Gracias and Gratitude
The first morning in San Pancho, Mexico, I walked down to the corner cafe, a one room affair with two French doors open onto the street so that it feels like a covered porch, to buy a cup of coffee. Inside, there is a small counter, behind which a girl of about twenty-five is making coffee and espresso drinks while scraping the batter for lemon pound cake (a house specialty ) off the beaters of a hand mixer. Behind her, a little wall oven bakes banana muffins that fill the whole neighborhood with their sweet scent. It's a busy place. Free internet means visitors sit on the stoop, or a nearby bench, or one of the few little rickety chairs checking email or the news from home --Canada, the US, Germany, France.--
I say, "Cafe con leche, por favor," and she smiles, and then speaks in rapid-fire Spanish to her helper, who says something back to her I can't understand.
"Muchas gracias," I add, figuring it's always good to say thank you.
She holds up two different sized cups and says something in Spanish that I assume is related to how much coffee I want. I point to the smaller cup. She smiles and says, "Regular?"
"You speak English." (Did I just say that? Duh. Still, it's so confusing not knowing what the people around you are talking about that it throws you off balance.)
"Yes," she says, smiling. (I could hug her for the kindness.)
"Thank you-- gracias-- si, I mean, yes, uh, por favor. Bueno?" ---And we both laugh.
"Oh, you are very welcome," she says and before I ask, explains, "I went to school in California for a few years."
I thanked her again, and praised the coffee- it was muy bien-- and as I sipped it on my way to the beach, made my first New Year's resolution: to learn to speak Spanish a whole lot better before I return to Mexico next year, so that I can return her courtesy by speaking her language (almost) as well as she speaks mine.