international stories in spanish

I had a long week, Internet. Three whole mornings of testing, and then today was stupendously bad (on the student behavior front). Half the class of wayward children got put in study hall all of their recess, while being reprimanded to think about appropriate school choices vs. inappropriate. I hate being mean. I want to dance and sing and throw glitter around and have FUN! But I have to have an agreement from my small charges that they'll bring it back to center once the glitter is on the ground so we can also do the stupid grunt work society is currently expecting us to do. And I hate taking away recess--in public school it's really their only time during the day to just be kids and do the work children are truly meant to do which is learn how to grow up successfully; nobody ever fared well from having their creativity and sense of playfulness smashed down. I think Orwell's 1984 was really about people who get drilled like little machines with curriculum content.

Fortunately, it did end on two happy notes:

1-Coworkers who are ridiculous. I'm so happy I work with ridiculous people who recognize this is all so ridiculous. Their sense of humor is sarcastic and sardonic, if it's possible to be that at once. Since those are synonyms.

2a-A parent-teacher conference in which the mom told me I'm really awesome at speaking Spanish. And we had a (in Spanish) conversation about how I can speak Spanish pretty fluently, but can't understand jack, and she can understand English pretty fluently but can't speak jack. And that's jacked up. (I have no idea how to say that in Spanish, so I'll just throw this lovely tidbit out there for you: mierda. Yeah. I said it. Google it.

2b-Also, we had a long conversation (in Spanish) about my last name and The Bible. She likes that her child was put in my class because my name is so biblical and by the way, do I read The Bible? I told her I have read The Bible, but it's not a book I read every day. To which she said I should read it every day and invited me to their church. To which I said thank you, but we have a church we're pretty happy with right now. (It's called Our Lady of St. Sleeping In on Sundays.) (But I always appreciate the effort to save my soul.)

Here's why I learned Spanish: when I was 13, I had a crush on Menudo, the Puerto Rican boy band. Specifically, I had a crush on Charlie Rivera Masso from Menudo. Ricky "Livin' la Vida Loca" Martin was a member for a time (I did have a big crush on Ricky "Copa de la Vida" Martin for awhile, but only after he manned up and before he came out of the closet--when I liked Menudo, Ricky & I were the same age, and I did NOT want a 13 year old boy. I was desperate for Charlie, who was 16 and could DRIVE. Because 16 is almost a full grown man and also and more importantly he could DRIVE. And I had a little picture I cut out of Charlie from Tiger Beat magazine in which he and his Menudo bandmates were in a Cadillac with the top down, and Charlie was behind the wheel, and he was LOVE. I would stare at this picture for hours on end, sighing big sighs, and begging God to convince Charlie to drive the Cadillac to me and take me on a date to the movies. All I wanted was a date to the movies. With a swarthy older boy from Puerto Rico.) (Nothing's changed.)

So, of course I was going to marry Charlie Rivera and move to Puerto Rico, and I'd need to know Spanish. So when I started high school a year later, I no longer cared about Menudo at all because I'd moved on to man band Norwegian pop sensation a-ha. (I wasn't shallow or fickle at ALL as a teenager, no not at all.) (Nothing's changed there, either.) But I remembered how much I'd really wanted to know what Menudo had been saying in the straight-to-VHS feature film Una Aventura Llamada Menudo.

He's not driving, but he's wearing yellow, and STILL looking at me with Come Hither eyes...28 years later. 

Four years of high school Spanish, 2 years of college + 1 minor in Spanish on my Bachelor's degree, and 3 years of teaching on the Mexico/Arizona border? I am totally able to have Google Translate do all my note translating needs, and I conduct my own parent-teacher conferences that, were you a fluent Spanish speaker listening in, would sound something like this to you (please read my parts in a heavy Russian accent):

PARENT: Is my child doing well in your classroom?
ME: Yes. For most part. At times, he to do much talking very very loud. But yes. For most part.

PARENT: How does he behave for you?
ME: Ah, yes. He do good behavior almost always. At times, too much play, but always such a good, good boy. Is good I have your boy is with me. 

Something like that. Is what I imagine I must sound like in translation.

I've tried to watch telenovelas on Univision and Telemundo to get better at comprehension and increase my vocabulary, but quite frankly? They're ridiculous, these telenovelas. They're mini-novels on tv is what they are, and they have a perfect story arc with a beginning, middle, and ending so you'd think they'd be right up my alley. But nobody dresses like this in reality, nobody just...happens to have a gun in her purse for no reason except to shoot the lover who's been found to be sleeping with her neighbor who's actually her long lost cousin who's really her sister but she doesn't know it yet. And nobody could survive a gun shot to the head and an 18 story fall out of a skyscraper. I'm sorry, this wouldn't happen, and I have a hard time with it. In spite of the ham acting, which I normally do love. No puedo hacerlo, telenovelas. Lo siento mucho. Yo no puedo.

So I was thinking on the drive to work today that maybe what I should do is find somewhere this summer to immerse myself in Spanish for 2-3 weeks. At first, I thought: somewhere in the Mexican Riviera, but then I remember when my family and I went to Cancun when I was in college, everybody in Cancun spoke English. Such a let down, but more for my dad than me (I'm about to tell you a side story. Get some popcorn. Ready?):

When we got off the plane in Cancun, we were attacked by taxi drivers, desperate to take us to town. They were all speaking English, but my dad wasn't buying it. My dad, who spent the entirety of the plane ride to Mexico turning around to my brother and me seated behind him to say really awesome things like: "When we get there, the first thing I'm going to say is: DONDAY ESTAY EL BAAAANO, SEEENYORAYS." Because that's not gringo at all--totally sophisticated world-wide traveler.

Before we'd left home, my father informed me that since I'd had 4 years of Advanced Placement Spanish in high school and 1 whole college-level Spanish Literature class under my belt, I was to be the family's sole means of communicating to the good people of Mexico, and that all of our needs and safety concerns would be resting on my shoulders, our family's well-being would be in my hands, my absolute responsibility, so don't chingado it up. So we're all in the Cancun airport, hot and tired and thirsty and dusty and confused and a long way from an American consulate, being attacked by taxi drivers begging us to pick them! pick them! for a ride to our hotel. In English, they're begging us. They're walking up to my dad, palms out, frantically pointing to their taxi and saying things like, "Senor, I take you to the hotel? You pay $10." In total, complete English, but my dad was convinced it was Spanish because this was Mexico dammit, and look them--they're from Mexico and this is a land of all Spanish. So when I tried to explain to him that these taxi drivers were all speaking English and just needed an English Yes or No from him (or gringo Spanish Yes/No with a bathroom request or whatever), my dad freaked his freak and I ended up translating English to English that day and every day we were in Cancun.

Not a single moment of Spanish. We went to McDonald's for lunch one day, and the cashier asked, "Do you want cheese on that Quarter Pounder?" in American accent English, clear as sunshine, and my dad looked at me with that expectant look of Well, GO ON, so I sighed and said to him in American accent English: "She wants to know if you want cheese on your burger." And he smiled all knowingly and went, "Ah. I understand now. Tell her I said, SI. Yes. I would like CHEESE ON MY BURGER." Because when you yell at people who don't speak your language they can magically understand you. And then I sighed, turned back to the cashier and said, "Yes please. Cheese."

I did that, in between running interference for my mom, who would go to restaurants and say things like: THIS ISN'T MEXICAN WATER, IS IT? I CAN'T DRINK MEXICAN WATER. While my brother and I looked around nervously for banditos who might want to kill some ugly Americans that day.

Oh, and neither one of them could pronounce the hotel, which was called Las Palmeras, my father being the worst offender. Every time they directed a taxi driver to it, it was Los Palaramas. Or El Palama. Or Las Palaciamos. Somehow the drivers always knew where they meant and managed to get us to the correct place. Though I wonder how many of them said things like mierda under their breath and seriously considered how much trouble it would be to sell us all into slavery or something.  (Amy's tip of the Day: Don't travel internationally with your mom and dad, kids.) (That's for American kids only; European kids, you live with international borders and so I'm assuming you know how to comport yourselves when abroad from the age of zygote. We don't have that here--this country is too large, and the one above us sounds too much like us when they speak English. And the one below us is our big whipping boy, our scapegoat. So it's not going well.)

Speaking of international travel, did you know Scotland almost left the United Kingdom?! They voted and decided not to after all, but not before severely damaging some deep trust that I'm sure will take years of expensive talk therapy to fix and upsetting the children. I'm so surprised Queen Elizabeth didn't send Prince Harry and the RAF up there to rough them up a bit, let them know who's still in charge. King Edward I would have.

Still: thank you, Scotland! Thank you. I hope Texas was watching and maybe got some good ideas. Maybe Rick Perry is hatching some plans right now. I think Kansas would love to mediate those proceedings. I'll help Texas move. (I'm sorry, Texas. I'm just picking on you. I'd suggest Florida leave too, except they have all the nice beaches. You have Austin. The End.)

One last (non-international) thing before I go: if you have a moment this weekend or week, would you please send prayers, light, and/or love to a little girl in Georgia? She has terminal cancer, and her family is spending as much time with her as they can now, creating as many memories as they can fit in over the next few months; they've exhausted all their options and they're choosing love and hospice now as the final part of their fight. She's a cute little girl with a beautiful heart who's been karate chopping cancer since Kindergarten. I'm a firm believer in the power of thought and light altering the very make up of ourselves and our existence here, so if you could send some light & love and good vibes to sweet Lizzie and some really strong love for strength and courage to her mom and dad, that'd be so swell of you. And, if you're so inclined, you can help Lizzie's family enjoy the last sweet moments they have together. CLICK HERE to do that.

You can do it in Spanish with a Scottish accent if you'd like.

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