Today I went to the farmacia all by myself to get sunscreen – crema protector solar. Asked for what I wanted, how much it cost, all that. Talking to BF on Skype afterwards, he asks, “You did that in Spanish??” Well, duh. What else?
The farmacia is more like a “drugstore” in the US rather than just a dispensary for prescription meds. They’ll have skin care products and makeup, nail polish, chewing gum, band-aids and similar stuff. Some everyday drugs, like aspirin (here, called paracetamol) or ibuprofen are not over the counter. You need to ask. This applies to many other types of medication that, again, in the US, would require a prescription.
The farmacia will also fill a prescription from a doctor if the medical clinic doesn’t have it. The pharmacists (farmacéuticos) are very nice, attentive, helpful. And very patient with my halting Spanish.
Most of the shops are not self-serve, even for shampoo or toothpaste. Some that are part of a chain, or located in a city mall have some browse-through-yourself sections. But for the smaller neighborhood shops, like this one across the street from my family’s house, you ask for everything you might want. The blue and yellow colors of the building always helped me realize I was on the right street, when riding the bus back home.
So this doesn’t sound like much, does it? Walking across the street, asking for sunscreen? But it was the first time I went anywhere without someone from my host family, relying on their English, a little or a lot, in addition to their native Spanish.
Everything is new, seen afresh. I don’t know the procedures, protocols, customs, habits. Brave new world, and all that. It’s taking me a while to get my bearings and I find I’m reluctant to venture too far out of my known route between home and school. I presume this will change. Hope so.