Wednesday, 23 February 2011

A book on Spanish, por favor.

Everywhere we go people have been more than patient with us and happy to listen to our version of the Spanish language.  Yesterday I went out job hunting and Talluah went down to El Plan (the flat part) to do some grocery shopping.  She was sitting on the fountain at Plaza Anabel Pinto and two middle aged business men got up from their seats and made a real effort to strike up a conversation with Talluah and the girls.  They tried to fill any gaps with English and Talluah was reminded how welcoming Valpo is.

My work clothes have been rolled up in the bottom of the suitcase for the past three weeks.  As yet we don’t own an iron.  Talluah, beautiful and ever resourceful pulled out the trusty GHDs and ironed my shirt and pants.

Up the road from us is the children’s library.  A typical grand old building with a front door that has been patched as old locks are removed and new locks installed.  We’ve walked past it a few times and Karen has told us about it too.  Talluah needed to inspect the inside of her eyelids so we decided it was a good time for Indiana, Truce and I to go for an expedition.  

Somehow, the lady who opened the door for us gathered that we weren’t Chilean and asked what language we spoke.  I told her English but also asked that she only spoke Spanish to us, especially the girls.  There were three other parents with their kids there.  There was a box with about twenty English books in it for kids and the rest is Spanish.  Fair enough.  The front room held the books and the rear had puzzles, a railway set and other toys.

The mothers there engaged me in conversation and I managed to offend the librarian’s granddaughter when I asked her if a particular child was hers.  She replied in English, “I’m sixteen.”  Yes this was a perfect opportunity to claim my meaning was lost in translation but I had asked the question several different ways that there was no way to back out of it.  Open mouth – change feet.  I think the only thing that saved me was that I hadn’t resorted to mime.

It turns out, this two roomed library is the children’s library for Valpo.  I think I could have done a stock take of the books in an hour.  Part of the reason we came to South America was to learn to appreciate what we have in Australia.  One thing we have learnt on this trip is what is truly important to the children.  When we were preparing for this trip we told the kids that Christmas would be a “doing Christmas” because we didn’t want to have to pack or store any presents.  The kids have only been allowed to bring a few colouring pencils, a colouring book and a packet of Bendaroos (Google them – they’ve kept Indiana busy for the last three weeks).  The girls love this trip – not because of the sights or food or any toys.  They’re happy because they’ve had us solid for the last few weeks.  Valpo can’t compare to having two parents on tap all day.

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