I will never forget the time I first entered a Mexican store as an eight year old and tried to buy something after I had emigrated from the United States to Mexico, not the other way around. I had trouble with ordinary things like asking to use the bathroom. I had to tell one of my older sisters to do it for me, because they knew more Spanish than I did.
One day my dad sent me to the store to buy leche, in English, “milk.” I had a very puzzled expression, so my sister slapped me across the head and said, “It’s milk, silly.”
“Well, sorry, miss know-it-all!” I answered her back while rubbing my head.
As it turned out, my sister went for the milk.
A few months later, my grandma needed some stuff from the store. It seemed like she trusted my Spanish because she didn’t send my sister.
“Bring me one pound of cheese and one liter of milk. Don’t forget,” she told me with this look on her face that said, “Am I really sending her?”
I started on my way to the store, repeating it in my head over and over again, “One liter of milk, and one pound of cheese…”
When I got to the store, though, I asked the lady at the counter, “Can I please have a kilometer of cheese and a pound of milk?”
The lady at the counter turned red, grabbed her stomach, and fell to the ground. I got really scared. I thought I had done or said something wrong, so I left.
When I got home, my mom said, “Where’s the stuff that we sent you for?” She sounded upset.
“I asked her for the stuff, and she turned red and fell to the ground. I got scared, so I left.”
“What DID you ask for?’ she asked me in a curious way.
“For a kilometer of cheese and a pound of milk.”
“Ha, ha, ha! Don’t you think that’s enough cheese, kid? No one could find that much cheese in a store,” my uncle said.
Ten years have passed and I am back in the United States. Whenever I call my grandma or uncle, they always ask me, “Are you done with that cheese you asked for?” I just laugh.
Now I know how Hispanics struggle when they come to the United States.
Janaly Farias of Gaylord, Minn., is 18 years old and is originally from USA.
“A Kilometer of Cheese” is just one of the hundreds of Journeys entries our three editor interns received from adult learners across the state. Journeys: An Anthology of Adult Student
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