Friday, March 26, 2010

The Finish Line

Well, it's official: I did it. As of this morning at 1 PM I have a fancy certificate to tell the world that I Am A Teacher. Of course, for me the mental change happened awhile back (see blog entry from two weeks ago), but the world tends to need a piece of paper as proof-- and now I have it.

I leave Guadalajara tomorrow morning at 9 AM, for a long-weekend jaunt to Puerto Vallarta, on the coast, where I plan on a healthy dose of sun, sea, sand, and hopefully snorkeling. On Monday evening I will take a night bus to Guanajuato, a traditional central-Mexican town and UNESCO world heritage site. In Guanajuato and its neighbor, San Miguel Allende, I am excited to explore winding cobbled streets and experience semana santa (holy week) in a state famous for its beautiful Easter ceremonies.

I'll be back to the city for a day or so before my flight home April 7, but the truth is that my real time in Guadalajara is finished. The comforting routine of walking up Calle La Noche to catch the 629 bus is finished after tomorrow morning: no more barking dogs or old women sweeping dead leaves and fallen flowers off the street. No more ducking next door for a mollete (toasted bread with frijoles and cheese) or a Coke Zero during 11 am break. No more discovering new bars on Juarez or watching the old timers dance salsa in Expiatorio Explanada or explaining grammar points to 10 bored teenagers. Guadalajara has put its claws in me without my permission. I have to imagine I'll be back.

This city has given me so much, after all. After my trip this year I was hungry to make a start in a new place and experience the opposite of the nomadic existenced I lived in 2009. Guadalajara has given me a taste of this, enough to confirm the suspicions I harbored that I could easily fall in love with everyday routines thousands of miles from home. And as I've written here before, this city has made me a teacher. The woman who writes her name in neat letters on a white board and then launches into a spiel on the present unreal will always be a part of me, wherever I go.

It's given me something else as well. Just as quickly as I Became A Teacher, I suddenly find myself a functional trilingual. Not that my Spanish is perfect, or even close to complete in any way, shape, or form. I still can't speak well in the past tense; I still only understand between 65 and 90% of what is said to me. But for the past 10 years of my life I have been someone who speaks two languages, and this week I found myself ably ordering tickets, discussing world events with my host family, and chatting with strangers a bus stops. I can't pretend to be bilingual anymore. The shift to thinking of myself as trilingual means foward growth and change, something not always easy to come by when you're an unemployed 20-something. And I have Guadalajara to thank.

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