How do I know? I tried it last week with third graders. For three hours. In the local elementary school. Teaching English. Without a credential.
I was exhausted by the time I got home and my feet killed. I wanted a shower and a nap and could hardly concentrate on anything for the rest of the day. In only three hours those 8 year olds made me feel like I had competed in a triathlon. How do teachers do it? How do they answer the endless stream of questions? Get the kids to stay in their seats? Prevent the whole class from erupting in endless conversations?
I don’t even think English speaking children would make me any more effective. I simply couldn’t do that every day.
They are cute, very cute. In fact, I would love to hang out with them. At recess. But in the classroom they were all energy, questions, and “teacher, teacher!” It was a little overwhelming after the initial few minutes of me explaining why my foot was broken, that my nickname is Pelusa (fluff), and that Club América had played an awesome game of fútbol the day before. Half the little boys in the classroom enthusiastically agreed with me on that one.
And the enthusiasm continued. Little girls wanted to sing for the class then refused to once all eyes were on them. Others wanted to correct how I played “Simon Says.” Others thought I needed to check every single answer in thier workbooks as they finished them. One little boy thought a girl’s book, backpack, and eraser prize belonged to him. By the time I got to that situation her things were safely stowed underneath his backpack, under his seat.
Then when the school ran out of water I had 20 kids looking at me to solve the problem of their chocolate covered hands after we made graham cracker houses. I knew I should have brought wipies! We used paper, some resourceful kids found some water, and we got back to being on the verge of complete chaos. Granted, we were probably much farther from chaos than I thought but, for someone who loves order, it was so hard to not have them all quietly working at their desks.
Eventually the bell rang and my best intentions of filing out to the gate in a line were shot the second I opened the door. I only had three or four kids still near me by the time I got to the gate myself. Once I saw parents scooping up thier little ones, I looked for the two white kids in the school and we walked home together. After that it was a strait shot to the Via packets and a comfy chair. From now on, I will leave teaching to much more capable hands!
To prepare for one of our marketing trips, I drug my friend Jonathan (“Tatan”) all around town in the buggy to take pictures of our area. It was a blast to bomb down the dirt roads with our camera bags strapped firmly to the frame and the dirt destroying our faces. We made more than a few rapid stops, to capture random horses and grape vines, and we did a lot of yelling in order to hear each other over the wind and engine. It was a great day and I was so proud of our work when all was said and done. Here are some of my favorites that show how gorgeous Porvenir really is:
When you think about a garage sale in The States you think of a few things: long hours, tons of organizing, and dirty fingers from dealing with money all day. Now picture those same sales in Mexico with: more dirt, a different language, uncountable amounts of hagglers, and sopilotes (vultures) galore. When I say it was hectic, that is a huge understatement. From the first few minutes of the “”vultures” coming to take our stuff to resell it at their own booths to the last hour of cleaning and organizing, there were cultural experiences to be had all over the place. We started the day fending people off of our boxes just so we could get them out of the car and then spent the rest of the day juggling numbers in our heads in Spanish and finding lost shoes to make pairs.
I make it sound all horrible but in reality it was an interesting experience and I am glad I went with the other Ventana ladies to experience it at least once. And there were a lot of lessons to be had throughout the day. I will share those lessons through four stories:
A few hours into the day a woman came up to me to ask how much an article of clothing cost. I told her 20 pesos (about $1.50). She rolled her eyes and turned to her friend and said, “20. Is that the only number they know?” I decided to be snarky and replied with, “Ok then, 30 pesos.” She looked at me shocked, she obviously did not expect me to understand, and said, “Well... can’t you go lower?” I replied with a smile and said no. Needless to say, she did not buy anything from us and I should have been sorry but I couldn’t decided whether to feel bad for being sassy, frustrated that she was trying to talk behind my back, or laugh about the whole situation. I chose a little of all three.
Lesson #1: Knowing Spanish is awesome.
We had a box of stuffed animals and a woman was looking through them and taking most of them. After a frustrating bout of haggling in which she ran all over me with her Spanish I settled for a very low lump sum and begrudgingly handed her a bag to put the animals in. With a smirk she turned away. She came back a few seconds later and wanted another one so I gave her the price I had set for the bigger stuffed animals. “But this one is small, you gave me the price for the small ones on the other one I bought just like it.” I couldn’t figure out how to argue that I had just settled on a lump sum earlier, not individual ones. She was still talking over me the whole time. I could sense my anger building as she told me that I was wrong and changing things unfairly. It was hopeless. I roughly took her pesos and handed her the stuffed animal with a, “Fine. Whatever.” Which, I am pretty sure, was in English. I was tired, annoyed, and incredibly frustrated with not being able to communicate correctly. All for a few pesos. It was childish and I felt horrible afterward. I was such a bad witness to that lady. I can only hope that I didn’t ruin her day or idea of Christians... I very well could have.
Lesson #2: Don’t try to haggle with Mexican ladies. Don’t forget that I am representing Christ all the time.
Near the end of the day a guy came up with his daughter on his shoulders. He was dressed in the stereotypical long shorts, high white socks, and tats all over his arms and neck. Without realizing it, my brain placed him in the gangster category of bad decision making and sketchy lifestyle. Then his wife took a hat and placed it on his daughter’s head. He looked up at her and asked us if she was keeping it on because she never does. We assured him that she wasn’t phased by the hat and he smiled, said, “all right then!,” and handed over a few pesos. They walked away smiling and talking. It blew me away how quickly I had made judgements that he was a bad dad, or does drugs, or whatnot. When in reality he was a very sweet dad and you could tell he works hard to make his family happy. I had quite a bit of apologizing to do after that short encounter. Now for repentance and learning from the experience...
Lesson #3: Don’t judge people. Period.
The roller coaster of emotions continued throughout the day as I tried to work around my broken foot, the dirt, and the overwhelming amounts of people to talk to and set prices for. I went from frustration, to sadness, to happiness (that was lunchtime), to gratitude for the ladies who I was there with. At the end of the day however, one thing stick with me more than all the rest. That was a feeling of humility. As the day wore on we had less of the vulture type of people and more of the mother’s shopping for the end of the day deals for their families. In a moment of clarity God showed me the diligence of these women: to work hard all day long and then come to the swap meet to search for the best deals with thier hard earned money. I don’t know if I would be motivated enough to work that hard for one or two things for my family. But these women do. Every week. And I commend them for that. After a really long day, I was extremely grateful for thier example and thier effort. They are loving thier family in the best way, tangibly and with cost. Props Mexican mothers, props.
Lesson #4: Be resourceful. Be diligent. Be humble. Be grateful. Be willing