I woke up yesterday to the sound of dozens of howling dogs and cah-cah-ing roosters. I climbed out of bed and put my feet on the freezing, wooden floor, only to walk down the stairs and outside to wash my hair and teeth. I went back inside, got dressed, grabbed my backpack, and headed to my mom’s restaurant.
I walked down the hill for about three minutes and, when I arrived, I was greeted with a warm cup of coffee and a kiss from the family. “Estoy muy nervioso,” I said, but they just looked at me funny. And I left the restaurant twenty minutes later and completed a walk of no more than twenty seconds to the school I would be teaching at in just an hour.
“Donde esta Mauricio?” I asked at least three other teachers, and they just said he was not here. I tried to explain that he told me he was coming to meet me now, but my nervioso got the best of me. So I sat in the wooden stool in the principal’s office and waited. Only to be greeted with a text from Mauricio that said “I’ll be there at 11:30.”
So I walked outside to where all the students were standing and I, too, listened to the typical Monday speech; except today they explained that there was a new teacher here from the United States: me. I did as the Penguins in Madagascar say, “Just smile and wave, boys. Smile and wave.”
I ended up in a different English class with another teacher. He explained what the kids were learning and then handed me the book and said “Puede explicar?” And in my mind I thought… well, I don’t know what I thought. How do you teach a room full of kids the verb ‘to be’ when you can hardly conjugate in Spanish?
But I did, and I taught the whole 40-minute class. The kids played question games and did introductions, and when they all left I thought, for the first time, ‘I can do this.’
I then crossed the street again, went back to the restaurant, and talked a bit with my host mom. Then the kids came home, all nine of them, and they said “Chao!” And my new ‘say yes’ mindset had me out the door with them. Holding the rein to a sheep. We walked up the hill, past the house, to where we could let the sheep eat for a while. And as the sheep ate we went over to the cuy huts and chicken houses to feed them as well. And my little host prima jumped on the cuy bed and grabbed a cuy and shoved it in my face.
On the way back we stopped to be with the sheep some more and I sat in the grass. My prima came up to me and handed me some nuts she had just cracked, and we did this together for some more minutes. Once all the nuts had been eaten, we departed and I went back to the school for more classes. Mauricio and I set up somewhat of a schedule for the week, and then we began teaching.
All the kids in the classes greeted me with a weak ‘hello’ and a bunch of giggles. And, as embarrassing as it was to be struggling with my Spanish, I knew they were struggling just as much with their new language as well. We counted numbers together, did more introductions, and at the end of the day it was totally great.
Then I walked, again, back to the restaurant to find my grandma trying to catch the loose pig. I sat in the dirt, watching her and my primo run around the backyard chasing after this fifty-pound chancho. To say the least, they didn’t end up catching it.
After dinner all the kids and I watched an animal movie upstairs. They asked me countless “como se dice” questions and I could only answer about half of them. I helped with some math problems and almost got tickled to death. But I am alive now, and better than ever.