Thursday, September 01, 2005

In Honor of the Incomparable Sra R.

Ah, High School. For most, it is a time of angst, zits, and wacky high-jinks. Unless you are a horribly shy, awkward me, in which you can just forget about the high-jinks. Well, unless you want to slap your knee about the time you and the rest of the cross-country team TP'd the house of the team member who couldn't come to the soda and chip party with the rest of the gang! You should have seen it! We even got the TP up on the roof, and then it rained! Such wild times.

OK. I went to class, took all the stuff you're supposed to take to get into the college you need, to get into the med school you need, to get to do what you've always wanted to do, please, please, please! I dated, like, one guy each year for a month or two at a time, except for my senior year, when I had (gasp) a boyfriend in the fall and another one in the spring. I chose Spanish as my foreign language because it seemed that it would be very useful to be able to speak to those whom I hoped to care for, if they, say, didn't speak English. Sra. R. taught Spanish.

She was amazing and it is a testament to her person that I can not remember a single solitary student EVER mocking her for any of her rather numerous quirks. She had family in Spain, so there was some legitimacy there, although apparently her accent was absolutely atrocious, at least according to the people we met in Mexico on the trip we all took. According to them, each of us senior Spanish students sounded much better than her, with regard to our pronunciation. She was around 60, short curly hair, barrel-torsoed with these skinny little chicken legs and duck-footed. She laughed constantly, her voice raspy. She loved to play her guitar (badly) and teach us folk songs in Spanish, which I will maintain to my dying day is the best way to teach a language, as it flows better when you are singing. It is also why I know the words "machine gun" and "nightingale" in Spanish. I also know a good drinking song or two, courtesy of her. She could not carry a tune, but it was impossible to not join in, and loudly, the other classes be damned. Her class abutted the advanced math classroom, so I can attest to the effect on the outside. She also made us take part in an international dance exhibition, teaching us (yes!) the Mexican Hat Dance. AND WE ALL SHOWED UP AND PERFORMED. Quite horribly. (Although not on purpose.)

Anyway, one bleak, drizzly day in early December of my senior year, while the 7 of us in Senior Spanish were waiting for her to ditto something in the office (yes, the way-back days of dittos), we decided that what we really needed was a vacation in sunny Mexico. We announced this to her as she walked in the door. We were all kidding. She, of course, was not, when she dropped everything and we spent the whole class outlining a plan to make this happen. I kid you not. How unbelievably cool is that?

We planned the finances (none of us nor our parents had much money), the itinerary, the lodging, the getting of the time off from school, because, as her logic went, you really need to go for more than just spring break. You need to be gone for the week after, too.

For several months we fund raised. We sold shit at lunch. We did those staples of car washes and newspaper drives. We babysat and cleaned gutters. Our families chipped in what they could. We made the cash.

Bright and early on the first day of spring break found us in all loaded in the school van with Sra. R at the wheel and we headed south from Portland, driving to San Francisco. After a quick sleep on the floor of her daughter's house, back in the van and south to San Diego. Next morning found us walking across the border to Tijuana to catch the Aero Mexico flight (about 1/2 the price of flying out of San Diego, and I'm sure the plane was just as safe, right?) to Guadalajara, our destination.

The details of the trip are rather fuzzy, given that all this happened a couple of decades ago. I remember the enormous outdoor market, the rickety busses, their dashboards covered with bobbling statuettes of saints, and seeing the famed Ballet Folclorico. We saw museums and such, including the run-in with 400 male high school students from a neighboring province, who mobbed us, asking us out and taking photos. Very heady. We went out dancing and drinking with a bunch of young male friends of the family we stayed with. And yes, they were all very gentlemanly. There was a wonderful party thrown for us to say good-bye the night before we left. We visited Tequila, touring one of the distilleries (Jose Cuervo? Sauza? I dunno.) and sampling the raw tequila from the vats. (Tasted sorta like I imagine gasoline would taste.) We lunched on all sorts of local fare and rode horses around lake Chapala. Best damn trip of my life.

I firmly believe that all kids should get to go out of the country with a nutty chaperone who wants to show all about the country being visited, who wants them to taste and see everything, regardless of what might be approved or disapproved of back home. I will do everything I can to make sure my kids get to do something like this. I have not been back and I really don't want to. I don't want to mess with the dusty, tequila-sunset colored memories. I don't want my grown self to intrude on my youth.

Thanks, Teri, for goading me into writing about this.

Today is also the first day of school in these parts. Here's hoping Colin's first grade experience is grand.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sra R is still around and kicking, literally. Cathy has had her in her water aerobics class. Turn about is fair play as C also had her for Spanish. Poor me, I only got to conjugate stuff and read out of the text book.


9:48 AM  
Blogger Teri said...

Hey! You wrote it! Huzzah! Sra R. sounds like a hoot! I had a French teacher who couldn't speak French, so I totally relate.

9:50 AM  
Blogger Rozanne said...

What an amazing teacher. Can you imagine any teacher nowadays having the freedom to organize something that spontaneous and independent of official school-sanctioned trips abroad? Today, they'd just look at all the potential for lawsuits inherent in a trip like that and put the kibosh on it.

Totally enjoyed reading this post!

5:54 PM  
Blogger Diana said...

Dad- De veras?! I can see her doing that with gusto.

Teri- Whoops! I didn't mean to imply that she wasn't fluent, as she was very much so, just that the young Mexicans we met commented on her accent. Spanish-spanish and Mexican-spanish are probably quite different in accent, although I can't hear it. Probably if someone in the American deep South were teaching English language and then led a trip to Britain.

Rozanne- Nope, can't imagine it. Certainly not the free-wheeling one we took, more's the pity.

7:54 AM  
Blogger The Lioness said...

Already? oh how sweet and cute and adorable and brilliant for him - wait till he realises he can read books!

How does one say that in Spanish then? Anything remotely like "metralhadora" and "cotovia"? "Cotovia" sounds quite good actually.

11:24 AM  
Blogger The Lioness said...

Oh oh! I did have an English teacher in Grade 12 who once read from "Julius Caesar" - and I laughed bcs I was sure she was making that atrocious accent on purpose. She hated me from then on, always gave me low grades (compared to what I knew, that is) - 17 out of 20? Moi? In English? The bloody cow knew less grammar and idiomatic expressions etc than me! I would try and just be quiet bcs every time I opened my mouth my grades plummeted but once she decided that we could say "It's such A fine weather today" - in Portuguese weather is quantifiable, NEVER IN ENGLISH THE STUPID TWAT! Xan you tell I never forgave her? I had to interrupt and politely point out that was wrong. She psmiled patronisingly and said it wasn't. I apologised and said it truly was wrong. She said she'd be happy to prove me wrong the next day, she'd bring the books. This was 15 years ago and I ain't seen no books yet.

Oh and another one, while reading Anthropology for my other degree, insisted there was a witch in the article I was writing an essay on bcs it said "which". WHICH! I ask you. I was so embarrassed for her I couldn't even say anything.

(An awfully long comment, I know, sorry)
(Your fault though)

11:32 AM  
Blogger CarpeDM said...

Ha! I am still the undisputed winner of the worst trip to Mexico contest.

Your trip sounds like quite a lot of fun. I took one semester of Spanish and 3 years of German and remember more Spanish. Which is sad. Especially when you consider what I remember is Feliz Navidad and muy guapo hombre.

I do remember singing along to the Beatles in German - I want to hold your hand. It was great.

1:00 PM  
Blogger Diana said...

Johnny- Dahling! Si! Ametralladora! Yes, very sweet for the boy. He came home bouncing, literally, all over the living room as he told me all about it. I felt as though I came off a carnival ride at the end. He loves his teacher. He is already quite good at reading, I think, for someone starting the first grade. I am horrified and delighted with your tale of your atrocious English teacher. Sadly, many over here make that and other similar errors on a daily basis. We apparently don't teach it any better as a mother tongue. Bah. (And don't think I am not honored that in the midst of bones and all, you left 2 comments. Back to the books, missy. We miss you)

1:07 PM  
Blogger Diana said...

Dana- Yes, still the Queen! And let's be honest, those are very important phrases to know. I might add, "Donde esta el bano?" and you would be pretty well set for any contingency. The rest can be faked or mimed or yelled really slowly in American.

1:47 PM  

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