Sunday, 22 November 2009

A day in the life

After the rather unique event described in the last post, I’m serving up this: a description, cut and paste from a recent email, of an archetypal day of my life here in QuerĂ©taro. In fact, a day so archetypal that it hasn’t actually happened – it is just an archetype.

[written about a week and a half ago]

Let me tell you a typical day, seeing as you asked about my students etc. Say on a Monday night I go to bed watching David Letterman interviewing somebody on TV at around 10.45pm (so early, I know) then I wake up on Tuesday morning at 5.45am, get dressed etc and walk out to meet my colleagues on the road beside my house. It is COLD right now (for Mexico) so i will wear a hoodie and maybe a scarf too. After a 45 min drive chatting about cricket with Mark, or ESL with evrybody and/or singing Mariah Carey, general Christmas Music or Elvis with Morgan and Lety I give an hour long class (which usually starts fifteen minutes late) to 3 or 4 middle aged professionals. Intermediate level. Then I ride back to town and make it home for breakfast by about 8.50am. And my free time begins. Maybe I go online for a bit then watch Felicity (my new fav show) from 10 till 11. Then maybe I go to the laundry or supermarket or have a cup of coffee and read or do whatever for a few hours. By 2pm I am checking what classes I have that afternoon and prob preparing a little. At 4pm I will teach, say, Juan Carlos and Francisco (aged 14 and 16, elementary standard) a basic class on grammar structure, littered with references to baseball, soccer or attractive actresses. At 5pm I teach Emanuel, 10, Fatima, 7, Mariana, 11, Karina, 10 and Adrian, 7. I am a nanny for an hour basically. We play games in English and I boss the kids as much as I can, telling them where to sit etc. The next two hours I will have varying conversation/grammar classes with a range of students aged maybe 25-55, generally either mid-twenties or middle aged. Generally higher standard. We might just do some grammar but, for example, I have designated this week as "German History Week" so I have my German flag up next to my map of europe and we will look at articles and have discussions/roleplays related to the Berlin Wall. At 8pm I will have my last hour of classes for the day, maybe with Adriana, 16 and Cesar, 15, (elementary standard) a brother and sister who are good fun and do what they are told (apart from actually conversing consistently in English). I go home after that, eat and sleep. It's a weird schedule but I quiet like it and I enjoy the vagaries of being a teacher. (I am not jaded yet)

Notice that my free time begins at about 9am. That is the equivalent to the feeling of 5.30 or 6pm in an office job when your working day ends and you can start to do what you want. It is weird but I like it.

A heart-stopping (and heart-warming) moment

I would say that the second most filmic moment of my life in the last few months took place in George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Houston last month. It was on Sunday 25 October, to be precise, at about 3pm and is worth recording here.

I was on my way back from Eleanor and Gabe’s wedding (and the Smith’s family holiday) in North Carolina, and had just made it to the departure lounge of Terminal B, a good two hours before my final flight of the day (to QuerĂ©taro) was due to depart.

I hear the following announcement:

“This is a message for JAMES SMITH. Please call extension 3000. This is a message for passenger Mr JAMES SMITH. Please call extension 3000. JAMES SMITH please call extension 3000.”

Here I am faithfully repeating the announcement as best I can recall it. At the time I was far too bewildered to actually catch what extension number I had to dial.

The announcement lasted about 8 seconds, and in those eight seconds I went through roughly the following range of emotions:

Amusement: “Ha! Someone has the same name as me.”
Surprise: “Wait, it must be me they’re making the announcement for.”
Embarrassment: “Have I lost my passport or wallet or something.Shit.”
Calm: “No, hang on, I’ve got both.”
Anxiety: “They probably want to search me or something. I thought that guy had put some mark on my boarding pass, but then they didn’t stop me at security.”
Outright fear: “What’s happened to my family?! Shit, shit shit. They were flying today as well.”
Calm again: “Wait, no. They would never inform people of plane crashes like this. How would they even know where the hell I was?”
Curiosity: “What the fuck can it be?”

It was one of the more emotional eight-second periods of my life.

(You may notice as well that my internal monologue probably curses a bit more than I do out loud.)

Bemused and baffled I wandered over to the US Airways desk where a typically friendly assistant (love the South) told me that I should probably call the paging service on one of the airport information phones.

After finally locating a phone that worked, and figuring out what number I had to dial, the following exchange (transcribed here in full) took place:

-Hi, my name’s James Smith. I think there’s a message for me.
-James Smith?
-Do you know Rachael?
-Give her a call.

Earlier in the day (and the previous night) I had been trying, unsuccessfully, to contact my dear friend Rachael in Michigan. After my last voicemail she had surmised roughly what time I would reach Houston and – after a call to a friend of hers in California, I think it was, to get the number for George Bush Intercontinental – had called the airport and given the impression that it was essential that JAMES SMITH contact her. An announcement had then been made right across the three or four terminals of George Bush, to the best of my understanding.

We did eventually have a conversation some minutes later.

In the movies, she would have told me she was outside the departure lounge, or was boarding the same flight as me but had got stuck in traffic. She wasn’t. But still, a beautiful, heart-warming, filmic moment.