Saturday, September 8, 2007

The "Panaderia" Experience

So, now that we are more settled here in Mexico I have ventured out to the grocery store. A word of advice to all of you planning to visit and use your Spanglish, the word for groceries is NOT "groceria" (I know the spelling is WAY off.) but is some other phrase like "comida general" (general food)! I know this because I said I needed to go to get "grocerias"... and immediate laughter from all the Mexicans around me! Well, I found out that I had just told them that I needed to go get some bad words... so, don't use your Spanglish with that word! Use 'comida general'!

Well, I loaded up our mini-van (our 5th rental car while in Mexico) and my four children and I head off to buy 'comida general'. We get to the parking lot of Wal-Mart (yes,Wal-Mart is here as well) and successfully pull into a parking spot without assistance that requires a in Mexico many parking lots have official looking people that assist you in parking and once they point you into a parking spot they expect a tip and then upon leaving the store they will suppose that your rear-view mirror, your side mirrors and the large back window are not sufficient to assist you in backing out thus they will help you to back out and you will thus be expected to tip them again. But, I digress...

So, we get into Wal-Mart and as soon as I'm in the door I hear, "Son estos todos sus niños?" (Are these all your children?) "Si", I answer. The first time it isn't too bad. We go to the "Panaderia" where all the rolls, breads, donuts and pastries are out on shelves or in large, uncovered bins open to the general public - including curious children who pull their hands out of their mouths just long enough to touch some pastries before moving on and people with illnesses walking by sneezing! In this "Panaderia" you take a tray and some tongs - mind you the tray had been unwashed for who knows how long and the tongs as well - this is obvious due to the fact that there is a coagulating conglomerate of food on the end of the tongs and although I always try to get the cleanest ones there is always something growing on the tip! So, we get our tray and my children attempt to guess what the last people bought from all the crumbs, sugar and glaze left on the try until my daughter attempts to knock the crumbs off by hitting the large, metal plate against a large metal bar (that holds the coagulating tongs). Well, metal plate on a metal bar... you get the picture - my daughter has successfully recreated "The Gong Show" in the Mexican Panaderia at Wal-Mart. A sweet older lady walks up and asks, "Son estos todos sus ninos?" To which I simply nod. (What else do you do when you are the only person who remotely resembles these children?) So, I corral all the children and stuff some into the cart. As I go to turn the cart around I notice an older man drop some bread on the floor, pick it up, and toss it back into the uncovered bin oblivious to the infectious germs that just latched onto the food... the same bin that my daughters just got bread out of! I find myself wondering whether or not the vaccinations in the U.S.A. were enough to ward off the germs at the "Panaderia".

By this time we have spent about an hour in Wal-mart just trying to find food that does not contain jalapenos and that my children will eat. I have spent an hour in conversation similar to:

MOM: "What about this kids?" (Holding up a package of sugared doughnuts. The only sealed food in the area.)

DAUGHTER: "I'm sick of those can we get something else?"

MOM: "Ok, what about this?" (Holding up something that looks remotely tasteful and similar to a breakfast bread.)

SON: "Is that even healthy Mom? Can we just go to McDonalds?" (As if that is the epitome of healthy!)

MOM: "All right, how about these?" (Holding up the closest thing I could find to regular blueberry muffins.)

DAUGHTER: "Sure Mom, I'll get 'em with the tongs. Gimme the tongs (to another sibling)."

SIBLING: "No,I want to get mine first!"

DAUGHTER: "No, I'm getting mine!"

SIBLING: "No, mine! I have the tongs!"

DAUGHTER: "No you don't..." (Trying to wrestle the tongs out of her sister's hands.)

WAL-MART SHOPPER: "Son estos todos sus niños?"

MOM: (While trying to wrestle the coagluating, conglomerating tongs out of my children's hands - but, with a smile...) "Si, mis manos es occupado!" (Yes, my hands are fully occupied.)

WAL-MART SHOPPER: "Claro!" (Clearly.) Hmmm... I wonder how the woman meant that?

Finally, the family gets the muffin things onto the glaze, sugar crusted silver plate after the children have been threatened within an inch of having them work in the Wal-Mart parking lot directing traffic as penance. We grapple our way up to the "Panaderia" clerk and I hear, "Son estos todos sus niños? Es normal in Estado Unidos?" (Are these all your children? Is it normal in the United States?) At this point I just clench my teeth and smile as I have no earthly idea how to ask her is what normal in the United States? Four children? Siblings enacting a WWF Tournament in the middle of the bakery in the U.S.A.? or the entire "Panaderia" experience with the uncovered bins and people throwing food from the floor back into the bins? So, I simply just say, "Si, Gracias por tu patiencia." (Yes, Thanks for your patience.) That is the first stop of the trip to get "Comida General" - not "Groserias"... but, by the end of that trip I am sure I could have used some "groserias"! Thanks heavens my mother taught me better!


Jules said...

Love the story, Ang! Sounds like quite the adventure.

I had forgotten about all the "helpers" who open doors, carry baggage, "watch" your car for you, wash windows, or sell lottery tickets on the street in exchange (they hope) for your money. At least they don't just walk up and ask for money...they try to do something useful in exchange.

I loved the story about "groserias"...that's a classic! Missionaries always had to worry about sharing a "mensaje", not a "masaje", with the people!

Joyismygoal said...

You are too funny, I trust nobody got coagulation sickness? maybe just todos ninos sickness? Wow, would't they be suprised w/ my family of 10 Children. I love reading your adventures stop by mine when you get the chance. MarciaV.

Colette said...


That is hilarious. I can totally relate. I believe I have seen that exact pair of tongs in many other foreign grocery stores. Besides relating to the kid/sibling issues......

Anyway, for your benefit, I hear you can got lots of helpful medications over the counter there.....!!!!


Emily said...

I see the craziness now! You most certainly are not in America anymore! I can somewhat relate . . .not to the Mexican part, but the "out of the country" part. At least you have a Walmart! The closest thing I have is a "Cost U Less", which is on another island!

I have a good life said...

I am glad that we can comment again on your blog. We check it frequently. K wants to check it multiple times a day to get a glimpse of her BFF. How many unique experiences you are having! I've only 1/4 experienced by some of the places I've gone here in the US with J's family. I know exactly what you mean about the trays and the tongs, though....I guess Guate and Mexico aren't so different after all! :)

Are the girls in school yet? Do they like it?

txmommy said...

Hi Ballards!
How fun that you are blogging and we can have a peek at your adventures!
It sounds like you will come home with a lot of interesting stories and happy memories!

Anonymous said...

But think of how good your kids are going to be at soccer when you get back!

Hopefully, Jimmy can't find a racketball court in Mexico. If he did, I'd need some groserias.

~Rob U.