To Challenge Yourself Is to Grow

Currently, I am the only person in a town of 15,000 that is not a heritage Spanish speaker. Talk about immersion! There is no one here to speak English with besides Alejandro who acts as an on the spot dictionary whenever a language discrepancy is reached. During the course of any conversation, Alejandro clarifies successfully whenever I look confused, and back to Spanish we go. I do believe I’m leaving traces of Summer brain juice around Guamal from thinking so hard all of the time.

I’m veritably proud of the progress made in the first week, however, and I’m a little upset at myself for not making a decision like this in Bolivia. I really couldn’t ask for a more perfect situation.

I’ve been drinking the water here too, as Alejandro says it’s perfectly clean. I took his word for it, and I’m sure if it was supposed to kill me, I’d be dead by now. I did ask for a water at the drugstore the other day, however, and almost forgot that liquids came in bags, as the vendor handed me what looked like a Ziploc without the zip. Luckily I saw Leidy drink one the other day so I knew to bite off the corner. Unfortunately, I forgot not to hold the bag too tightly, and all common sense escaping me, the water spurted through the hole I had just made and splashed all over me. I took my glasses off to clean them and saw a group of kids across the street laughing at the gringa. I just smiled at them. If only you knew the truth of my clumsiness.DSC00328.JPGThe walk to the school is like a daily commute on the red carpet. Everyone either knows me by now or wants to know me. Who knew it was possible for my ego to grow larger than it already is! “Gringa” is indeed an effective way to grab my attention, although “Verano” is still a plausible option or “Teacher” which is used not just by my students, but also one of my student’s fathers who is known as the “Woodpecker” or “Pájaro Loco” for his high-speed chattering.

The first day I met him, he looked at me and wailed “TEACHERR I LUFF YOU!” in a distinctly thick accent, laid down at my feet, and began kissing them. I looked up at Alejandro and Leidy for help, but they just laughed, as they had already warned me about the Woodpecker’s melodramatic tendencies. He continued to speak to me in Spanish poetry and metaphors I didn’t understand the rest of the night.

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I went for a run for the first time in two months since doing something funky to my foot. I ran four miles to see the bridge that links Guamal to Mompos over the Magdalena River and it was well worth it. Unfortunately, there was no running water when I returned to the house, as the power had gone out, which happens at least once a day. Luckily, there’s a faucet in the yard that runs underground and still worked. I filled up my water bottle, brought it to the bathroom, and made an impromptu shower, repeating this about 20 times just to clean myself. I’m no quitter, that’s for sure. There’s a lot that I assume while within the comfort of the United States.

The principal thing that has occurred to me this week, however, is that English is a wonderfully intricate language.

There is so much I take for granted while I’m practicing English. Things sound right just because I’ve been speaking it all of my life. I never saw the complexity until my students started asking, “But why?”

“Teacher, why do we say ‘at midnight,’ but ‘on Thursday’?” Why not ‘at Thursday’? Or ‘in the morning’ and not ‘on the morning’?”

*Sweats profusely*

Or there’s the fact that “won’t” is the exception to the contraction rule or all of our weird plural words. I could go on and on, but the point is that these students are attempting to learn a distracting, but beautiful and mismatched language stemming from so many rules and other languages.

The pride I feel for them is immense. I get so pumped when I see it click for them. So pumped, that I might have to take it down a notch. I actually made one girl jump out of her seat with my enthusiastic “YES!” when she finally caught onto the material. Although enthusiastic may be an understatement.

I really do love it, and while I haven’t made this a serious decision, due to my very real fear of commitment, I am certainly considering the teacher route. I might actually become a real-life Jessica Day -a dream come true! What greater satisfaction is there in preserving a concept dear to you, and passing it down for generations to come.

Especially an ideal which is being lost and dying out slowly, bringing culture, stories, and people groups down with it. English is an amazing language, but I’d never want to see it overpower the beauty that lies in a component of a human being’s identity. No promises, but being a teacher seems like the perfect way to make people aware of this importance. The weeks to come will hopefully bring these thoughts more clarity.

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