Saturday, September 08, 2007

First Full Day Back in Oaxaca

I began the morning by going to an intercambio at the library run by expats. It appears to be run mostly by retired American expats actually, or perhaps run is not the right word, frequented might be more appropriate. A lovely Mexican woman seems to do most of the running.

I was paired up with a nice woman, probably about my age, and a young guy of 16 for our hour long session of talking in English and Spanish. The idea is to speak completely in English for a half an hour and then completely in Spanish for half an hour. Now, I have participated in intercambios before and the "speak in Spanish only, speak in English only" rules are NEVER followed. You end up speaking a mixture of both and I'm not sure how much anyone learns throughout the ordeal, it is a bit of a mish mash of topics, speech corrections, and misunderstandings.

During this particular intercambio I was the most outspoken of the group (imagine that) and was trying to coerce my fellow linguistically challenged students to participate. The teenager, whenever I asked him a question, would reply "I don't know". For example, I would say, "What do you like to do for fun?" "I don't know." "What are you studying in school?" "I don't know." "What are you doing the rest of the weekend?" "I don't know." Needless to say it wasn't very productive. I asked the woman what she wanted to talk about, if there were any English terms I might be able to help with and she replied that she wanted to know medical terms. Okay.... As you can tell we were at a bit of a standstill with this whole intercambio, one participant didn't know anything about his own life, the other wanted to know medical terms which I barely know in English, and I'm just trying to get some Spanish practice in but still a bit weary from my day of travel the night before.

After a bit we started to settle in and have some fun. While we are talking a retiree who I assume frequents the place was browsing some books next to our little group. Well about halfway through our "conversation", he decides to offer me some advice that went something like this... "I heard you asking them what you should talk about. One of the best classes I took when I first started to learn Spanish was how to be polite because it is different down here than it is in the States." Huh? I stared at this guy for awhile, I was pretty pissed off, and finally just said "Yeah, okay, thanks for the suggestion." What I wanted to say was "Look asshole. I'm not being rude, I know how to be polite in Spanish you jackass, just because I'm asking them what they want to talk about does not make me rude. It is an intercambio for christ's sake! They are here to talk and they aren't talking! And by the way, how dare you assume I don't know how to be polite, or that I need your condescending unsolicited advice! I have been to many parts of Mexico and I speak better Spanish than most of the gringos I have heard today who have lived here for many years. Did you ever think perhaps it isn't polite to live in someone else's country and not speak the damn language!"

Okay, just had to get that off my chest. He probably didn't mean anything by it but it really pissed me off. And by the way, my Spanish was better than all the expat retirees that were participating in the intercambio. And yes, I was talking about reality television briefly but how else am I going to get a 16 year old boy to participate! Grrr....I was steamed.

So after the intercambio I decided to walk around Oaxaca and get reacquainted with the city. The Zocalo no longer has tents all over it, the graffiti has been scrubbed off and there are flowers everywhere! It has completely transformed from last year. There are several restaurants open that I didn't even know existed last year because they were covered with protest banners and the protesters themselves. I had a lovely long lunch on the zocalo and drank two glasses of white wine which turned out to be a big mistake because I came home not feeling well and took a nap.

Other than a trip to Gigante, the local grocery store, that was the extent of my day.

For those of you who were following the roach saga last time, you will be happy to know that the bathroom attached to the room I'm renting has covers for the drains. Woo hoo! Whether or not this actually prevents roaches from coming into the house who knows but it sure is giving me a warm, fuzzy false sense of security.

The woman I'm currently renting a room from seems very interesting as well. Her name is Geri and she used to write for business magazines and also engage in some travel writing.