For various reasons I’ve been feeling reluctant to scribble you tales of my Spanish life. Firstly, I’ve settled into a rather predictable routine: wake up at 7:10, consume bran, plain yogurt and an orange; leave house by 8:05 to be on metro by 8:10ish; get to the suburb where I work after one metro change; some days, on days that I feel barely alive, get coffee at the café on the corner; stew in the slow, simmering hell referred to as fourth grade, affecting to teach recalcitrant 10 year olds past tense verbs and incite any hint of a desire to learn; take metro at 4:15; walk to gym from metro stop; run and lift, force myself to do pushups; walk home 15 minutes; eat something; rinse and repeat. Like I said: predictable routine. Not so interesting to read about, is it? It’s become so routine, even for me, that I’ve stopped noticing the little details that once proved enchanting to me. I mourn their loss and I’ll be looking harder for them this week.
Another reason I haven’t been writing, past the blinding routine schtick, is that I am not taking as much joy in my days. As a result, I’m sadly lacking in the whimsical anecdotes department. Certainly there are still shimmeringly fine moments in each day, coming in bright and hopeful in roughly ten second bursts, but their number is puny in comparison to the grey, hulking mass my days have become. My instinct has always been to share only positivity (or at least relative entertainment) here, so my lack of said positivity… well… it accounts for my lack of blog entries.
HOWEVER: with that said, here is a list of amusing/interesting things/fun school anecdotes which did break up the big concrete lumps of the past two weeks.
Art class anecdote #1:
As I am now the fourth grade language assistant (however unhappily), part of my job is to help out in art class. Their teacher, a really nice guy who gives the rabblerousing fourth graders astonishingly shitty projects. These projects usually involve cutting pictures out of magazines and gluing them industriously to posterboard, which is just a scoche more thrilling than monitoring an effete preteen’s chin for beard growth. Additionally, said nice teacher has little to no control over the class. So. If you came here looking for a recipe for chaos, you just got it.
Scene: a few weeks ago the poor fourth graders are at work on one of aforementioned craptastic “art” projects. They have been asked to work in groups of six to create posters depicting “routines” (how exciting. is. that. I. ask. you. ?.), using only the posterboard and photos snipped from free weekly magazines, and then writing ‘routines” in pencil on the top of the poster by way of a title. This was my first art class. This situation was, to my eye, the mother of all mediocrity. Thankfully it got funnier.
Claudia, an overachieving, beautiful little Spanish fourth grader who comes to school in tights matched perfectly to the piping on her pressed little frock, head scarf, and shoe-stitching, calls me over. So unstimulated I’m barely awake, I drag myself to her group’s cluster of desks. As I near her, Claudia brandishes a photo she’s just clipped from a newspaper.
“Es una rutina, no?” she asks. My eyes scan the picture quickly. I gulp, blink rapidly, take the photo from Claudia’s hand and slip it in my pocket to her loud protests.
“Find another one, Claudia,” I tell her, “this is a routine, but not one for your poster. And not for everyone.”
Claudia had cut out a picture of two art dolls (see below) lying on an art-doll sized bed, having vigorous woman-on-top sex. I mean…not such a bad routine, just not one I have any reason to hope fourth graders regularly enjoy.
(above, see one of the stars of the last anecdote engaged in post-coital stretches)
Art class anecdote #2:
Scene: two weeks later, art class. Unsurprisingly, the kids have been asked to work in groups of six to create yet another poster, this time celebrating Valentine’s Day. Hearts, doves, and flowers abound. So do faux street drugs.
Let me explain.
I look up from my post at the back of the classroom where I’ve been thoroughly chiding Resplendent-Golden-Mullet-Christian’s singularly goofy older bucktoothed brother. What I see at first seems to be impossible, but as I drop Sergio’s rat tail and draw closer to the group of children, I realize it is not. Pretty little overachiever Claudia and not so pretty little smart girl, Miriam, are industriously chopping up white erasers, employing the sharp edges of their rulers. They are then grinding the white erasers into powdery dust they herd around upon their desktops, organizing the powder into lines and small, uninhabitable ant-hills.
“Claudia, Miriam, what are you doing with that?” certain I’m having an out of body experience.
Claudia looks up from her veryveryserious work for a split second.
“We’re making decorations for the poster!” she tells me, as if it is very obvious, and as if it doesn’t appear at all like she is cutting lines of coke right there on the desk in front of God and everybody.
“How are you going to use THAT to decorate a poster!?” I ask her, understandably incredulous.
“Vas a ver,” says Miriam, looking up at me in her sweaty, sausage-stuffed-cheek, round faced way.
And I did.
It turns out they covered the dove I drew for them with gluestick and sprinkled on a matte coating of the eraser/coke dust to render the bird captivatingly textured. And you know what? It did look cool. Cooler than it had in lines on Claudia’s desk, anyway.
The locust trees in Plz. 12 de Mayo started to sprout tender, early leaves about 3 weeks ago. That was refreshing.
During conversation class with a kid from 4B I asked a standard question about preferences.
“What is your favorite food?”
He confidently and grinnily replied, “Parrot!”
“What?” I asked, “Adrian, do you mean chicken? or carrot?”
“NO!” he said, furiously shaking his head in a shamed, mortified was. “I mean…SPAGHETTI!”
Right. And does anyone else but me NOT see the connection between “parrot” and “spaghetti?”
There is a kid in fourth grade named Jorge. I both love and loathe Jorge, which I think is appropriate considering he is a smart but tiresome pain in the ass whose last name is “Carrion.” Anyhow, Jorge happens to be pretty good at English, so when I posed the question of the class, “Can you tell me the past tense of the verb “eat” and give me a sample sentence?” Jorge dramatically raised his hand, stood up, said “I ATE the book,” and tore out a healthy chunk of science text with his teeth, then sat down. I probably shouldn’t have laughed, but I did.
Finally, last Thursday after third period (which means a walk to lunch for the kids and an hour to kill for me), I was seated on the stairs on my school’s lower level, waiting for a fellow TA to emerge from class and accompany me to the market. Lines of disorderly elementary schoolers followed their keepers down from the school buildings and out the door near where I was seated and, as I squinted into the sun to watch, 1st grade descended the ramp. “Hola, Profe!” they shouted, waving their hands at me and grinning. Having been missing them pretty badly–especially considering I’ve had to sustain to the grumbly pre-adolescent , hormone-spiced soup of fourth grade–I enthusiastically waved back.
At the end of the first grade line a tiny form in a red down jacket scramble-ran into view. At first I didn’t recognize him because of the dramatic haircut that had obliterated all signs of formerly Resplendent Golden Mullet. But when he yelled “PROFE!” in his semi-hoarse old man’s voice and came juggernauting down the ramp straight toward me, there was no question: it was indeed Christian. Within seconds he had launched himself into my arms, making this the second super-dramatic-hug Christian and I have shared. At first I was all smiles, asking him how he was while he silently grasped me around the neck and shoulders. However, as the hug drew on it dawned on me that something was not quite right. Something was not quite… dry.
“Christian,” I said, pulling away to the feeling of a rapidly sinking stomach, “why is your coat soaking wet?”
“Porque estaba en el baño,” he said, giggled impishly. usted out of my shocked arms and ran after his class to go choke down whatever horrible, greasy swill the comedor had up for Thursday’s meal.
After he ran away I retreated to the bathroom, washed my hands and tried to banish the thought of the lingering dampness all over my own coat and replace it with only the hug. Clearly it didn’t work because I’m blogging about it nearly a week later. I don’t want to know what Christian’s down coat was soaking up in the bathroom, but if I manifest some sort of mysterious skin disease in the next few days, I’ll know exactly where to check for the offending bacteria.
And now: TO BED!
My mother will be here in only 17 days.
I will be back in the USA in just over 4 months.
Hot damn, how time flies–especially during leap years.