Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Go me!

I'm riding the 38L Geary Limited to work. My therapist has moved from a rather convenient office in Hayes Valley (where I could walk to, and then later walk to work from, as I have my sessions in the morning before work) to a more inconvenient location that doesn't even have a proper neighborhood name (Divisadero and California - is it Upper Western Addition? Inner Inner Sunset? Lower Pacific Heights?). Taking the 38 Geary during rush hour puts me pretty much on at my office's doorsteps, but standing on a crowded jittering bus full of people heading to a full day of work in the financial district is not something you want to do after you've just processed your angst and fears a mere 10 minutes ago.

Nevertheless I managed to find a seat near the exit, next to a middle aged man, with white hair, and sunglasses. The man is wearing a royal blue jacket and I noticed that the sunglasses he is wearing has a matching blue sports strap on the back of the glasses - to keep his glasses from falling off his head.


I take out my Spanish pile of papers to study. I've been taking an intro to Spanish class with friends and for whatever reason, ever other person in the class seems to be picking up the foreign language faster than me.* Unfortunately the language continues to be baffling - resisting all attempts at comprehension and has remained - alas - foreign to my brain.

Perhaps it does not help that I have never really properly studied an actual usable foreign language before - other than elementary Chinese (which would have been useful, had I actually learned anything) and my high school Latin (which in theory should help me with Spanish, but hasn't).

Perhaps it does not help that I go to the once-a-week class, and then actually don't study all week, until the next week, the day of the class, where I thereby try to cram all the information into my head in the short time that it gets a crowded bus full of cranky people from point A (Outer Japantown?) to point B (Downtown - Financial District).

Perhaps it does not help that I can not roll my "r's" and my ├▒'s sound exactly like n's.

As I take out my pile of papers (another impediment to my learning - I take horrible notes) to review them and I notice that the man next to me also has a folder. It's blue - like his jacket and his sunglass strap. He must like blue.

Then I notice as he opens up his folder that it's full of numbers - specifically fractions written out on blue-lined notebook paper in pencil.

That's when I thought to myself, "Go him!"

Here's an older man - someone who probably had a hard life, and he's back in school learning elementary math.

Perhaps he's worked menial tasks all his life, or has had a blue collar job out in the Richmond neighborhood, and he's decided to give himself the gift of education. After all it's never too late to educate yourself. Perhaps he dropped out of school because his father passed away early and he had to become the basic breadwinner for his family at a young age. Or perhaps he, being of a different generation, had a learning disability (like dyslexia) that prevented him from furthering his education, and it was never properly diagnosed until recently.

But now he's taking classes at City College - Continuing Education, just like myself. In fact, here we are, to people from different walks of life, sitting on a bus next to each other. Both of us trying to learn something new. Him - fractions, ratios and cross multiplications, and me - Spanish, a language that is actually useful and practical (especially in California). Ah, the beauty of public transit. Though I rarely interact with the people on the bus/train, I do appreciate that it's a cross section of San Francisco society.

And I felt like I understood him. Here I am struggling with my Spanish, trying hard to understand the difference between "ser" and "estar" the two "to be" verbs in Spanish, while he is struggling with addition and subtraction of fractions.

I felt empowered. For him. For myself. Go us!

And then I looked closer at this man's paper. I looked at those numbers, those fractions. And I realize they were actually part of a diagram of a room. And the numbers and fractions were actually measurements of a door. The man was building something, and this was just a construction project for him. The numbers had nothing to do with a math class. He was just building a door, or a room, or desk or something that require exact measurements.

And then he got off the bus.

I'm taking Spanish just for the hell of it. And I'm going to learn it. Go me.

*At one point I was not the worst student in the class. That title belong to a specific woman who sat in the front of class, someone that all the other students mocked because it was obvious that she really didn't get anything the teacher was trying to explain. The reality though, was that I liked having her in the class, as it kept me from being the dumb one. Alas she dropped out two classes ago. We haven't seen her since, and that meant I inherited the title of dumb one. *sigh*

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At 12:32 AM, Anonymous Karen said...

Irvin, mi amigo, no necesitas te preocuparse. Pienso que tu aprendes bien espanol. Espero que hablar espanol contigo.


At 12:31 AM, Blogger Rita said...

Mm. All the Spanish I know, I learned from pop songs. Perdido sin ti.

Es mejor asi.

Yo te quiero con limon y sal.

Estoy tan cansada de las canciones de amor
siempre hablan de un final feliz.
Bien sabemos que la vida nunca fonciona asi.

And the bit I learned from El Senor de los Anillos:



Me voy. Que lastima pero adios!

At 1:27 AM, Blogger jackhonky said...

I want you with Lemon and Salt? That doesn't even make sense!

At 2:10 AM, Blogger Rita said...

Dude. That's like the hit song all over South America!

Just wait 'til you see the video.

In fact, just google it and watch!

("Limon y Sal.")


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