It’s So Much More Than ‘Teaching’…

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What I love about making friends in Spanish…

As you know , I’ve sorta ‘fallen into’ teaching English to four Panamanian women. I’m very uncomfortable thinking of myself as a ‘teacher’, and my so called ‘classes’ are taking on more of a ‘social gathering’ than any sort of structured ‘class’. This is exactly what I enjoy…Social Gathering! I mean, that’s what my hairstyling business often felt like as well. I think anyone who walked into that salon felt as though they were getting together with friends and not only coming to an appointment. Isn’t that the way life should feel? As though we were gathering to connect and not just robotically going through life? I didn’t have this awkward feeling I have now when I’m supposedly ‘teaching’, a feeling of being an imposter , cuz’ I was right at home behind the chair making people feel good. As these wonderful women and I are becoming more comfortable with each other and they have gotten to see that they too are ‘teachers’,( because they help me so much in my Spanish learning) it’s beginning to feel so much more like friends getting together to chat and to laugh and have a good time. I’m much more comfortable with this ‘give and take’ type of learning. They are just as much teaching me as I am supposedly teaching them, which I just love. But what I love the most is the laughing fits that we often get into during our little gatherings.

Rosemary is just a jolly woman, she’s about a year younger than me and has a huge personality. She talks about her two sons who she worships as any proud Latin mother should. The boys are around my daughters age and of course they all live together with Rosemary and her husband Gustovo, as well as the Grandparents (Gustovo’s parents). But this week one of the boys is moving to Panama City to continue his schooling as a Lawyer. Rosemary is torn between being over the moon with pride and just as heartsick as if he were never coming home again , her heart is breaking to have him leave her home. It’s so adorable and so sweet to see how much this women loves her two boys. She very proudly tells me how her boys will often call her during the day, as a matter of fact, they both call her many many times during the day…I just have no idea what they could possibly have to say, but Its so sweet. But they also call to tell her what they want for dinner and no matter what time they get home she makes for them whatever they request. Even if they come home late she will get up and cook a full dinner for her boys! Geesh! What an amazing mom! Rosemary lives to love her family and I marvel at her dedication and her total devotion to them. As she was telling me about Gustovo’s (The 1st son is almost always named after the father) plan to leave for PC this week, she had tears in her eyes…and she even cancelled our gathering on Tuesday, I think because she is just too distraught. Her other son is studying to be an architect and last week she very proudly showed me some of his drawings, he’s very talented and of course she is filled with pride. I have such great admiration for Rosemary and for the beautiful way that she loves!

Rosemary’s sister also gathers with us, her name is Elizabeth and she is the opposite to Rosemary in every way. I think she is quite a bit older than Rosemary and she is very quiet spoken, reserved and much more stylish and kinda serious. Of course its just a little harder to get to know her because she is much more reserved and almost shy. Rosemary takes up all the space with her enormous personality and poor Elizabeth is much harder to connect with. Elizabeth has no children, it’s only she and her husband. I haven’t really gotten to learn as much about her life , but time will change that, I’m sure. She doesn’t show up to all our classes and when she does, she often comes late. She takes the bus or a taxi to get to Rosemary’s house and always seems exhausted by the time she gets there. But when she is there, she is very interested in learning and practicing English and I hope our time together is worth the effort it takes her to come all that way. I like her sweet gentle spirit and look forward finding a connection with her eventually. I go to Rosemary’s house two times a week, Monday’s and Thursday’s from 2:00-3:30 and then I go to Aris’s house once a week, on Tuesday’s from 2:00-5:00.

I’ve been gathering with Aris for several months and we have really developed a nice friendship. When we first started to get together she was really shy and It was hard to get her to try to speak much English at all. But she is very dedicated to learning and has come out of her shell and I’m gradually getting to know her and let me tell you, it’s been well worth the wait! She’s such a special woman in so many ways. She and I just laugh and laugh and her English is improving more and more. I’ve tried to find opportunities to get together with Aris just for fun and not just for our Language practice. We went to the Flower Feria together and one time we went to a play at the BCP. She’s married to a very nice American man , Jerry, and they have had Scott and Mark and Valerie and I over for dinner one time. It was a nice evening full of good food and nice conversation. Aris is also a very loving and dedicated mother of , I think 5 children ( I just cant seem to remember how many children she has! ) And several grandchildren as well. And she and I are the same age! I was very fortunate to get to help her with one of her daughters baby shower, I was in charge of organizing the games, with Valerie. Normally I just hate baby shower games but not this time! This time I had a blast and wished I had planned more games than I had. These Panamanian women just love Games! They laughed and had a great time. And Aris and another friend of hers Veronica, along with Jerry made quite a spread, no one went hungry at that baby shower. Aris and Jerry just got back from a little vacation to visit his children and grandchildren in Florida. After they got back Aris and I got together and she had gotten a new haircut while she was away. Unfortunately it was not a good haircut and I offered to fix it. Mind you, I didn’t point out the ‘bad’ cut, Jerry asked my opinion because they could see that it was pretty choppy and uneven. So I offered to cut her hair the next day and went to pick her up to bring her to my house. It was fun to be able to do what I loved doing for so many years, to make someone happy. She looked so pretty and seemed really happy and I had a great time just spending time with her. Our ‘spanish’ classes have given us an opportunity to make a new friend which has been and continues to warm my heart every time I go to her house. And I don’t think I’ve told you that one of her sons Richie, has been working with Scott on our house project! And Richie told Scott that his dad (Aris’s ex-husband) also needs a job and so they have been two of our first and best employees on our project. They both did a lot of construction with a local contractor in town (Prestige) and have a lot of experience in all aspects of house construction. I think Scott would tell you that they have been a great help to him as he’s been learning all the new things about how they build here and what materials they use.

Last week Aris invited a neighbor and friend of hers to join us in our class, Maria. Okay….Maria is very much like Rosemary in that she too has this huge, jolly personality!! What a pleasure to get to know this lady! Maria lives just down the street from Aris and from what I can figure out so far, she irons clothes for people for a living. And when I asked her what her hobbies are she quickly said that she loves to iron! Hah! She’s so darn adorable!! She has taken English classes in the past and seems to have a pretty good grasp, and is having a fun time practicing. Maria makes me and Aris laugh so hard! We have a great time laughing at our mistakes and let me tell you, there’s a lot of mistakes!! So a lot of laughing is happening!

I have to admit to feeling very nervous almost every time I go to these English lessons. I just always wonder if these wonderful women are enjoying our gatherings as much as I am or if they can see that I’m no teacher and are disappointed. But all my nervousness disappears when we start to have a good time. And every single time it’s time for our lesson to be over I walk away with a huge smile on my face and my heart is so happy. I really hope they feel the same and that they too feel as though they are getting some English practice because I get so much Spanish practice! I often wonder if I should call these classes Spanish classes instead of English classes! Haha! The best part of my time with these new friends is, as you know, the part where we connect and get to know each other. I do marvel at just how easy friendships can form without even having the ability to speak the same languages fluently. But I’m learning that the language of friendliness and of friendship is universal. There is no barrier when it comes to expressing kindness and when you enter into any relationship with a genuine desire to connect , a process of ‘give & take’ begins to happen and a beautiful metamorphosis begins ….. strangers are no longer strangers and it doesn’t seem to matter what language you speak because friendship needs no words….

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3 responses »

  1. Sounds like you have found a niche. I started back teaching the kiddies English yesterday. It was great to see their bright shiny faces!

  2. Holly–I so enjoy reading your blogs and I totally agree with both of the comments above—“well written” and I do believe you have found a “space/niche” for yourself in the new culture that your are embracing so very well!! I can just hear you laugh and those new friends are so very lucky to have you in their lives. Laugh on——!!!

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