Learning languages has always been a weakness of mine, and I cannot remember a single time that I have not cried like a little girl on the first day of learning a new language. I cried during French, on the first day of every new semester, for three years. In Russian, I only lasted about halfway through the alphabet, broke down sobbing and then quit. I cried everyday while learning Pulaar for a month straight.
I have what is called "Survival Spanish". I know my numbers, greetings and can buy things, but that's about the extent of it. As I prepared for this trip, I knew my survival Spanish would probably get me to Tulum and back. However, I also knew that my experience would be much more meaningful if I could pick up some new vocab and figure out some verb conjugations along the way.
I hesitated to sign up for private classes at the Academia Hispano Americana here in San Miguel. I braced myself for the tears before my first class, and made sure to wear waterproof mascara.
And yet, I have not cried a single time!
I like to think that my ability to tackle the seemingly impossible and surely terrifying things in life has improved with age. I also have to give some tribute to the students I spend most of my time with, as many of them are English language learners. Watching them struggle and triumph through all the difficulties of learning a new language, has definitely given me courage to do the same.
I know that I sound like a total idiot sometimes. OK, I sound like an idiot most of the time. But, I think I understand now, that this is just part of the process. That you have to put your ego at risk, and open your mouth, and accidentally ask someone how many parts they have in their back, when you meant to ask them their age. They laugh, and you have to realize that it's not in a hurtful way, it's because this is, truly, funny shit....
I woke up early this morning to go to a place called Pozos, about 60km outside of San Miguel. Lonely Planet described it as a former ghost town, brimming with artists, and a lively Zocolo with adorable bed and breakfasts.
Maybe there are two Pozos in Guanajuato State? Because after waking up at 5:30 am to catch the morning light in Pozo, I saw a teeny tiny zocolo, poverty that could not let me walk around with a camera in good conscious, and no "adorable" bed and breakfasts. I could not even find the mining town, that initially drew me to Pozo.
So I'm back at my casita in San Miguel, practicing my Spanish with Nilo. One more day in San Miguel, and then I'm off to Veracruz.
Veracruz is a bit of an unexpected stop in this trip. I had originally intended to go to Oaxaca, which was the city that initially drew me to Mexico just three years ago. I spent 10 days there, and it was a bit of a game changer. That trip to Oaxaca was the first time I had traveled since I returned from Mauritania, and also the first time I had traveled alone. I was terrified for the weeks leading up to the trip, yet, as soon as I got to Oaxaca, everything fell into place. The girl who lived to my right was a photographer from California, who loved alternative processes as much as I do. Probably more. The neighbors to my left were a couple who had just finished their Peace Corps service in Mexico, and were planning to continue living there.
I mean seriously, what are the chances that I could find so many parallels to my life in this little city in Mexico? At first I wasn't deterred by the protests and the violence. I wanted to be in Oaxaca and witness this, because I understand these teachers, in my own, unique, American perspective. I spent much of 2014-2015, attending school board meetings, protesting outside of meetings when they were at capacity, and gathering signatures in opposition of the so-called "educational reform" in Jeffco, which is eerily similar to the "educational reform" in Mexico. I wanted to be present in Oaxaca, a place that feels like a sister city, for this reason.
However, I also understand that when the US embassy says you shouldn't go somewhere, you shouldn't go there.
I am praying for these teacher's safety.
So on to Veracruz, instead.