On Sunday, April 5, 2009 (two weeks ago today), I attended my first all-Spanish church service. Mind you, I don't speak fluent Spanish. Mine is broken, at best. So why did I go to a Spanish church service, you might ask. Here's the deal: my cousin's bilingual fiance, who has relatives in Mexico, had agreed to go with Andre to show my mom and me Nuevo Progreso, Mexico on Sunday afternoon. However, Mom and I also wanted to hear Pierce play piano, and it just so happened that he was playing at a Mennonite Brethren church that week. The first service was in Spanish, and the second in English. Being somewhat pressed for time, we agreed to go to the earlier service, leaving time for Mexico in the afternoon.
As we walked into the church, we were greeted, in Spanish, and had no idea how to respond. I think I may have just said "gracias." Then, after being led down a corridor toward the double-doors of the main sanctuary, a youngish fellow appeared seemingly out of nowhere and asked, in English, if we were here for the English service.
Before anyone had time to think, my mom replied, "Yes!" enthusiastically.
Andre looked at us, puzzled. So I tried to fix the situation with, "No. Espanol," which, in retrospect, probably sounded like I was affirming that I, indeed, could not speak Spanish. This time, it was the boy who looked puzzled. I shrugged my shoulders and suggested we just go in and sit down, as we were 10 minutes late.
But that is another story.
So we made it in time to hear Pierce play "Levanto Mis Manos" and "Here I Am to Worship" in Spanish. Please don't ask me to translate that one. It was very nice. Between the four of us, we sort of got the gist of the sermon, and then were ready to leave. It had gone rather smoothly. Now, it was time for the road trip to Mexico.
We drove for a good length of time until we reached the border. Andre left the car in a parking lot and we crossed the Rio Grande on foot. As soon as we entered Nuevo Progreso, it occurred to me that I wasn't really up on my Spanish. Fortunately, we had Diego, who could act as interpreter.
I found myself using one Spanish phrase so frequently that it became second-nature: "Perdoneme." Nuevo Progreso was a bit crowded, and I was constantly in someone's way. "Perdoneme," I would apologize, seemingly under my breath, as my voice did not carry well in the overcrowded business districts.
After eating our tacos and this corn dish that was served in a cup, we headed back toward the border. But I was so disoriented that I thought we were going deeper into the city. When I saw the border station, I knew I was almost out of time for buying souvenirs, and I wanted at least a little something to bring home. So, Diego suggested that I visit one of his favorite shops that wasn't far away.
Mom and I decided on a few ceramics. Diego and Andre picked out a huge pinata. As Mom was paying for our gifts, I noticed she was speaking English. This was really annoying me because we were in Mexico, and Mom had minored in Spanish in college. The clerk did not seem pleased with her unwillingness to use Spanish. Finally, when the transaction was complete, and the clerk was handed Mom her receipt, I heard the words, "Muchas gracias" escape my lips. The clerk's whole countenance lit up, and he gave my mother and I a welcome smile.
For more tales of language, visit Sunday Scribblings
1 day ago