*(I think that’s) Who’s helping me practice speaking Spanish?
- Angel, the driver who brought me from the airport to the hotel. Very funny, very charming. He grew up on a ranch and became a vet but when he left his home state he couldn’t find a job in his chosen field, so now he’s a driver and has a house full of pets.
- Isidoro, the owner of the lovely restaurant down the block from my school. Yesterday he told me stories about the Mexican Revolution and about growing up in Mexico State near Toluca (where CJ lives). Today we talked about Pancho Villa and then about why it’s so easy for me to find people to practice my Spanish with (well, because, you know, as ‘una mujer guapa’ and all …). He corrects my mistakes (gently) and compliments my accent and makes an excellent glass of Jamaica water, which today I drank free as his guest. Cute.
- Cuauhtémoc, the (very cute) tour operator who mans the booth by the supermarket in town. I learned about some of the tours I could go on from here (Tulum, Chichen Itza, Xcaret, Xel-Ha, Xpu-Ha, Chetumal …), and I understood just about everything he said.
- Every cab and mini-van driver who has taken me in or out of town. With ‘los taxistas’ I am just getting very good at explaining who I am and what I’m doing here. With the mini-van drivers, I’m getting good at asking where they go and which stops they make and what time they start and stop service. Not too scintillating, but good practice all the same.
- The lovely young woman at one of the five bazillion shops on my walk to and from school. Yesterday I finally gave in and bought the necklace I’ve been looking at every day on my walk from school to the bus station. She and I talk about the stones she uses, about the really fantastic rings she has on display, about how I do my hair, about why hers won’t hold a twist the way mine does, and which of her necklaces would look best against my skin …
- Andrés, my teacher. We’ve fallen into an odd rhythm in our class (more on that later) and one of the things that has come to mean is that he spends long stretches of time talking primarily to me. This is hardly fair or helpful to the other students, but it certainly helps me quite a lot.
- Francisco, another of the teachers. He makes a point of having at least five minutes of conversation with me each day, which is nice. A little pressuring, but nice. And it doesn’t hurt that he’s very adorable and when he passed me on his bike after class today he circled back and greeted me as if we were old friends (one of the things I love most in the world is recognizing people on the street when I’m far from home).
- And finally, oddly enough, I am actually helped in some small, unpleasant way by all the men who feel it is their right — no, their obligation — to call out all sorts of foolishness to me on the street. I had one guy follow me down the street this morning calling out, “Hey, sugar baby,” over and over. Right. Because that would definitely get me to stop and talk. I admit I was a little amused by the guy who called me “Mother Africa” yesterday, but even that would get old fast. And then there are all the people who just refer to me as “black woman,” calling me “morena” instead of “miss” or some other generic I-don’t-know-your-name-but-I’m-trying-to-talk-to-you salutation. Double feh.
And who’s not helping me practice?
- Uh, yeah, that would be my darling CJ who, though she is fluent, will not speak a word of Spanish to me. For shame. (CJ’s mom, if you’re reading this, scold her for me, ok?)
- Raymundo, the gorgeous young man who manages the office at school. While he is entirely kind and attentive, solicitous about my well-being after my rocky start with the program, he has yet to succumb to my obvious charms and offer to be my personal tutor. Alas.