It's the little things that make you happy when you are in a another country and you don't speak the language. Suddenly I'm happy when I order food and I'm not surprised by what they bring me. I'm also happy when I ask someone where the bank is and their response actually makes sense to me. I'm especially happy when I go to the store to buy something and I actually know how much the total is instead of handing them the largest amount of pesos my purchase could logically be.
This being said you can imagine my elation when I tell you that I successfully purchased two pairs of glasses with corrective lenses for about $55 each. To give you a little back story, I decided when I came here that I was going use the strength of the dollar to expand my collection of eye glasses. Since my arrival in Buenos Aires I have been patiently gathering information about the costs and styles of frames, etc. I had been unpleasantly surprised, until yesterday, to find that due to inflation the cost of frames were more or less the same as in the United States.
However, yesterday I found a little side street off the beaten path of tourists and shoppers. I wandered by several eye glass shops and noticed that the prices were actually in the windows, this I found to be a good sign. I've noticed in many shops here that are not run by large companies or corporations, the price is not displayed in the window. I get the feeling sometimes that when they realize that I am quite obviously an American, and I don't have my way with the Spanish language, then I am immediately given the "foreigner" mark up. I'd like to point out here that I don't attribute this solely to being and American in Argentina, but also that I am living in a big city and dealing with a big city mentality here. It's a dog eat dog world in the big city and I don't quite look like I belong.
So, I liked the prices I was seeing, around 100 pesos per frame. The selections were small but predominantly modern and trendy styles. The last shop I walked by was looking promising but I was lacking the confidence to go in and butcher my way through talking about glasses. Then I decided this, I can either wait around for someone who speaks Spanish to come with me and hold my hand through the process, or I can go in, try to do it myself, and learn from my mistakes. I decided that I can either wait around until I have had a month or two more of Spanish so I can communicate perfectly or I can go in there and use what I've got and have myself an experience. So I turned around and went in.
Here is how it went. I very basically explained that I didn't speak Spanish very well and I was looking at frames. This adorable little old man understood and seemed to be eager to assist me. He also seemed more than happy to use his very small vocabulary of eyeglass salesman appropriate English words.
I tried on a few frames and in all of 15 minutes I had found two frames that I liked, found out the prices of lenses, and talked him down 100 pesos. Well it wasn't really talking exactly, I would write down a price and he would write down another counter offer which we finally settled on. I walked out of there with a partial eye exam to make sure my prescription was correct and two pairs of glasses with light-weight lenses that had anti-reflective coating for about 100 usd. Can't get that done in the US even with insurance. Success!