Fortunately, Maria, our house mother, was still awake and she explained in sign language and simple Spanish that it is only the festival of Saint Michael. She told me not to worry. St. Michael and Satan have a big battle like this every year and it will go on for one week. She already knows that St. Michael is going to prevail on Saturday so she advised me to go back to bed. St. Michael and the devil each blasted their explosives again at 6 am. Ay! Caramba! (Two new Spanish words. Impressed?)
It is a crisp fall morning in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and it is also my first day in Spanish kindergarten for adults. I didn’t get much sleep last night. On top of worrying about fitting in and surviving life in Spanish for the next 6 weeks, a series of huge explosions rattled the house and blasted me out of bed at midnight. I ran downstairs in a panic thinking Mexico was at war.
Somehow, after all of this nighttime mayhem, I got to school on time. The classroom walls were covered with posters of animals, firemen, the alphabet, and colors. My teacher is nice. They probably told me not to eat the paste but I wouldn’t know since I don’t know the word for paste. Just as I feared, they took my friend Rena away to the intermediate class and I have to make it on my own. The only difference between this year and 1965 is that I didn’t cry the first time they took me away from my mommy.
If there’s a saving grace, it’s that there are no 5-year-olds in the beginner’s classroom. It’s just Shelly, a 27-year-old diving instructor from Maui, Peter, a 50-something social worker from San Francisco, and me. Our teacher is Socorro. You will not be surprised to find out that she was a teacher of 5-year-olds before she started teaching adults at the Instituto Habla de Hispanol. Today’s lesson was to learn to ask a classmate his age. “¿Cuántos años tienes?” Spanish pronunciation proved difficult, however. Every time I asked Shelly or Peter for their age, I mistakenly asked, “How many anuses do you have?” Socorro laughed and pantomimed my embarrassing mistake as though it were a serious Spanish drama by pointing emphatically to her butt. I won’t make that mistake again.