Friday, January 16, 2009

Back to School

Now playing: Cafe Tacuba - Volver a comenzar
via FoxyTunes
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It was back to the grind for us this week - Chris to the archives, Matt to language school, where he is always better known as Mateo.

I'm taking classes at a place called IMAC. It's, um, not a computer; if you Google "iMac," my language school is the second thing that comes up, after the beloved manzanita machines, even though it appears that the language school came first with something like three decades of existing before Apple came along. Anyway, in the case of my school, IMAC stands for "Instituto Mexico-Americano de Cultura," which translates, as you might guess, as the "Mexican-American Insistute of Culture."

I think the school is mostly known around Guadalajara for its English classes, because when I showed up on the first day the sign on the door said "IMAC" and then in big, bold letters "INGLES TOTAL." But there was no other IMAC around, and I knew I had the right address, so I walked in anyway. I stood in line for awhile and then listened confusedly as the receptionist told me they had my name but hadn't registered me for class because they never received the deposit I made online and now the class was full so I was on a waiting list but he'd have me take the oral placement exam anyway just in case. So I did, then returned the reception room and waited, imagining things I could do with my week if I couldn't start class yet. But the receptionist returned and told me there would be room for me after all, because they no longer wanted me in the old class: I had placed into a higher level. Yes! I have made progress!

Because IMAC has a much larger school than the other two language programs I've been through, it's easier for them to match students to appropriate course level (rather than simply "beginning students," inevitably too easy, and "advanced students," inevitably too hard). Everyone in my class is about at the same level. We also have textbooks, which are crazy-helpful and which the other programs did not have. And the school has a computer lab with language games, which might just be as helpful as the class itself. So, if you are considering taking a language class in a foreign country: Consider these features. Consider them well.

As you might imagine, I've thought back on my other language classes a lot this week. And, besides the different classmates and the different teaching strategies, the biggest difference between now and then is, well, me.

I realized, sometime on the first day, that my motives for learning Spanish have changed, dramatically. Back in August, when I explained why I wanted to learn Spanish, I always said that it was because Mexico was my new home. Not for three weeks or a few months but for a full year, and I wanted to be able to live that year, to live it fully, and to do that I needed to know Spanish. I needed to learn Spanish to live in Mexico.

But now... now it's different. I've been living in Mexico for six months, and I get by pretty well. I haven't used my fledgling Spanish nearly as much as I thought I would, mostly due to last fall's isolated, paradoxically bubble-like semester program, and for all of the awesome things we experienced these last few months I'm disappointed about that one thing - language - we didn't experience, at least not as much as I'd have liked. Of course, I still want to learn Spanish, which is why I'm taking classes again. But now I find myself thinking as much about the future as I do about the present, thinking as much about how I'll use Spanish back in the States as I do thinking about how I'll use it during our time remaining here across the border.

Chris says that that shouldn't be surprising - of course my motives have changed over the course of six months. But there's still something kind of bittersweet about it. Maybe that bittersweetness lies in the nostalgia of thinking back to those first few weeks in Mexico, how I felt so nervous and so excited at the same time, the anxiety and adventurousness swirling around in a heady motivating mixture. Or maybe it's not looking back por atras at all - maybe it's looking forward al futuro. Maybe it's the first sign of what's to come in the next six months. Re-entry will be here before we know it. The next horizon comes ever closer.

But, as U2 is getting ready to tell us, there's no line on that horizon. (Yes, that was a super-cheesy transition, but y'all best get used to those - there's gonna be new U2 and Bruce Springsteen albums coming out in the next few months, which means that Matt will be kicking into a new gear of fan -tastic geekdom.) It's true, I don't actually know what "no line on the horizon" means just yet, but maybe it means something like this:

On Wednesday I made my first Mexican friend. I know that sounds funny, but that is actually how he proposed it. The conversation went something like this: "I'm Andres, I'm studying English." Soy Mateo, estoy estudiando español. "Do you have any Mexican friends to practice your Spanish with?" Um...no, Andres, no tengo amigos Mexicanos ahora. "Do you want to be Facebook friends? Then we can practice language together online!" Si, es un buen idea!

We chatted for a while longer - Andres chats with everyone, it seems - and at the end of the day, sure enough, I had a Facebook friend confirmation waiting for me. Oh, Facebook, you make friending so easy. You even turned "friend" into a verb...

And so, with one week of language class down, the adventure begins again. I have a new set of classmates, a new daily routine, even a new futbol team. Bring it, horizon, bring it on...

1 comment:

From Michigan with Love said...

Ah facebook! Is there anything you can't do!? I'm happy for you and your Mexican experience! I love how you start talking in the third person whenever you get excited about your music! :-)