huge itchy mesas
Monday, May 17 2004
Gretchen and I began our intensive Spanish course bright and early (for us) at 9:00am this morning. We're taking the course at Ulster County Community College in Stone Ridge, the place where Gretchen recently taught a "Library Sciences" course. Since Gretchen is not actually teaching anything this semester, she'd normally have to pay to take the class, but the instructor has permitted her to take it for free. I, of course, have to pay.
Our class consists of nine people, most of whom are in their early-to-mid 20s, although (since this is a community college) there is one ancient old prune-faced student. For me, this was the first time I'd set foot in a classroom as a student since the 1980s.
The last time I'd taken a Spanish course was in 1986, when (for logistical reasons) I'd been a 2nd year student placed in a third year class. That had given me the opportunity to forget most of the Spanish I'd learned in my first year. As for Gretchen, her Spanish education had amounted to a few stray "units" in Montessori school. So we were both a little nervous by our class's prequisite of high school Spanish.
As it turned out, though, we didn't have much to fear. None of the students seemed to know any Spanish at all. As for the professor, she had a very agreeable demeanor and kept things interesting by varying the routine throughout the three and a half hour class. Sometimes she'd say things that indicated an unexpectedly non-provincial worldview. When using the Spanish word "radio," she said she listened to WAMC (the local public radio station). At another point she made a cultural observation that intellectuals in Latin America are proud of their learning and don't try to to hide it the way intellectuals and, particularly, politicians, do in this country.
Looking around the classroom, most of the other students seemed unimpressed. They rather reminded me of the kids I'd gone to high school with, though they were about 13 years younger. One guy resembled a Backstreet Boy and looked like he probably would have had difficulty defining the word "intellectual."
After class, Gretchen and I went into Kingston and had a celebratory luncheon at La Pupuseria on Broadway (the restaurant actually has another name, but that's what we call it).
At around dusk I continued a project begun last Spring of covering the concrete slab walkways in front of our house with mortar and pieces of bluestone. I made the mistake of working with most of my body unclothed, and various biting insects attacked me relentlessly. By the time I was done with tonight's section (defined by what I could accomplish with an 80 pound sack of mortar) I was covered with huge itchy mesas, the topographic kind.
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