A short story...
So, my camera that I came down here with has been acting funky lately...perhaps it didn't like being dropped, I don't know. Regardless, I'm not going to live in this beautiful country without being able to document it, so off to purchase a new photographic device I went.
It was recommended I go to an electronic store in the nearby mall, Photo Japon. Me and my limited Spanish have no problem going grocery shopping and the art fairs, but the Colombians make a big deal about purchasing electronics, even lamps. (Actually, when you buy a light bulb they take it at the register and go test it to make sure it works.) Therefore, I was little nervous. So, nervous actually, that purchasing a camera took two attempts.
The first one went like this (all in Spanish):
Store Clerk: How are you?
Me: Good. Thank you.
Store Clerk: blah blah blah...(probably can I help you find something?)
Me: [with charades] Just looking. Thank you.
Store Clerk: blah blah blah camera?
Me: Yes. This is a camera.
Store Clerk: (looks at me and smiles)
Me: Thank you. [And at this point I run out of the store.]
Three days later, I decided to try again. This time I practiced a few key phrases to better prepare myself.
I walked in, was greeted by a clerk and proceeded through a similar conversation, although this time there was no retreating. I choose a camera I wanted and told the clerk "I would like to buy this camera." Then I somehow turned into Julie Roberts in "Pretty Woman" because the clerk repeated the price to me three times. The first was as a statement, the second time as a question, and there third with much skepticism. There could have been an eye roll.
I'm feeling pretty good at this point as I reach the register and give the cashier my bank card. She asks me something and I just say "yes" because sometimes it is easier that way. (She was cute so if she propositioned me and I didn't know it, I'd be okay with it.) Then I had to sign the receipt, as is common practice in North America. I handed it back and she told me I needed to fill in my phone number. I then realized that I did not know my phone number. (I do now though!) I also realized I didn't know the verb "to forget" so I attempted to act it out. She was cute, but I would not want her on my team for charades, I'll tell you that much.
She disappeared inot the back room and brought out the manager. He spoke about as much English as I speak Spanish. The conversation went like this:
Manager: Hi. What is you telephone number?
Me: I know. I forgot it. [again with the acting]
Manager: What is hotel telephone number?
Me: No no no...I live here. I live in Cali.
Manager: What is the name of hotel?
Me: No. I live here. Yo vivo en Cali. Soy profesoro en Cali. Yo vivo aqui.
Manager: Okay. [walks away to back room]
A minute later I am wondering if they are just going to hide from me until I give up and leave when the cashier girl cames out with an ink pad and the receipt. I am then fingerprinted and given my camera. I'm glad they have my index finger print on file. That way if the money doesn't go through they can hunt me down by showing everyone my fingerprint. No address or picture - just a single fingerprint.
Moral: Colombians like to make things more complicated than they probably need to be so just learn your phone number.