Feb 8, 2008

A Day in My Life

I wrote about a typical day in my life yesterday...here it is, and I'll try to embellish it in the next few days with photos.

The alarm goes off at 5:15 This morning, and 15 minutes later, the Celeste alarm goes off. I'm warm and comfy in bed, but the dog needs to go out. We live just off a very busy four-lane throughfare, so Celeste (ignorant of wild Peruvian traffic) cannot go outside off the leash. And she needs to blow off some of that steam and stink that she accumulated during the night, so out we go to the bike path. If we get out there before 6:30, traffic will be minimal and we won't have to dodge cars to cross the street. Fifteen minutes later, she's done her business and we've both run a block or two. Back to the apartment building and upstairs to the second floor. She goes into her crate to eat her breakfast and I'm in the shower.

After a shower, I put on the tea kettle and make a quick breakfast. O snoozes obliviously until the tea kettle whistles and he smells something cooking. I have a mug of tea and get my clothes pressed for work. I throw them on, pull my hair into a pony tail, gather up my book bag and head out the door by 7 am. O continues eating. Ciao, baby. See you this afternoon.

On the street, I cross the 4-laner and catch a "combi". That's what they call mini-vans that have been outfitted with 4 rows of bench seats set so close that your knees are around your ears. It's 15 cents to go from Pachecutec to Cuba Ave. Sometimes so many people are crowded into the combi that some can't sit down and the cobrador (who take your money, yells out the window where the combi route goes, and opens and closes the door) can't close the door and uses his own body in place of the door to keep passengers from falling out while the van is moving. And traffic here in Lima is so crazy. Salaverry is a 4-lane highway, but between taxies, busses, combis, and passenger cars, it is often 6 or 7 lanes at any given time. Horns constantly blow, turn signals are a waste on most cars, because the people don't use them. Usually someone waggles a finger out a window and that's good enough. Traffic lights are only respected if there's a policeman at the corner. Sometimes it's better just to keep my eyes on the floor, especially when drivers perform that incredibly common Latin American feat of making a left-hand turn from the far right lane in front of cars that are continuing straight ahead. I have a near stroke every time I witness it, especially if I'm in the vehicle that's doing the illegal turn.

The bus rockets the length of Salaverry Avenue to Cuba and I climb out on the corner to walk the rest of the way to the institute where I teach. I arrive at the main entrance of CIVIME (Centro de Idiomas de la Virgen de las Mercedes) at 7:15 and get up to my classroom. Class starts at 7:30. This month, I'm teaching the final cycle in the 30-month series of a North American English course in the mornings. CIVIME is almost half a city block of Buildings that began as two-story buildings in a square with a patio in the center of the square. After 30 years, they have added 2 more stories onto buildings that should have been renovated several years ago. Luckily, there have been no catastrophic disasters to test the integrity of the buildings. I'm hoping we don't put a foot through the dry-rotted spots in the floors of the second story of Building D while I'm working here. My students arrive and we get started.

Class includes (usually) some vocabulary practice, a little grammar, several writing exercises, and some repetitious pronunciations. In order to be sure that the students understand everything that I'm presenting, I ask them to produce verbal examples of the grammar points, use the vocabulary, and use everything in conversation. I also include additional material that I bring from home, because this course is from the US military, and tends to get a little boring, if you're not into military life. Omar the puppet has yet to make his appearance in my daily classes, but we often produce short texts and narrations about him. Improvisation is included at the end of the class - almost anything to keep their interest and keep them talking - and then class ends at 9. I'm out of there a few moments later and downstairs to check on any news from management and say hi to my friends.

One of my friends is Pedrito, an English instructor and native of Peru, who tells anyone who will listen that he is a "near-native speaker." Although he's never been outside of Peru, he often starts a conversation with, "When I was in London," or "When I was in Manhattan..." Pedrito is a little bit effeminate and usually makes his entrance into a room with books under one arm and the other arm raised at the elbow with the limp wrist effect, kind of like a chicken with one weak wing. Or a butterfly flying along weakly with one tattered wing.

As I leave CIVIME, I usually grab a breakfast sandwich in the little cafeteria, then head out the door to catch another bus home. By the time I arrive home at 9:30, O has already gone to work and Celeste is asking to go out again. I change my clothes, grab Celeste, and we're out to the bike path again to do her business. Then to the open market to pay a couple of bills, get some vegetables, maybe a couple of pieces of chicken and a chewbone for Celeste. We're home by 10:30 and put away the few groceries I've bought. I toss a load of laundry into the washer and set it to work. Celeste's hair is everywhere in the apartment this time of year, so that has to be swept up, then she goes into her crate while I mop and the floor dries. While the floor dries, I knit on a sock and get the heel turned...YEAY! Then Celeste comes back out, I get the dishes done, and clean the rest of the apartment. We go back outside to play for awhile, then in to make lunch at noon.

Today lunch was a sandwich of herbed bread with fried eggplant, cheese, and tomato sauce; a salad of lettuce, tomato, and cubes of fresh cheese; and a small bottle of imported German beer. After lunch, I prepare my lesson plan for the aftenoon class, which is the same course as the morning class, and then at 2pm, Celeste and I go outside once more. At 2:30, I have to get ready for class again, so I change into my long skirt and a blouse again, look like a teacher again, and gather up my stuff. This evening I also have a conversation class at 6, so I take some extra material with me.

At 3:15, O comes home and I'm just about on my way out the door. I usually take a combi to Cuba Ave. once more, but today, O offers to drive me to work. I arrive 10 minutes early, get 10 copies of materials for the conversation class and get a bottle of water at the cafeteria. On my way to my classroom, out the corner of my eye, I see a little butterfly with a tattered wing fluttering along behind me. It's Pedrito. He tells me that he's planning to attend my conversation class at 6 pm. "When I was in Manhattan..." He smiles a big wide smile and bats his eyes at me. Okay. Flutter along boy, flutter along.

Pedrito is one of the funniest people I have ever met. Funny in more than just "haha" funny. He talks continuously, often not making any sense at all, but feeling that he's getting his fair share of attention from whomever happens to be in the room. While he's talking he waves a hand limply and smiles broadly, batting his eyes, then sashays from the room making a dramatic exit. I can't tell if what I suspect is true, because he has asked several of the female teachers who work there to marry him. But I suspect...I suspect...he's just a little more than a feminine man. One never knows, though.

The other men who teach there laugh at/with Pedrito good-naturedly. They like him, mostly, and don't want to hurt his feelings, so they never allude to his femininity, but tease him when he starts talking about the last time he was in Manhattan. The joke is that "hato" is slang for home, so when he says "Manhattan", they say, "Mi hato" (my home) over and over. If you say it fast enough it could sound something like "Manhattan". "Oh, really, Pedrito? Mi hato? The last time you were in mi hato?"

At 4:15, my afternoon class is in session and only one student shows up on time. Later, one more arrives, then another, and another. That's the thing about Peru - everyone arrives fashionably late. It's irritating to me, but I'm getting used to it some. The class today is pretty small, but they all participate and we have fun. We joke about the rat that ran out of the cafeteria yesterday. Everyone screamed and three maintenance men chased the rat around the compound with brooms, like something out of the Keystone Kops. The screams turned into laughter and everyone came away thinking it was some practical joke for Carnival. I have one woman in class that failed last month with a different instructor. I know she's in my class this month because I have very few students that fail and she's hoping that maybe I'll do something different and Rosario will pass with flying colors. I think I've just been very lucky so far. I've had really good students in the year I've been teaching here.

My 4:15 class flies by and we're finished at 5:45. My conversation class starts at 6 pm, so I go to the next classroom to get set up. Last Saturday, I only had 2 people come, so I'm kind of apprehensive about the way the class will go. Pedrito flutters in at 6 and then out again when more people begin to trickle in, until I've got a room stuffed full of students and we're dragging desks in from other rooms. We begin with a handout about manners, which seemed like a relatively boring topic, but turned into a huge discussion about what Peru does, culturally, that is a turn-off to the rest of the world, like the lack of punctuality across the board, spitting on the sidewalk, peeing in public (in the park, on the street, on the sidewalk, etc) which is a very common practice among Peruvian men, shoving one's way through a crowded city bus to get out the door before the bus pulls away from the bus stop, and throwing trash and garbage in the streets and sidewalks.

With each topic brought up, students were asked how they would handle it if they were confronted with a situation. They all had their strong opinions. Then each one had to put themselves in the shoes of the person who was dropping trash on the street, peeing on the sidewalk, or habitually showing up late to work. So interesting to see the way they understood why things are the way they are, and so interesting to see that they want to change things, but are hobbled by their cultural and familial inhibitions. This class also flew by and officially ended at 7:30, but many students stayed a bit longer to chew on the ends of their discussions. One student stayed to tell me how scared he was to mispronounce his words and talked nearly 30 minutes. Two more asked for a technical manual to be translated, but I had to refer them to another instructor who actually does translations. Then I caught a bus from Cuba Ave down to Salaverry, and from there, I took a combi home to Pachecutec. Whew! Home by 8:30!

It really is funny that we seem to plan our days around the dog. And I'm sure she plans her day around what she wants us to do, heh. She is involved with every activity, from making breakfast to creating a lesson plan. Right there, supervising everything from the floor, sometimes planting a paw on my foot or laying her chin on the coffee table. The only thing she can't do is help with the sweeping and mopping, and that irritates her. Oh, and she's not allowed to be left free and unsupervised in the house while we're at work, but I think she's used to it by now. But, Celeste was yelling to be let out of her crate when I walked in the door. I changed my clothes again and we went out to the bike path again, on the grass...Celeste is one of those Peruvians that pees in public. We ran and played a little while, then came inside to check e-mail and WHAT? Write about a day in my life? So here I am, writing. O has come home from work at 9:30 pm, and gone straight to bed. Celeste has gone out once more and is now in bed. I need to finish here and go to bed. Tomorrow morning comes early and I'll have be working till 10:15 pm tomorrow night...

Good Lord, this seems long.


Wooly Works said...

Holy cow! I don't think you could cram any more into a single day. The traffic alone would have driven back home. I guess you get used to it, though. I think I must know Pedrito, or his next of kin. I think everyone must know a Pderito, don't you think?

I know why few people fail your class. It's because you don't give them that option. You draw them in and work pretty hard at including all levels of comfort and participation until they just give up and agree to the whole thing. I think it's more a lesson in coming out of yourself and your comfort zone than in language. You have to deal with what's already in the person before you can put anything else inside.

Kathleen said...

I never knew a Pedrito before this one...he's a doozy. Interesting, intelligent, brilliant at times, and very eager to help, but perpetually late, perpetually talking, perpetually fluttering. One the other side of the coin, I have another friend named Hilda who is only 5 year older than I am, but seems like she's 20 years older. Again - interesting, intelligent, has her brilliant moments, and very eager to help. Both have resigned themselves to what they believe is their fate - living alone, never having an improvement in their individual situations, never looking forward with excitement to the next day. Unable to envision any change in the current situation, except to imagine it worse.

You may be right about the students...I never really give much thought to the fact that each one could potentially fail. I assume that every one of them has success in them and there is no other choice...except when the student takes it upon himself to drop out of the class before completing it. I had one student do fantasically on the mid-term, and then never show up for the final. I have no idea why, except maybe a lack of confidence or faith in himself.

La Gringa said...

Interesting, funny, and informative, but it sounds way too hectic for Latin America. Maybe Honduras is a little more laid back than Peru or maybe there is just too much gringa in you. ;-)