On making polite conversation

As we headed for the hills, I tried making polite conversation with the mother. In such a confined place, it seemed rude not to.

‘How many children do you have?’ I inquired in Spanish. Her teenage daughters giggled, which seemed par for the course.
‘Twenty,’ she responded uncertainly.
‘Wow, that’s quite a family! Where do you live?’
‘Forty,’ she answered not entirely convincingly.

The only responses I further elicited consisted of numbers rounded up in tens. The father finally intervened after hearing enough of this foreign call and response gibberish. It transpired he was the only one who spoke any Spanish bar his wife’s mastery of numbers useful for the marketplace.
My Quechuan was non-existent so the conversation lagged from this point. I’d momentarily forgotten Spanish was the language of the invaders, not the invaded. Some command of it was essential for the world outside their community, but not one shared in the family especially when most of the indigenous had no formal education.

I chose instead to admire the view beyond the crooked neck of the stranger sitting on my lap.