Things They Don’t Teach You in Spanish Class December 28, 2014

The Time: March, 1994

The Place: Madrid, Spain

The Scene: A Pharmacy

One of the cool things about studying abroad is that you get extra time for travel. Spring break was no exception; instead of the normal week, I think we got two. And somehow I ended up traveling with Colleen, who happened to have a brother and sister-in-law living in Germany. The plan was to visit them and then hit Paris on the way back home.

Of course things started out with a little glitch: Colleen had a yeast infection, and she needed the Spanish version of Monistat ASAP.

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking: Anne, are you sure this “friend” was not you? It was really you, wasn’t it? And let me be clear: NO. IT WAS NOT ME. I’m sure this all sounds like the perfect cover, but I assure you I had not even experienced a yeast infection at that point in my life. And if you must know, I didn’t even have a period for that entire semester abroad, so clearly everything down there was pretty much shut down anyway. But that’s a whole other story.

So we managed to find a pharmacy (apothecary?) because in 1994 Madrid you didn’t exactly find a Walgreens on every corner. This was no corner of happy and healthy. At the most, it was a corner of inconvenience and limited selection. One couldn’t just browse the aisles and pick out a favorite brand of anything; everything was locked up behind a cupboard or on a shelf behind the pharmacist. Toothpaste may as well have been a pack of cigarettes in this joint. You actually had to speak with the pharmacist and tell him what you wanted.

Sadly, my friend realized she did not know how to say “yeast infection” in Spanish. Somehow that one got left off the vocab lists we memorized each week. The best she could tell the elderly male – of course – pharmacist was that she had an “infección vaginal”. Apparently that was not specific enough for this guy, who just continued to give her a confused look. Because we all know there are a whole lot of things that could wrong with your coslopus, am I right, Chelsea Handler? And again – it was 1994 people! In Spain years that was 1974. Unless you had a really good pocket dictionary, you were out of luck. Mobile phones with internet and cool translation apps were still things of a Jetson-like future.

But suddenly, I knew just how to save the day.

“іPan!” I blurted, yelling out the Spanish word for bread. “іEs como pan! Es como pan!” (It’s like bread! It’s like bread!)

Ah brilliant, Anne. You realize you just started shouting “bread infection” at a pharmacist?

But it worked. The old guy suddenly knew exactly what Colleen (not I) needed, and unlocked the huge apothecary case behind him to hand over the goods.

Her vagina was saved, all because of me.

I later found out that “vaginal yeast infection” in Spanish was called “infección vaginal por hongos levaduriformes.” Roughly translated, I believe that means “vaginal infection caused by random attacking mushrooms.”

I think I will just stick to bread infection.