Three Stories

Three stories for you today.

A story about language:

As I was leaving my apartment on Friday morning, my old neighbor lady was out front doing some gardening. I thought I heard her say to me, “No tomas drogas!” (translation: “don’t do drugs!”). I gave her a confused look, so she repeated, “Tan pronto madrugas!” (translation: “you’re up so early!”)  – ahhh that makes more sense!  Cultural side-note:  this happened at 9am (on a holiday), which I thought was a reasonable hour to be out and about, but apparently not here.

A story about becoming Spanish:

I’ve been taking flamenco classes for about a month now.  It’s been a brand new experience for me, and I’ve had a wonderful time dancing away the school-day stresses.  Yesterday, the teacher handed us each a fan.  The women in my class, mostly mothers of young dancers, proceeded to gracefully whip them open and begin fanning themselves.  I stood there, feeling a bit befuddled (there is no training provided during Fulbright orientation on  how to properly use a fan).  Now if you’re a Spanish woman, you’ve probably been holding an abanico since you could walk and had the flip and the flutter mastered since age 8; but I, on the other hand, have never actually used a fan, much less know how to open it with the finesse of a Spaniard.  Since air conditioning is a rarity in España, a fan comes in quite handy on hot summer afternoon. After laughing about this cultural difference with the women in my class, they gave me some pointers on how to dramatically whip open the fan, “típical espanish” style.  A seemingly small accomplishment, but a highlight of my week.

And finally, a story from school:

Once a week I help out with a history class, taught in English, for the 10th graders in the bilingual program (the “cuartos”). They’ve been learning about the Enlightenment for the past week or so, and I was invited to teach a lesson on the American Enlightenment and Revolutionary War.  To start class on Monday, I thought it’d be fun to give the kids a sort of pre-test, to see how much they knew. There were five multiple-choice five questions, like “The United States won its independence from… (A) Spain (B) France (C) Great Britain.” Easy enough, right?

Here’s question #5:

The Enlightenment ideas of ___________ and ____________ formed the basis for the American independence movement.

A. socialism and communism

B. equality and liberty

C. religious freedom and feminism

Any guesses?

Well, the cuartos had no idea (“A” was as popular an answer as “B”), much to the dismay of their teacher, who had been trying to drill the concepts of “equality” and “liberty” into their developing brains for the past few days.  I thought I was being clever…turns out it was the trickiest question on the quiz.

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