No hablo español

I feel that phrase will be a common theme for me this summer. Many times I have wished I knew how to speak Spanish, but this summer I find myself yearning to have mastery of those silky, rolling words. Phellix, Chris, Mauricio, Ludi and all you lucky Spanish-speakers: I envy you.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays all of the Heston interns help tutor the adult LIU classes. Spanish-speaking adults with varying backgrounds come to class two times a week to work on their English. The past few classes I’ve been helping Alicia, a middle-aged woman who barely speaks English, and has never learned to write in English or Spanish. I nervously told Alicia the one phrase I had mastered: “no habolo español.” She laughed and said “No Spanish; No English.” I laughed with her, glad we could both find humor in our limited means of communication.

It was difficult to follow the lesson with Alicia. I wasn’t sure how much she understood, and I couldn’t always explain things without a common language. Luckily, with persistence and much help from Mauricio, we got through most of the exercises, and I even learned some Spanish!

I am so impressed with how dedicated Alicia is to learning English. She never seems to get frustrated, not with me or with the lesson, and she constantly asks me to repeat sentences in English, so she can get the pronunciation right. The next class our lesson went more smoothly. I think I was better prepared to teach English, but I could also see improvement in Alicia’s comprehension. That small improvement made me realize how rewarding teaching can be. Of course, not all teachers have students that are as dedicated as Alicia. In addition to the gratifying aspect of teaching, it has also been wonderful to pick up Spanish words from Alicia (and Mauricio). It motivates me to learn more.

I have my own office space at SCCAP (SCCAP stands for South Central Community Action Programs, and it is where I spend part of my days this summer. The food pantry, Circles, Work Ready, and countless other programs operate under SCCAP). That would be lovely, if I didn’t think about who used the desk I sit at before me. Recently many people have been laid off at SCCAP, and the evidence is everywhere. The first day I worked here Megan, my supervisor and executive director of SCCAP, asked me to clear out some storage space to find children’s toys. She is hoping to convert former office space into a child care area that can be used during various meetings at SCCAP. I picked through used laptop computers, tangled telephone wires, and faded pencils and pens to find the board games, craft supplies, and building blocks. I felt a sadness and reverence for those who had to leave their well-worn office supplies and jobs behind to seek employment elsewhere. The dwindling unemployment rate in the United States is something that has not touched me significantly, but non-profit organizations like SCCAP are among the hardest hit in the current recession. It’s depressing to hear about the many beneficial programs that have been shut down due to a dearth of government funding, and even more disheartening to think about the many passionate people who are without work as a result. Most concerning of all is how few people knew about the existence of these programs, and care that they are being shut down. Perhaps I can take on a project to raise awareness about the loss of so many important projects.

Until next time, adiós!


Captions for Photos: (1)This is the arts and crafts supply closet for the new day care room at SCCAP. I helped Megan move furniture for the room all of Friday afternoon. (2) Yaou made dinner for us last week–noodles and veggies in a ginger sauce. Yum! (3) This is most of us at Laurel Lake last Sunday. With some effort, we finally got Maurico to show his face!



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s