Thursday, February 14, 2008

Feliz San Valentino

Here in Mexico, it seems Valentine's day is a little less commercial than it is in the U.S. (Surprise surprise.) People do celebrate, though. There are special balloons and little gifts that they give, (Yay for chocolate!) but the stores aren't completely tranformed into red and pink havens. In fact, I'm in Starbucks right now, the one place that you would think would go all out, and I don't see any signs of Valentine's day, besides a few pink drinks.

Valentine's day aside, life in the classroom continues. Lately I remember my teachers from high school a lot. Their frustrations have become my own. I remember them scribbling things on the board that were unreadable and wondering why they wouldn't just slow down enough to make things legible. Now I understand. Sometimes, you are just dying to get a sentence down on the board and move on to the next part. Sometimes, lessons drag on and on and on, and you are just dying for them to start understanding so that you can get to the next part. I'll be sitting down with a student, and they will make the same mistake over and over and over again, as I try to explain the correct way over and over and over again. For my beginning students, this happens a lot. There are so many words that they don't know, and it's to the point where I find myself trying to explain things with words they don't know. Pictures are key. So is playing little games of charades here and there. But how do you explain a word like do? Or the word else? Become? There are some words that are a little more abstract, a little more tough to get your head around, unless, of course, you already know. There is always the option of translating into Spanish, but we've been forbidden to do that. It's not exactly realistic to never use Spanish, so I do use it sometimes.

I have this one student who takes classes at 7 a.m. every morning. He comes in late every day lately. I've been really trying to correct his mistakes by correcting him as he talks, but that doesn't work to well because he's already really down on himself about how quickly he is learning. He's always ducking and apologizing, ducking and apologizing. So now I try not to correct to much and to say good as much as possible. But at the same time, it's so frustrating to hear him continue to make the exact same mistakes, after I've corrected him time and again. The most frustrating thing, of course, is when I give an entire lesson on when to use am working, and then, the next day, to hear him use it incorrectly. In the end, it's not a big concern of mine, though. In the end, I am doing my job, and he can either take it in or not.

I found a place to run. There is a train station just one block from mine, and it goes straight to Unidad Deportiva, this park with a bunch of dirt soccer fields and a track. I ran there on Sunday, around and around and around. As boring as it was, it was really nice to be running without stopping at intersections and breathing in exhaust. It's also nice not to be stopped by people who try to strike up conversations as you're running by. I mean, it's nice and all, but it really breaks up the workout. It's so strange how few people go to this park. I'm wondering what it's going to be like to run in the race on the 24th, as I'm planning, because I don't see where the runners are going to come from. I hear some will come from Kenya. Maybe they'll be shipping in all the competition from outside... :)

In any case, they won't have to ship in the interesting spectators. I'm guessing there will be supporters. If there's one thing the people I see on the streets are good at, it's support. Well, support and self expression.

The little things they do

When I went running at Parque Metropolitana on Sunday, I left my bag underneath a tree and smiled at the family picnicking under the tree when I left. A nice looking lady smiled back. When I came back for a brief check on the bag and to get my bearings, the family was leaving, and they told me to take my bag. They said it was not safe to leave it. I told them I had my money and my key on me, and maybe the bag would be okay. I kind of looked at them with a hopeful look, like I hoped they would let me leave it, but like any good mother, the mother shook her head no. She would not let me be that irresponsible.

At Parque Metropolitana, about twenty girls put on a Bring-It-On style show for all the many park goers. As pairs of people wheeled past on their strange pedal-car contraptions (kind of like the Flinstones, only with pedaling power) these girls danced in perfect unison to some great American pop song. They wore these uniforms with short red skirts and red shoes, and white shirts, all of them skinny, with their black hair in ponytails. It’s fun to be a part of a cartoon every now and then.

So often, in the afternoons, when everyone on the bus is incredibly tired, these musicians come on and play. They play guitars and sing. The other day, there were these two bigger ladies with long black hair, and their voices were so strong and smooth. The bus-musicians seem to have a solid amount of talent, enough to be employed by a bar, and people recognize that. At the end of the song, they go around and collect money, and the passengers give it gladly.

Today on the bus an old lady came on, and as the bus lurched forward, she nearly fell, and had to grab onto the seat quickly in order to get her balance. I tried to help steady her, but she was okay by the time I reached out. I felt compelled to do this because it had been done for me. Once when I almost fell on the bus, even though I was holding onto the bar above, a lady in the seat next to me reached both arms out behind me, to catch me if I fell. She looked up at me with a relieved expression and then a smile. I laughed and said “Gracias!”

There is a girl that gets on the bus about the same time I do every day, and she is always dressed in perfect Mexican fashion. I think she’s about 19 and seems a good gauge of what a typical perfect Mexican girl should be. Today she wore shiny silver pointy flats with perfectly tight jeans, the grain of the material running lengthwise. Her Sweatshirt was striped Light and dark purple, and she wore big round purple earrings to match. To match her shoes, she carried a shiny silver purse.

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