I’m not sure why (neither are those who live here), but up until today, everyone in Chile has been incredibly nice and hospitable to me. For example:

  • The day after I arrived, two teenagers came up to warn me about a street ruse on the next block to watch out for as not to fall for their trickery. (“Some girl will say she’s in college and ask for money. She’s a liar.”)
  • The next day, a young lady approached me on the street, where I was standing wide-eyed and quite lost, and asked if she could help me find something.
  • And yesterday, a man working behind the counter in a stationery store remained calm and patient while I desperately tried to string together a group of words to say, “Do you sell notecards?” (In case you’re wondering, they don’t.)

And the list goes on and on. Really, I don’t think I’ve set foot in a nicer country. That is, until today when I stopped to grab a bite to eat at a place called Castaño, which is what I can only describe as a kind of Chilean 7-11 but only for bread and other baked goods.

I walked right in and headed straight for the counter. I knew exactly what I wanted as I’d eaten the same snack for the last two days.

Buenos tardes!” I said. “Una empanada de pino, por favor.”

The woman just looked at me deadpan before saying something incredibly fast and Chilean that I couldn’t understand.

No entiendo. ¿Puedes repetir, por favor?” I asked still smiling to demonstrate that while I am a gringa, at least I’m a pleasant one.

She then said something else but even faster.

Uh…no entiendo…” I said, this time more nervous than the last.

Then something kind of weird happened. She just started laughing. Cackling even. And, like, really loud. It was so ridiculouslou that the other customers began to stare. I’m still unsure if it was something I said or something I didn’t say that was so funny, but whatever it was, it was awkward (which, apparently there is no single Spanish word for, unless my usage of “awkwardo” catches on…).

In the end, this bizarre woman gave me my delicious empanada, which I decided to take to-go midway through said awkwardo interaction, and I scurried off with my proverbial tail between my lily-white legs.

Now this may all sound sorta sh*tty, but that’s not necessarily so. Hear me out: If the sick-puppy theory holds true and people only act especially nice when you appear totally helpless, this turn of unpleasant events may actually indicate that my Spanish is really coming along. That is, I’m no longer totally dependent on others to have mercy on me. I can sense for myself if I’m being tricked; I can find my own way around town; I can put together enough Spanish words to buy supplies and eat! What this adds up to is that I no longer give off an aura of complete and total idiocy, which means people don’t have to treat me like I’m special! (Even though I am.)

Indeed, this is wonderful!

I can’t wait till someone kicks me in the face. Then I’ll know I’m really fluent.

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