I wasn't sure how long my errands would take, but I didn't figure they would take more than an hour. I showed him the phone number inside the back of the volunteer phone (more about Christina's phone in a second), and he programmed it into his phone. I told him to give me a call when he was ready, and I'd let him know where I was at. So, I ran my errands (including the earlier mentioned shopping trip) and wandered to the central park to wait for Daniel since I hadn't yet heard from him. (He had told me the university was near the center of Antigua.) Well, it seems that that phone has been reprogrammed, and the number printed in the back is no longer the correct number for the phone; so, when Daniel tried to call me to meet up, he couldn't reach me. After waiting for him for an hour past when I expected to hear from him, I flipped through the directory of the volunteer phone and found an entry which read "Daniel." I sent a text message letting him know I was in the central park whenever he was ready. An hour after that, I got a phone call from Estuardo asking me where I was, that Daniel was looking for me. And when we finally got back to the Hogar, all I heard was "Daniel was looking for you for two hours. He was about to just leave you there and come back. He couldn't reach you and had no money for food; so he was hungry." Well, seriously, don't you think I was hungry too? I had asked Daniel before he dropped me off if we would be eating lunch in Antigua, and he said yes. In fact, I had been planning on buying him lunch to thank him for painting something on the walls of my new room (which he hasn't yet done but said he would do); so I had been waiting all that time to eat! Regardless, I felt treated like an errant child when it was a simple problem of neither of us having the correct number for the other (and me not thinking to ask him for his number as well in case I needed to reach him).
The third event happened shortly after we got back. I had been loaned a key to the carpentry shop a few days ago so I could get paint to paint my bathroom. Instead of just loaning me his whole set of keys so I could run to open the shop and bring the keys back, I was given a single key on a rope, and Raul told me something about Ana Maria. At the time, I thought he told me that the key was hers and that I was to give it back to her when I was done. Considering how he usually let me borrow his whole set of keys, this change in behavior made sense if the key belonged to someone else. So, today when he asked me where it was, I said that I had given it to Ana Maria. This set a bit of a buzz (especially since Ana Maria would not be back until the next day at least), but I was about at my wits end of being blamed for things by then; so I just went to my room and got Estuardo the TIGO stick so he could check the Hogar's e-mail, and then Karen set me to work on some task she couldn't have the boys do since it dealt with expired single-use injection needles.
Anyway, I quietly cried most of the way through the needle task, and Christian Josue (Colocho) asked me what was wrong. I told him I was having a bad day because of mis-communications. So, he has taken it upon himself to teach me Spanish. He is starting ridiculously easy, with teaching me letters and sounds (which I actually seem to know better than he does). I really need to tell him that that just isn't going to help. What I need to work on is listening to and understanding directions...and being able to ask questions when I am not sure I understand.
Some directions I did understand were given to me tonight. (Although, they were partly in English; so perhaps that is cheating.) Tomorrow morning, I am supposed to go to the school to take pictures of some of the boys as they graduate from first grade. Julio, Christian, and Gabriel(?) will all dress up in caps and gowns. It is too early in the morning for Karen to get here in time to take pictures, and cameras are a little scarce. Pre-graduation mass is at 7 am; I had best set an alarm!