An iced white mocha with soy milk, please

At only half past 8, it had already been a rough morning. Just a short few hours earlier, I watched the daylight brush the night sky as I studied and prepared to teach a lesson. As the sun peaked over the mountains, I decided to sleep at most three hours, then trudged to the metro station and squeezed into a crammed train for my morning commute.

Walking up the subway steps as if I were a zombie, I knew coffee was in order if I had any hope of surviving the long day ahead. I wandered into a local café and ordered: “Quiero un café mocha blanco frio con soy leche, por favor.” I had ordered the same drink, an iced white mocha with soy milk, just a few days earlier at Starbucks without issue. This time, of course, there were problems galore.

The barista looked at me confused, and said they only served hot coffee.

“Reeeeally? It’s summertime,” I thought. “[Expletive] you, Santiago, why does everything have to be so difficult?”

I settled with a hot drink, and the server repeated my order back to me, leaving out the soy. With a dairy allergy, the soy milk was the most important part of my order, so I reminded him I needed “soy leche por favor.”

He asked if I wanted whip cream.

“No, no quiero crema, no quiero leche. Soy leche, está muy importante. Con soy leche, por favor,” I asserted back, growing more and more frustrated.

He pressed further, adding more questions, and finally settled with telling me he didn’t understand my request. The circle of dialogue continued in this manner a few times ’round before I walked out with nothing but a side of annoyance.

“How can you not understand me when I’m speaking in Spanish? Maybe if people in Chile actually spoke proper [expletive] Spanish, they would be able to make a simple drink,” I muttered under my breath as I looked for the next café. (Chile is known for muddled, rapid Spanish that drops the “s” sounds and adds slang unknown to the rest of the Spanish-speaking world.)

The next café was much of the same. I went round and round with the barista, asking for “soy leche,” even flipping the order of my phrasing with a “leche de soy” when she said she didn’t know what I wanted. After the third time I asked — my voice growing louder and more irritated with each request — she said the place didn’t serve that.

Exasperated at how on earth a city can consider itself “developed” when its cafés don’t even serve soy milk, I headed to the coffee giant I was trying to avoid. The ever-so-lovely gringo Starbucks made me the perfect drink, only slipping up when it came to writing my name as “Yasna” on the side of my plastic cup of chocolatey goodness. That, I could live with, so I pranced off to class with a caffeine buzz to brighten the day.

Rewind.

Now, re-read this post, and insert “I am milk” every time the conversation reads, “soy leche.”

I learned of this error hours later while recounting my frustrations to my roommate, who so politely informed me that Santiago is not at fault for lack of soy milk, but that I desperately need to practice my Spanish.

Oh yes, I am that girl. I am the gringa making a fuss about my coffee, declaring “I want I am milk, please … I am milk,  please” at not one, but two local cafés … and then cursing the city for not understanding my Spanish. I wish I was kidding.

—JDF

P.S. Soy milk is called “leche de soya” in Spanish.

P.P.S. I started my much-needed Spanish classes today.