Back in Mérida
Things have been a whirlwind since Tabasco. I haven’t had a chance to sit down and breathe. There’s always been something to do: soccer games, beach, time with the grandkids, leading class, birthday parties, and on top of it all, trying to squeeze in homework. Out of all the activity during the last two weeks, two anecdotes stand out in my mind.
The first one starts with my friend asking me who the kid with curly hair and white teeth was, as he had asked her to go with him to eat ice cream. I told her who he was and warned her that he was “creepy” in the sense that he did not understand the meaning of friendship and just jumped straight to showing up in random places where you were going to be. Needless to say, she went to eat ice cream. A few days later when we were on the bus, bumping our way back from school, she tells me that her ice cream friend keeps annoying her and it was all I could do not to say “I told you so”. As we are crossing the park a few blocks from our homes, I see a familiar silver beetle parked on the side of the road and see our “friend” standing next to it holding a gorgeous sunflower. An awkward exchange occurred between the two of them before I was able to create a not-so-obvious excuse of how we needed to be home to eat lunch with our host families.
I tell this anecdote because this is exactly what my host father did to woo my host Mom, Rebeca. After telling her this story, she sat down and began to reminisce about her courtship. Licho, she said, would just show up in random places or at random events where she happened to be. He was always quiet she said, but always there. It’s really something only I can appreciate, but knowing the two of them, I could just see Licho standing there quietly while Rebeca laughed, gossiped, and joked with her girlfriends.
Anecdote two: A few days ago my friends invited me to a cantina for lunch. While I am not a huge beer drinker, buying one beer is accompanied by a bunch of botanas (snacks) and I figured an afternoon with friends outweighed the snack food I was about to eat. On our way there we ran into one of their old teachers who quickly told us she would love to accompany us. “A teacher in a cantina with her students?!” I thought. “This would never happen in the U.S.!” But needless to say we are not in the U.S. And honestly, things like this should happen more often. Through events like this, the teacher can relate to her students with a level of friendship that allows her to provide guidance and advice. In the classroom, she is tough, and expects a lot of her students. But outside of class, she just enjoys meeting her students where ever they are in life – many times meaning cantina. I would love to have such a close relationship with my professors in my university, but there is always a very defined student-teacher relationship. The next day, this same maestra drove us to Progreso, a pueblo on the beach, to speak to high school kids about majoring in literature. Afterwards we ate wonderful servings of ceviche before passing the rest of the afternoon playing soccer on the beach. The best part was, she played too. It was one of my favorite days so far in Mexico. I hope that I can share this concept – demand for excellence in the classroom while still being able to maintain a normal friendship with one’s students – with my teachers in the U.S. I truly believe that this form of relationship allows for much more growth and development and really gets the student comfortable, and more importantly, excited to learn.