As I said earlier, my "command" of the Croatian language is such that I can buy groceries, convert kunas to Euros at the bank, ask for directions, and say, after being urged to have more at the dinner table, "Oh that was delicious. I couldn't eat another bite." I was, as far as I was concerned, completely assimilated.
At one point, Deborah was feeling overwhelmed by guilt that we were eating and drinking everything at Mirko and Agneza's house. "We need to at least buy some beer and wine," she said. "Ask somebody where there's a store."
I stopped in front of a fellow at a sidewalk cafe who was alternately puffing on a cigarette and sipping a beer. (Sidebar: This area of Pula looked like a movie set at a Universal Studios tour with, essentially, one endless sidewalk cafe. One would expect to hear a movie director holler, "OK. Cue the pedestrians. OK, cue the Croatians. You people at the tables, make sure you have something to drink. Yes I know it's chilly out. Just pretend it's springtime.")
I asked in absolutely fluent Croatian, (I swear I did.) "Where can I find a store to buy some beer?" The smoking fellow said, in Croatian, "Well, let's see... You go here, and then you go there..." A woman walked up, I thought it was his wife. Deborah thought it was a waitress. It doesn't matter. She asked him, in Croatian, "What does he want to know?" He answered in Croatian, "He's trying to find a store to buy some beer."
She abruptly changed to English and began to explain to me where the store was. (What? Do I look like a foreigner or something?) Unfortunately, the more she explained in English, the worse it became and the less I understood where the store was, that's how "not good enough" her English was. It was actually completely lucid before when the smoking guy was explaining in Croatian.
The moral of the story: Anguished English does not trump crummy Croatian.