Language-Induced Diabetic Coma

Now that we are living in Caracas, my college Spanish gets me around town sufficiently (it definitely could be better and has some weirdly Chinese quirks to it!) but there are times that it utterly fails me. Friday night was one of those nights that a mixture of cultural confusion and language nuance left me in the lurch- or in this case, a near diabetic coma.

The night started out great. It was our inaugural Taste-Testers outing, a monthly dinner scheduled through the CLO office to get folks out and about to new restaurants in town. For the first one, we decided to stick fairly closely to home, at a place just down the hill from the embassy. With a reservation limit of 16, we were pleased to get nearly a full house. Dinner was fine. It started with a variety of appetizers, including ceviche and spring rolls (both of which I passed on, but I did enjoy the herb butter and bread that also showed up on the table) and then moved in a rather timely fashion (not a service to take for granted) to main courses. Around the table there was everything from pastas to fish and chicken dishes and I think I even saw a burger at the far end of our group. Overall, the restaurant was good (although I must admit to liking the one we went to, directly across the road, last week better) and the company was great. It was nice to get out of the embassy and spend time talking about life beyond work.

After dinner, as the ubiquitous discussion of how to best pay the bill was happening, a side-conversation about dessert was also taking place. (By the way, the bill discussion was not at all about how much to pay, as that wasn’t a big deal, but more the actual method of payment, as this is a perpetual issue here. Do you pay with your debit card? Who has already hit their daily limit on their card? Is cash even possible? What about the tip?) Some of the group sorted out the split and the tip (paid on different machines, because “it’s Venezuela”), while the rest made plans to walk across the road to an ice cream/pasty shop.

This is where my issues begin.

I always have room for dessert. As a matter of fact, I am fairly sure that biologically I am created for a sweet treat after meals, as I am a firm believer in the “dessert stomach.” I may be full of pasta or steak or pizza or what-have-you, but I can always find room for cake or a doughnut or a brownie on top of dinner.

The sweets shop we went to was enormous, with a huge selection of gelatos and baked goods. The way it works is you decide what you want after drooling over the offerings beautifully displayed in glass cases and then you go to the cashier to pay, taking your tiny receipt back to the food counter to get your actual order. While Thad went with a mini-strawberry pie thing, I decided I wanted ice cream. There were these cute little waffle cups on display, which I figured were the perfect size for a single scoop of ice cream. So I pieced together an order for a waffle cup in Spanish and was a little surprised at the total that popped up on the register. It seemed rather pricey for a single scoop, especially in Caracas where I just paid about $13 for a fine dining dinner and drinks across the road. But, whatever. Expensive for Caracas is normal (or less) in D.C.

With my little slip of paper in hand (little slips of paper are pervasive here- you get a receipt- or two- for everything and that’s IF your debit card is accepted on the first try), I went to the ice cream counter to get my goodies. The girl asked me what THREE flavors I wanted. Three? I told her I was just one person and one scoop was enough, at which point she told me that the little bowl I had ordered was actually a three-scoop undertaking. A bit shocked, I explained that it was just for me, so please make them little scoops (less scoops was not an option), and ordered Oreo, brownie, and chocolate chip. (For the record, I am pretty sure all three of those were actually the same thing.)

Fine. I have a three-scoop bowl coming to me. Not the end of the world.

I was wrong.

It wasn’t just three scoops. It was three scoops of ice cream and then dessert art on top.

Watching my after-dinner snack come together was like watching the creation of a sculpture. It started with the three scoops in the waffle bowl. From there, the girl added florets of whipped cream over the entire structure. (It is basically a mini-mountain at this point.) Obviously, this is not enough sugar for one human being, so once it was fully covered in a thick layer of whipped cream, a healthy amount of unhealthy sugar-syrup-coated strawberries were added to the pile. But, strawberries are not a finishing touch. That was still to come. On top of the strawberries went drizzles of both chocolate and caramel syrup and then, as a flourish on top, the entire thing was covered in sprinkles.

As I became more and more horrified watching this thing that I had innocently ordered take shape, the other gal at the counter told me to go ahead and sit down and that they would deliver it. Apparently, it is too much to self-carry. (Everyone else in our group just got their small, little treats at the counter and took them to the table themselves.)

A few minutes later, my mammoth dessert arrived at our table. What I pictured in my mind and thought I ordered was a far cry from what showed up in front of me. So much for a little Friday night treat! This thing was enough to feed a small family and definitely enough to put someone into diabetic shock.

Needless to say, after scraping off the outer layers to get to the ice cream (the thing I actually wanted), I passed the remains around the table for others to sample, and no, I did not clear that plate before leaving the restaurant. There was just no way that was going to happen.

Looking back, I am still not sure where the communication broke down. I looked in the glass cases and decided what I wanted. I went to the cashier and ordered that thing. I ended up with Mt. Vesuvius recreated in sugar. But, I did learn an important lesson. From now on, when ordering, I will always ask “how many does it serve?” because my dessert debacle was served with three plastic spoons! If only that had come up earlier…

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PBS’ The Great American Read Card Catalog Reviews- WEEK 14

In Search of the End of the Sidewalk has teamed up with the Berryville, Arkansas library for this summer’s “The Great American Read” with PBS. The goal for Berryville residents is to have one Card Catalog Review for each of the 100 books on PBS’ list. (You can find the list here.)  Each Saturday, In Search of the End of the Sidewalk will post a roundup of all of the reviews that came in during the week.

Summer stats:
Week 1– 3 books (97 to go), Week 2– 5 books (92 to go), Week 3- 5 books (87 to go), Week 4– 4 books (83 to go), Week 5- 5 books (78 to go!), Week 6– 5 books, Week 7- 5 books Week 8– 5 books, Week 9– 5 books (58 left on the list. Can we do it?) Week 10– 5 books, Week 11– 4 books, Week 12– 4 books,Week 13– 15 (!!!!) books, Week 14- 3 books (if my count is right, we are down to just 27 left)

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

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The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

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Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James

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PBS’ The Great American Read Card Catalog Reviews- WEEK 13

In Search of the End of the Sidewalk has teamed up with the Berryville, Arkansas library for this summer’s “The Great American Read” with PBS. The goal for Berryville residents is to have one Card Catalog Review for each of the 100 books on PBS’ list. (You can find the list here.)  Each Saturday, In Search of the End of the Sidewalk will post a roundup of all of the reviews that came in during the week.

Summer stats:
Week 1– 3 books (97 to go), Week 2– 5 books (92 to go), Week 3- 5 books (87 to go), Week 4– 4 books (83 to go), Week 5- 5 books (78 to go!), Week 6– 5 books, Week 7- 5 books Week 8– 5 books, Week 9– 5 books (58 left on the list. Can we do it?) Week 10– 5 books, Week 11– 4 books, Week 12– 4 books,Week 13- 15 (!!!!) books (Way to go, Berryville!!)

A Game of Thrones by J.R.R. Martin

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The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

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The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

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Frankenstein by Mary Shelly

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Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

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The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

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The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

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The Martian by Andy Weir

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Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

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This Present Darkness by Frank E. Peretti

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Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

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Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

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Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

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Watchers by Dean Koontz

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White Teeth by Zadie Smith

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PBS’ The Great American Read Card Catalog Reviews- WEEK 12

In Search of the End of the Sidewalk has teamed up with the Berryville, Arkansas library for this summer’s “The Great American Read” with PBS. The goal for Berryville residents is to have one Card Catalog Review for each of the 100 books on PBS’ list. (You can find the list here.)  Each Saturday, In Search of the End of the Sidewalk will post a roundup of all of the reviews that came in during the week.

Summer stats:
Week 1– 3 books (97 to go), Week 2– 5 books (92 to go), Week 3- 5 books (87 to go), Week 4– 4 books (83 to go), Week 5- 5 books (78 to go!), Week 6– 5 books, Week 7- 5 books Week 8– 5 books, Week 9– 5 books (58 left on the list. Can we do it?) Week 10– 5 books, Week 11– 4 books, Week 12- 4 books (I’ve no idea where my count is at at this point in the summer- a goal for this week is a recount!)

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

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The Godfather by Mario Puzo

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Looking for Alaska by John Green

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Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

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