Around here, we mostly notice the differences. The similarities don’t jump out at us, and there are less of those. Like obeying cross walk signs or driving on the right, the’re easy to dismiss. Some differences are subtle, like the fact that you can’t buy laundry detergent that is unscented. Everything is seriously perfumed. That’s not such a subtle difference since we seem to be allergic to every scented detergent and we’ve been itching in one form or another for quite some time now.
One of the biggest things we’ve noticed is that people drink beer at breakfast. Sometimes, on the weekend, we’ll go out to El Horno for a coffee, and a large portion of the patrons are drinking a cerveza. We’ve taken to calling it ‘breakfast beer’ and Jeff, not one to scoff at another culture’s traditions and idiosyncrasies, has embraced it (on the weekends) to the fullest.
I liken it to the Bloody Mary or the Mimosa in the US. Brunch isn’t the same without them. Except its not like that at all. It’s just a bunch of old guys from the neighborhood smoking, and drinking beer, at 9 am on a Tuesday. It just feels strange.
Today, on our way to Day 3 Escuela de Espanol, I caught Jeff looking longingly at the guys in front of El Horno on our way to class. I sympathized. I could have used a stiff drink before entering the lion’s den. Something to smooth out the rough edges of the knives of incomprehension that were coming our way in mere minutos. But we walked on.
Two hours later and we walked out exhausted, frustrated and confused. We stopped at El Horno for a coffee and Coke on the way home. We needed a moment to review the experience and to come up with a strategy. The one we’ve been employing isn’t working for either of us.
‘Did you catch any of the lesson three?’ I asked him, while thumbing through my notebook.
‘Not a bit. But I figured I just sit that one out. I don’t get how she doesn’t teach us what things actually are. Car, Truck, our numbers, colors, days of the week, telling time. Like how they teach kids in pre-school. They don’t just shout at them. They have pictures and books and they sing songs to learn mnemonic devices. This moves so fast you get whiplash and you haven’t recovered before you’re on to the next thing. ‘
‘You’re lucky she didn’t call on you.’ I told him. ‘When I looked confused she just kept saying something else in Spanish. I don’t understand why we don’t have lists of vocabulary words or any clue what we’re trying to do. It seems like it would be a great idea if she told us the day before what the focus would be the next day, so we could prepare.’ I was whining but I didn’t care.
‘Yeah, that’s not going to happen.’ He had given up on that the first day. ‘I spend so much time flipping back and forth in my notes, I miss her mimes and when look up again, I’m lost.’ He took a drink of his Coke but was eyeing our neighbor’s pre-lunch cerveza.
‘I’m going to develop some cheat sheets. I need to have my basics at my finger tips. I’ll spend the afternoon typing up what I have and you can review it and add what I missed. Tomorrow we’ll be ready.’ I feel better with a battle plan.
So that’s what I did today. It’s 4 o’clock and we got home at noon after out El Horno bitch/strategy session. My notes are typed up. Tables for pronouns, verbs, adverbs are completed with what we’ve learned so far. I’ve got sections for ‘Compare and Contrast’ vocab, and just plain random vocabulary. Numbers from one to one thousand are also in there, and grammar rules that include a host of exceptions. ‘Measures of Time’ will now be at my finger tips so they can roll off my tongue. Days, Weeks, Months, Seasons. it’s all there.
When El Chino reopens after siesta, I’ll head down there to get some index cards and make us up some flash cards. Sure, I can’t just rattle that stuff off yet, but when she asks us to say something, I’ll be able to conjure something up. Wait! Who am I kidding? She’s goes so fast I’ll still be fumbling. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll embrace a ‘breakfast beer’. Honestly, it couldn’t hurt and maybe I wouldn’t care so much. Except I don’t love beer and I haven’t seen anyone drink wine for breakfast. Perhaps they have to draw the line somewhere.