Cultural Challenge #62: Errands

A rumored photo of Victoria's study area

A rumored photo of Victoria’s study area

Dear Spain, why must you thwart my every move?!

Sound dramatic? Yeah…it is….

I have recently come to the point in my transition to life in Spain where certain items I brought with me from the States are running out. You know, those little things you took for granted but are actually playing a semi vital role in your life. Well, a couple of weeks ago I came to the realization that in order to complete a project I am working on I need some post its. After leaving my makeshift office to search for the goods, I began to see that post its might be a hot commodity here. I first checked the house’s “procura”- that wonderful room of hygiene and personal products with the extra shampoo and soap, a calendar from 1998, razor blade refills but no razors, deodorant cream (it’s even worse than it sounds) and sometimes, if you’re lucky, panty hose in your size. But, while I found delightful little squares of paper with a picture of Our Lady in the corner, they didn’t stick, defeating the purpose that I needed them to fill. (And there isn’t much tape in the house either, so whichever way I went, I was going to have to buy something). So I took advantage of a break in my schedule at the University run my errand.  

As I walked down the street it hit me again- wait… I’m not in the US and I can’t just walk to Target or Wal-Mart….Hmmm. So I thought, ‘there’s that little convenience store on the corner called “Dia”, let’s give that a shot’. I walk a couple blocks and around the corner to Dia and head in. I see a small salad bar, diapers, a leg of jamon Serrano, wine, eye shadow, perfume, deodorant (not in cream form), but no post-its….bummer. ‘Ok, well, I passed that little farmacia on the way, I bet they have some. Just like CVS or Walgreens, right?’ Wrong! As I made my way to the pharmacy I started feeling my American-ness and thought maybe I should have given myself more than 45 minutes to do this. At the pharmacy I was surprised to see a Dr. Scholls display but dismayed at once again, not finding post its. I then take a giant leap leaving my pride behind and go to ask the clerk where I can find some. Her taken aback expression caught me off guard,  leaving me wondering if I actually did use “usted” instead of “tu”, if she was offended by my use of “usted” (but she is obviously at least twice my age), or if there is a Spanish translation of post it  that I am unaware of. Papel con adhesivo? She promptly lets me know that a pharmacy is not the place to find my treasure (silly American, you have been crippled by convenience and on demand office supplies).  I asked where I need to go and am told “la papeleria” (duh! The PAPER store! Why didn’t I think of that?). Upon asking where I can find such a place I receive an emphatic “booff!”- a Spanish expression letting the listener know that such a request, theme, whatever- is very difficult if not impossible or at least more demanding than expected; a sound reminiscent of having the air knocked out of you, “booff”.  She asks her coworker for help who also responds with a “booff” (uh-oh, double booff). They tell me where they think one is but it’s pretty far away, and I am out of time; so I have to abandon my efforts for the day.

Walking back to the University to collect my backpack and go to Spanish class (where I double checked my use of “usted”) I laughed aloud at how I approached running errands. The entire event was both hilarious and revealing. I wanted to be able to walk into just about any store, find what I need and get out. Isn’t it amazing how something quite little can become a big deal when it’s outside your normal boundaries, and bring out the best and worst in us at the same time? It’s wonderful. I have a certain way of thinking and working but cannot and should not approach a different culture, country or person expecting them to fit inside the pre-made box I have for the world, no matter how spacious  that box may seem to me. I have to get to know them, meet them on their terms, go to the fringes of my worldview and see what God has created there. That can be quite hard or even scary, but isn’t that just what He did for us? Pouring Himself into our form, taking on the form of a slave though He is God? (Phil 2:11)

From the desire of making everyone and everything like me or the way I think it should be, Lord Jesus free me.



About Victoria O'Donnell

Victoria is from Cincinnati, OH and studied for a BS in psychology at Northern Kentucky University for three years when she discovered that God was calling her to discern consecrated life in Regnum Christi. She is currently studying at Universidad Eclesiástica San Dámaso. Her favorite catholic bloggers are Simcha Fisher, Fr. Robert Barron and anyone on RC live.
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One Response to Cultural Challenge #62: Errands

  1. Juan-Luis says:

    (NOTE: I’m laughing in loud voice in Spanish)
    Why do you think a pharmacy is a good place to buy some post-its?
    Dia is good guess, but a pharmacy?? At least you didn’t go to a bank or a laundry… XD
    A paper store. Is not so far….
    Next time, just ask your spanish sisters… Or classmates. XD

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