Any Title Is Sufficient

I would like to begin this blog with a short dialogue between Fernando, a seven (six? eight?) year-old who I tutor, and me at Maristas Catholic School on Friday: 

  • Fernando (in his freshly hatched English): "You look like the teacher at my house. And you have the same name as my teacher at home!"
  • Me (in choking voice as I've been in this kid's home for at least 10 hours over the past few weeks): I am your teacher, silly!
  • Fernando (blank, sheepish stare with mild-to-no recognition)

Ahh, in youth, as in senility, the forgetfulness comes. Tutoring and teaching have been good if a little exhausting after nights spent with my friends feeling out our place in this humble-hugish town (yes, we have managed to find the move on occasion). The Sevillian night is beautiful: shards of glass sprinkled on the sidewalk like fallen stars, reflecting the light in the dancing, twinkling blinks of a harshly incomplete mosaic, the yellow street lamps trying not to be forgotten, reflecting on the river like the lingering trails of Midas' fingers through the current. Needless to say, there's a broken sort of grandeur about it all that suits the city.

My North American Lit class has been interesting, enlightening and difficult. Pepa, the professor, has looked at me for authority on both the factual existence of the East and West Eggs in Long Island (I know nothing of them and was recently surprised to learn that one of my friends lives on one of these elusive "eggs") and the amount of football fields 40 acres would span ("Um...I mean...yeah I have no idea"). I was useless. There also exists a very tenuous and gossamer power structure within the class which I am thrice weekly concerned about upsetting. First of all, being the only native speaker of English in the class has made me a subject of both silencing fear and whispered ridicule. Whenever I read aloud in class, the whole room turns to me (a room of 40+ people) to stare at my braided, bespectacled extranjera self. I also had several people repeat in mimicking, poorly muted tones my shocked pronunciation of "Oh My Gosh" after Pepa took five minutes in class to speak exclusively to me about Ibiza and the numerous suicidal and drunken people who go there (Very educational and very unnecessary, Pepa. Thank you). I feel very self-conscious in class (which is both something I always and never feel) and have an either-or agreement with myself only to speak once or read once during class because I don't want to be that American know-it-all girl. This can be more or less harmful at times. The other day, I read aloud a full monologue from The Hairy Ape (a play in which the proletariat dialect is even a task for me to pronounce) and sat back contentedly to take notes for the rest of the class. Pepa then began to explain how Yank, the main character, was a CLOG in the machine. She went to the board and wrote CLOG. And I sat there and thought about my place as that American know-it-all girl and about how fragile Pepa's power over her class was and how established yet precarious their respect for her could be. And so I sat silently and watched as 39+ students scrawled CLOG in their notebook, storing it away in the back of the their minds for the midterm in two weeks in which they will inevitably write CLOG in the machine and Pepa will grade it, saying "Yes, yes, they did learn something in the first half of North American Literature Two." And I am to be the only one (as well as you all, I suppose) to know the truth. Pepa is brilliant, though, and we've talked a lot recently about the consumer society that plagued Gatsby's time and that infects our society today. I'm super interested in this idea of the "want want want" culture--the competitive, individualistic, ever-pushing, ever-climbing, ever-discontented beast of which we now find ourselves in the belly. It's also cool because Pepa is so detached from American culture that she really seems to give a comprehensive look at it (she's not mired down herself by years of living and drinking that patriotic potion of red, white and blue). 

My friend, Isabel, invited my other good friend, Kyle, and me to a Jewish service that she was giving the other day (twas the celebration of the beginning of the reading of the Torrah for the year). We went, of course, because, though we are gentiles, we still have a very great interest in Judaism (and basically anything related to the lovely and mature Isabel). It was strangely located in a rented space provided by Texas Tech University above an odd Christian book store (picture, please: mumbling, crouched, portly older gentleman with hairy ears leering at us from behind the counter and an assortment of texts, including Ser santo o no, eso es la pregunta). The service was short and very, very sweet. Isabel led several prayers in her (en)chanting, lyrical voice, and while Kyle and I didn't know what to do (there is a bowing in parts and a taking of steps forward and back), we enjoyed listening to her and just being present. Kyle and I did our best to awkwardly sway, but there was no need to understand because in a way we already did and in faith, that warm feeling of togetherness and connectedness is sometimes enough. My favorite part of the ceremony was the end when a young boy read the first few lines of Genesis in Spanish. I had tingles, and I couldn't help but feel connected to the people in that small room in a way based entirely on some mutual understanding of humanity. Here we were, in Spain, listening to the first few lines of the Old Testament being read in Spanish, passing around a cup of wine, all flesh and blood, all praying and hoping and searching for a little bit of understanding and safe harbor in such a rowdy, tumultuous world. Anyway, it was really nice (and the excellent selection of homemade hummus, cookies, brownies and salads at the end was a fitting end to such a cozy evening).

Granada, this past weekend (yesterday and today), was wonderful. On the way, the landscape was so serene and tranquil and pure (unlike the brash and bustle of Seville). We passed random castle after random castle, winding our way by bus toward hills lying shaded blue and grey across the far horizon, sneaking along the outskirts of fields that rolled out from the highway comfortably clothed in an assortment of patterned sweaters stitched by olive trees. The city itself was cool as all get out. The streets were full of vintage stores which we perused with childish curiosity and mild surprise (ancient Bret Favre Packer #4 and Michael Vick #7 jerseys being some of numerous finds, along with life-saved sculptures of the Alien and Predator). We also witnessed two seconds of a parade, which was long enough to leave me with a satisfied hope of Spanish joy: men garnished in military buttons, ribbons and braids hosting a (also life-saved) ornate statue of their special Virgen above their heads as a marching band played behind, the entire unit marching through a crowd of loud and (naturally) smoking Spaniards. The Alhambra, too, was beautiful and decorous and extravagant and the site of a number of pigeons which our tour guide referred to as "ancient mobile telephones." The roses there reminded me of my mother. CJB

 

Caroline Brown1 Comment