Friday, June 16, 2006
Since I’m in my last week here in Puebla, I thought I would write about missing things.First, things I miss about home:
I miss the quiet of living in a house by myself.
I miss my dog.
I miss knowing that my parents are just a phone call away and my sister, and her family, is just a couple of hours away.
I miss ice. Although the restaurant I eat lunch at has purified drinking water, I’m not sure about the ice, so I just avoid it.
I miss my king-size pillow and my body pillow, actually just my bed in general. Not that the bed here is uncomfortable, but it’s a twin and it’s not mine.
I miss my cell phone. I don’t use it very often, but it is nice to have available. Phone calls here in Puebla are expensive, local or long distance.Thing I won’t miss about Puebla:
I won’t miss the rooster that wakes up at 4:30am, almost like clockwork. “Hey, stupid rooster, the sun isn’t up yet. Didn’t they teach you that in rooster school?”
I won’t miss the stupid dog that either lives with the rooster or right next door. He barks for no apparent reason, as if he’s being tortured for 30 seconds, then suddenly stops.
I won’t miss the extreme poverty here, the people – families, parents, children – who live with nothing. I also won’t forget them.
I won’t miss the constant (which here means all the time for no apparent reason) honking. Let me give you a few examples. Even though I walk to school everyday, I think I’ve learned how to drive in Puebla.
Rule #1: Say you are the 10th car in line, waiting at a red light. When the light turns green, if the car in front of you doesn’t immediately make some sort of movement, you must honk. Presumably because none of the cars in front of you know the light turned green.
Rule #2: If there is nowhere for anyone to go (again because the light is red or everyone is stopped because there is no place to go), you must honk. I’m not sure why, but it’s necessary.
Rule #3: When you drive through a green light, if there is a car waiting at the red light the opposite direction, you must honk before proceeding through your green light. I guess this is to say, “You have a red light, I’m moving very quickly, don’t pull out in front of me.” They might not see the other car barreling down the road, but they will surely hear the honk.
Rule #4: If the car in front of you is driving more slowly than you think they should be driving, or is not driving the way you think they should, you honk.
Rule #5: If you are upset about anything other than driving, you may honk. Yesterday, on the way to lunch, cars were backed up. Everything was at a standstill. In this one intersection, with cars going both directions (two one-way streets) there were probably 40 cars. One woman started honking. This was not a toot-your-horn kind of honk. She laid on the horn for a good 30 seconds. Why? I have no idea. This is why Rule #5 was created. Just for people like her. Did it help for her to honk? Obviously not because no one could move.
One additional Rule, concerning red lights: red lights don’t really mean anything. If no one is coming, or if you think you have plenty of room, just go through the intersection.
Okay, one more rule concerning lanes. If a road has two lanes, but there is enough room to fit 4 cars side by side, the cars in the second row must fill the spaces, thereby temporarily creating 4 lanes. If the cars in the second row do not fill in, see Rule #4.
I won’t miss being surrounded by 5,000,000 people (or 3 million or 4 million, is just depends on who you ask; each person I asked said, “I’m sure there’s X million.”)Things I will miss about Puebla:
I will miss being able to visit buildings from 1500, or churches built in 1650, or office buildings that have been around for 300 years.
I will miss having a tienda
(little store) on every corner. When I walk to school I pass 7 OXXOs, they’re kind of like 7-11 or Maverick, just smaller. There is always one close.
I will miss having my laundry done for about $5.00 a week. If I could find someone at home to wash, dry and fold my laundry for $5.00/week, I would probably use the service.
I will miss being able to greet women – old abuelas
, young ninas
in between – with a kiss on the cheek. I think it is a very kind thing to do, a very warm gesture.
I will miss seeing students in their school uniforms. They all look so nice. American schools could benefit from school uniforms. (If any of my Wendell students are reading this, don’t worry. You won’t be wearing uniforms any time soon.)
I will especially miss my family. Juan Jr. had the opportunity to take a job, three hours to the north of Puebla. He asked my opinion about what he should do. I was so touched that the family would include me in an important decision like that. Juan is 23 years old and a little tired of living at home. On the other hand, he is trying to finish his English education, having only two more months. We talked about the importance of education, the importance of family, the importance of independence, the importance (and likelihood) of future opportunities.
Being here in Puebla has taught me to appreciate so much that I have.
I appreciate my independence. I have a car; I can go where I want, when I want.
I appreciate being able to turn on the faucet and know that the water is safe to drink.
I appreciate the safety of my neighborhood. I don’t have to surround myself with 10 foot high walls. I don’t have to have bars on my windows and a watch dog on my roof. I can walk around town at midnight and know that I’m safe.
I appreciate that the police in my town are there to protect me, not take advantage of me. I have talked to many different people about the police here in México. Everybody gives me the same response. “The police are corrupt. I don’t trust them, no one does.” If any police officers in America are reading this, Thank you. You do a great job and are not thanked often enough for the risk you take to protect citizens like me. I promise that the next time I get pulled over (which I hope is never) I will thank you.
I appreciate the quiet of rural Idaho.
I appreciate the wide open spaces of rural Idaho.
I appreciate the hugs I get everyday at school. People down here greet each other with a kiss on the cheek, which I really like, but it’s not the same as a hug from a kid.
I appreciate not having to stand on a street corner all day, trying to sell newspapers or trinkets or flowers or vegetables, while around me cars (with the obligatory pollution) speed by trying not to notice me. I appreciate not having to hope someone will let me wash their windshield or help them back out of a parking space in exchange for a few pennies.
I appreciate being a wealthy American. I know that by American standards I am not rich, I’m probably lower middle class. But after seeing the way people live here, I am so rich.
I appreciate being able to communicate clearly.
I have actually heard Americans say, after talking with a Méxican, or trying to communicate with someone who has limited English skills, “Why don’t they just learn English. This is America. They should learn English.”
The problem is, Americans don’t want Méxicans to learn English, we want them to KNOW English, right now. I think back to when I learned English.
For the first two years of my English education, I was exposed to the language 12-18 hours per day. I was not required to respond with sentences or words. In fact, I was not required to respond with anything more than a hand gesture or a loud cry. My teachers simply allowed me to listen to the language, learning the sounds, the rhythm and the patterns of the language.
For the next two years, I began using simple words and short phrases. “Me want cookie.” “I do it.” Nobody laughed at my inability to use the language properly, nobody got frustrated when I was unable to communicate my intentions or needs. My teachers simply corrected my usage, very kindly and gently. “Say, ‘I would like a cookie please.’”
Not until my fifth year of being immersed in English did I begin a formal education. After five years of listening to and using the language I finally learned the alphabet, colors, numbers, how to spell and write my name.
After seven years of immersion, I was finally conversational in English. Think about any 7 year old you know. They can carry on a conversation, even with an adult. Would you call them fluent in English? Maybe. Every single person reading these words right now, took at least 7 years to learn English, to become fluent in the language. Give Spanish speakers at least that long to learn their second language.
The next time you find yourself frustrated at someone because they can’t speak English, stop to think about how long they’ve had to learn the language. It is a widely accepted fact that children learn languages faster than adults. If you are attempting to communicate with someone who has been in this country 5 years or less, remember, as far as the English language is concerned, they’re like pre-school students. Have some patience with them. Don’t laugh at them, don’t get frustrated, try to help them.
Most of my Spanish is in the present tense. I haven’t yet mastered past tense (in Spanish there are two past tenses, unlike English). If I want to say, “Yesterday I ate lunch in the restaurant then went to the museum.” I have to say, “Yesterday, I go to the restaurant, then I go to the museum.” Before I leave we will learn how to conjugate verbs in the past tense, but just because I learn it in class doesn’t mean I can use it. I’m sure to Spanish speakers I sound juvenile. I am. In the Spanish language, I’m like a 4 year old (and that’s being optimistic).
Never again will I get impatient when a parent comes into the school office. I will attempt to communicate with them, in English and Spanish, knowing that if we both try, we can communicate meaning, even if we don’t use the right words.