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I would rather pick out my own food at the grocery store than have someone shop for me. So when Todd asked if I’d like to have our groceries stocked at our rental before we arrived for the week, I said, No, let’s go to that grocery store we found in Zihuatanejo last year, because it’s the little things that make a difference. Todd likes his pepper fresh ground, I like my olive oil virgin, and we both like our salt from the sea. Plus, it’s an opportunity to mix with the locals, and I love to shop.

The first aisle of the store is stocked with wine, followed by the bakery–grab some cheese and you could be out of there within minutes. But we will have a kitchen and I love to cook, so after loading up on wine we headed to the bakery. The big disc shaped metal trays and tongs at the counter are for self-service. I didn’t know this last year. I had walked up to the counter with an armful of bread and assorted pastries in filmy sheets of bakery paper. I hadn’t used my hands, really. Only Spanish is spoken in this store, so no words were exchanged. But the store assistant’s expression said a sermon.

This year I was going to get it right. When Todd started to reach for a loaf of bread, I ran over, “No no. Wait. We need a tray and tongs.” I found the trays behind bars at the counter where they wrap up your bakery for you, and waited to get the young man’s attention, while kicking myself for not having studied Spanish this past year. When he glanced my way, I raised an eyebrow and made a big O shape with my arms, held up the tongs, nodding, and pointed to the trays. His confused look told me we had not communicated. “Help self,” the woman behind me said, reaching through the bars and handing me a tray.

“Gracias…” I smiled weakly.

Todd was already off and running. He doesn’t like shopping and I finally gave up trying to stay together. He would appear now and then, but I spent a lot of time hunting down our cart to unload my arms. Now he was looking for raisins and I had lost him again. I was back at an aisle I had already been up and down a couple times in search of pasta–I don’t understand why pasta isn’t with the rice. There Todd stood between two store assistants in front of an entire aisle of rice. All three were studying the screen on the woman’s phone which was in Todd’s hands. She looked at the bag of rice I had been carrying around with me for quite a while, and motioned to the man who looked at her confused.

“Pasas!” Todd blurted out from Google Translate just then. 

“Pasas!” The man and woman said. 

Pasas! I thought. And they all three laughed. 

Pasas are raisons. They thought he had been asking for rice. So with a good supply of raisins, we headed to check out.

“This is why you take them up on their offer to shop and stock your fridge for you before you arrive,” Todd said after an hour and a half in the store. He looked pale.

I was organizing all the brightly colored fruits and vegetables into a nice display on the conveyor belt–I’d never seen such green avocados–when he said, “Pay for two bags of ice.” I asked for two bags of ice, pointing to the coolers he had set down behind the vegetables. “Dos bags of ice?” I held up two fingers. She smiled and nodded enthusiastically. I examined the three aluminum wrapped sticks of Mantaquilla that read, Sin Salt. “Honey, this is margarine. Butter comes in paper. And it says Sin Salt. I’m pretty sure with salt would say, con salt. We have unsalted margarine here.” Just then, I could tell I’d done something wrong. The cashier, Angelica, snapped her finger at the bagger named Jorge. I had a sudden deja vu. She handed him the containers of guacamole and salsa which should have been weighed and labeled in the meat department.

“I’ll take care of it,” I said grabbing the three sticks of margarine along with the two containers.

“Good luck finding your way!” I heard Todd ‘s voice behind me. 

I returned with the guacamole and salsa weighed and labeled, and a small block of butter that was identical to Todd’s sticks. It seems Mantiquilla is butter.

“That’s the same thing,” Todd had already paid for the groceries and was walking up to me with the receipt, but no bags of ice.

“I know. Where’s the ice?”

“We didn’t get charged for it. I think the cashier must have thought you were happy to be buying two coolers.

I paid for the guacamole and salsa, the Mantequilla Sin Salt and the two bags of ice–as I solemnly swore to study Spanish. We made a stop at the ATM for pesos and were on our way. It remains to be seen if the butter is salted, but we know that the water is. And for this and the butter, I give thanks. Cheers!

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