When you think about a garage sale in The States you think of a few things: long hours, tons of organizing, and dirty fingers from dealing with money all day. Now picture those same sales in Mexico with: more dirt, a different language, uncountable amounts of hagglers, and sopilotes (vultures) galore. When I say it was hectic, that is a huge understatement. From the first few minutes of the “”vultures” coming to take our stuff to resell it at their own booths to the last hour of cleaning and organizing, there were cultural experiences to be had all over the place. We started the day fending people off of our boxes just so we could get them out of the car and then spent the rest of the day juggling numbers in our heads in Spanish and finding lost shoes to make pairs.
I make it sound all horrible but in reality it was an interesting experience and I am glad I went with the other Ventana ladies to experience it at least once. And there were a lot of lessons to be had throughout the day. I will share those lessons through four stories:
A few hours into the day a woman came up to me to ask how much an article of clothing cost. I told her 20 pesos (about $1.50). She rolled her eyes and turned to her friend and said, “20. Is that the only number they know?” I decided to be snarky and replied with, “Ok then, 30 pesos.” She looked at me shocked, she obviously did not expect me to understand, and said, “Well... can’t you go lower?” I replied with a smile and said no. Needless to say, she did not buy anything from us and I should have been sorry but I couldn’t decided whether to feel bad for being sassy, frustrated that she was trying to talk behind my back, or laugh about the whole situation. I chose a little of all three.
Lesson #1: Knowing Spanish is awesome.
We had a box of stuffed animals and a woman was looking through them and taking most of them. After a frustrating bout of haggling in which she ran all over me with her Spanish I settled for a very low lump sum and begrudgingly handed her a bag to put the animals in. With a smirk she turned away. She came back a few seconds later and wanted another one so I gave her the price I had set for the bigger stuffed animals. “But this one is small, you gave me the price for the small ones on the other one I bought just like it.” I couldn’t figure out how to argue that I had just settled on a lump sum earlier, not individual ones. She was still talking over me the whole time. I could sense my anger building as she told me that I was wrong and changing things unfairly. It was hopeless. I roughly took her pesos and handed her the stuffed animal with a, “Fine. Whatever.” Which, I am pretty sure, was in English. I was tired, annoyed, and incredibly frustrated with not being able to communicate correctly. All for a few pesos. It was childish and I felt horrible afterward. I was such a bad witness to that lady. I can only hope that I didn’t ruin her day or idea of Christians... I very well could have.
Lesson #2: Don’t try to haggle with Mexican ladies. Don’t forget that I am representing Christ all the time.
Near the end of the day a guy came up with his daughter on his shoulders. He was dressed in the stereotypical long shorts, high white socks, and tats all over his arms and neck. Without realizing it, my brain placed him in the gangster category of bad decision making and sketchy lifestyle. Then his wife took a hat and placed it on his daughter’s head. He looked up at her and asked us if she was keeping it on because she never does. We assured him that she wasn’t phased by the hat and he smiled, said, “all right then!,” and handed over a few pesos. They walked away smiling and talking. It blew me away how quickly I had made judgements that he was a bad dad, or does drugs, or whatnot. When in reality he was a very sweet dad and you could tell he works hard to make his family happy. I had quite a bit of apologizing to do after that short encounter. Now for repentance and learning from the experience...
Lesson #3: Don’t judge people. Period.
The roller coaster of emotions continued throughout the day as I tried to work around my broken foot, the dirt, and the overwhelming amounts of people to talk to and set prices for. I went from frustration, to sadness, to happiness (that was lunchtime), to gratitude for the ladies who I was there with. At the end of the day however, one thing stick with me more than all the rest. That was a feeling of humility. As the day wore on we had less of the vulture type of people and more of the mother’s shopping for the end of the day deals for their families. In a moment of clarity God showed me the diligence of these women: to work hard all day long and then come to the swap meet to search for the best deals with thier hard earned money. I don’t know if I would be motivated enough to work that hard for one or two things for my family. But these women do. Every week. And I commend them for that. After a really long day, I was extremely grateful for thier example and thier effort. They are loving thier family in the best way, tangibly and with cost. Props Mexican mothers, props.