When I showed up to Spanish school this past Monday, I was informed by the school’s secretary that:
1. My Spanish teacher had “amoebas”
2. He wouldn’t be coming back to school any time soon
Well. I’m not entirely sure what amoebas are, but if they’re anything like the food poisoning I had a few weeks ago, then I can understand why he wouldn’t be coming back to school. After I was repeatedly assured that there was ‘no problema’ and that Jose would live, I was introduced to my new teacher, Maria.
Two minutes into our lesson, I knew I wasn’t going to like Maria. At least not as a Spanish teacher. And it wasn’t just because she wasn’t attractive, funny Jose, either. I didn’t like her because she couldn’t teach.
Besides her bizarre tendency to burst into song at random points during the lesson, Maria gets sidetracked a lot. One minute she’ll be trying to explain how to conjugate the present progressive and the next thing you know, she’s telling you about her arthritis or her opinion on terrorism.
But although her tangents don’t help me much when it comes to learning Spanish grammar, they’re certainly entertaining.
Here’s a few tidbits she shared with me.
Maria on Men: “Don’t date a Guatemalan boy! They only want to have sex with you. And then when they are done, they will leave you for a 15-year-old.”
Maria on Water: “You don’t need to drink so much water. I never drink water. Never. I only drink chocolate, coffee and corn. When I went to the US in High School, I was so afraid to drink the water that I only drank milk. For six weeks, only milk. Mayans don’t need to drink water.”
Maria on America (specifically Nashville, TN): “Everyone is tall and fat. And everyone eats fried chicken. And when you order a fried chicken wing in the restaurant, they give you the whole chicken!”
Maria on dental hygiene: “When I was 18, my two front teeth got cavities in them and I went to the hospital and they pulled them out. Then when I was 30, I got tired of the pain from having cavities all the time, so I told the doctor to pull out all my teeth. Yes, even the good ones. So now I don’t real teeth. Everybody does this in Guatemala. It’s reality. My sister pulled out all her teeth and so did my mother.”
And then there’s the fact that she can’t speak English, but thinks she can. Whenever I don’t know the meaning of a particular word, instead of attempting to explain it in Spanish, Maria will give me the English translation. Or at least her version of an English translation. She once confused the word ‘fit’ with ‘feed’ and it took me two days to realize that she wasn’t talking about feeding her children their shirts every morning.
“I give you a hog.” She said suddenly yesterday and then wrote the word ‘abrazo’ on the board.
“You give me a hog?” I questioned. “A pig?”
“Si, a hog.” She nodded.
I drew a little, blue piggy onto the white board.
“No! A hooooog.” I stared at her. What in the World was she talking about? Was this a dinner invitation? Did she have a spare pig in her backyard that she wanted to gift me?
It wasn’t until she stood up, walked over to my side of the table and hugged me that I finally understood.
“Oh!” I said in surprise. “Hug.”
But as bad as Maria is, I can’t tell the school. Because then they’ll just fire her and find me another teacher. And although that might be better for my Spanish, it would mean that Maria would be unemployed again. And I couldn’t do that to her, not when her family and grandchildren depend so heavily on her income.
But I also know that the school knows that she’s a bad teacher. I’ve seen the way the other teachers smirk at her and every afternoon the secretary puts on a concerned face and asks: “Todos tambien con tu maestra?” (Is everything okay with your teacher?) I have a feeling that they stuck her with me because she was one of the few teachers that was willing to sub-in at the last minute. I think that it also didn’t hurt that she lives in the building next-door.