The day really started when I got back to Izucar de Matamoros after attending a graduation in Puebla. Despite busing into Puebla, cabbing around the city, having margaritas with our Brazilian style lunch and walking around until we caught a bus home… it simply did not compare to the evening with my 9 year old tour guide, ALEXA!
We have been using Google Translate to communicate for the last two nights. We both love the color green, we have fun dancing and we appreciate one another’s patience while an iPad regurgitates our foreign words into digestible phrases.
Alexa asked me what I wanted to do and as I spoke in, the iPad lady spoke out “Quiero caminar”, I want to walk. Her face grew big with dimples keeping it from popping. She quickly hit the Spanish button and spoke quickly into our translator “Can I come with you?!” I was hesitant just because I imagined this time alone. But I quickly adjusted and answered without our device “Si!”
We left the compound and set out into the bustling town. It only too ten steps from the door for us to try and speak to one another. Our faces saddened when we realized that without wifi, there is no google translate. We fumbled with our words. Me trying to remember how to say “slow down” and her repeating phrases over and over again but her foot stomping harder each time and us both blankly staring. I just started laughing which she promptly mimicked, her laughter made me know we were speaking the same language at that point. “VAMOS!”
We went through the open market quickly. I would stop to take a photo and then she would yell for is to be on our way again. She would say something to me and I would stare blankly. I would laugh, she would laugh and we would start running again. We hit the street with traffic coming and her arm flung out in front of my body. I knew what she was saying, “wait, now this way” despite saying nothing at all. The whistle blew and before you knew it we were inside the Mercado across the street. She would point to things and say their name is Spanish, “fruto, chilies, pollo, pan!”
Occasionally I would pull on her arm non-verbally asking her to “wait!” She would turn and I would point “que?” She would look at me and look at the vendor and say something to prompt a sample, then I would yell “gracias!” as we ran through the crowded corridors of food and goods and people.
We got to the cheese lady and a little girl pops out from behind the counter. Alexa starts saying things I can’t understand and I continue to smile naively. They both grab my hands and we head back out to the street screaming “ZOCALO, ZOCALO!” as the crowd parts for us.
Alexa points out “farmacia, zappatos, foto?!” I remember there were things I needed and I start to pretend brush my hair. They both scream and jump and laugh “CABELLA!!!” On the way there though I remember I need a needle and thread so we pop into the fabric store. They immediately inform the clerks while pointing at me “no habla espanol!” Again I start gesturing, this time as if I were sewing saying “needle? thread?” “AGULA! HILO! en casa!” I insist on buying it there. The process became daunting and I was grateful these two little ladies whose combined age is barely over half my life span were guiding me through basic societal norms.
If these were any other tour guides I can’t imagine them having the patience with me. I rolled my hands down my body to mimic a dress and pointed to a fashion store. Their faces were overwhelmed with joy. “Vestido!” We walked through the store holding up silly outfits as they took the opportunity to continue lessons of their native tongue “vestido, pantalones, falda, blusa.” “Foto?!”
Again they helped me through another fumbled purchase.
We ran out of the store laughing and yelling behind us “gracias! Buenes tardes!” With incredible instinct Alexa flung her arm out in front of me except this time Estrella, her assistant, did the same. We stood at the street where no cars were coming and I realized their protective instinct was just habit for them.
At that moment I look up to see English graffiti in this tiny Mexican town. I give Alexa the camera and run across the street with Estrella. I say “MODELO!” We strike a pose.
We finally make it to the zocalo, the fountain is not on so we grab a snack, snap some photos and continue to evade the looming presence of male eyes. I decide I need to get flowers for my uncle and his wife since their wedding is tomorrow. I point to the ground and mimic a flower opening with my hands. I say “bonito?!” They look at one another and discuss it over. Both young ladies look at me proudly “FLORES!” A new mission.
Before we head out for flowers we very sneakily enter a church during service. Before we go in I ask Alexa by rubbing my hands over my shoulders if I should cover my tattoos. She asks me if I need a sweater I think and we both remember some things aren’t worth trying to understand. We try not to giggle or chew too loud while the sermon goes on. We admire the beauty and snap a selfie before giggling our way out.
We stop by the ladies I bought yarn from the evening before and ask them where flowers may be. We ask the cheese lady as we back track through the Mercado. We don’t see a store but we start to see people with flowers just walking through the crowded streets. All three of us asking “Flores?!” People point and we continue in that direction, we are running until we start to see more and more people with flowers, “Flores?!” We yell with jubilant smiles. They keep pointing but now it’s becoming clear, they are pointing to the church!
As if our whole day was leading up to this one moment. Like children on a scavenger hunt running through the city with only simple clues and riddles. I start to cry. These two girls won’t let go of me jumping up and down screaming “FLORES! FLORES! FLORES!” Gasping and laughing. We aren’t at a store. We are at a long precession of people heading up to the alter of a church to lay flowers they have purchased from people lining the walls of the church.
A woman makes change for my 20 pesos and we continue to stop at every stand dropping a peso into a bucket and taking a flower. Occasionally we would give a peso for a religious photo or some pan, but mostly we just gathered our bouquet.
On the way home we found five florists, but that just wasn’t meant to be.