This time of year as the grass turns green, the sun edges out behind the clouds, and the flowers develop buds and blossoms, I always begin to look forward to summer. The departing of Spring always has a reflective quality to it as well. I think back over the year remembering where we started, and look at progress made, opportunities opened, and visions broadened.
As I have traveled in my life I have been made aware of the different dimension that develops in a passing encounter when I can approach a stranger in his/her own language. Waiters pull out pictures of their children to show to me, and maids discuss the reasons for leaving Haiti to come to the United States. Nelson Mandela said: “When you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” I have found this to be true.
Finding opportunities to have Chrysalis experience this in Eureka is a difficult task, but we had several opportunities this year for trying new things and having new experiences. Here in Eureka, a different kind of restaurant for this area has opened. It serves Caribbean/Puerto Rican food, and coincidentally is owned by people I know. This family came to Eureka from Puerto Rico where the father was working as a border guard, and they moved here with their three children. I taught those children Spanish at the public school before I began teaching at Chrysalis.
As a Spanish teacher, I considered it to be my duty to try out the new restaurant (oh darn!), and was excited to have a conversation with the owners that developed into a visit for my Spanish students. We set a date, and coordinated the transportation and supervision, and voilà, we were presented with an experience you might not expect to find in Eureka, MT. We had ceviche, tostones (fried plantains) with salsa rosada, tacos with rice and beans (cooked in a very different fashion than any Mexican restaurant I had ever been to), cabbage salad, and Mexican chocolate brownie with fresh pineapple for dessert. The two chefs are fluent in Spanish, and my students got to practice speaking with them.
After the meal, they gave us a wonderful demonstration about making mofongo and tostones using plantains. While they were doing the cooking they were quizzing the girls in Spanish, and giving out little tidbits as rewards for understanding the questions being asked. The girls had a great time, and we all discovered the connection that can develop when you include the ingredient of a common language.
Some of my students were able to go on the Costa Rica trip, and experienced the thrill first hand of being able to communicate to someone who doesn’t speak English. They got to be the ones to send back the wrong tea and make it right, and to answer whether they were eating sooner or later when the non-English speaking wait staff needed that information. The thrill of being able to use what you’ve learned in the classroom was palpable as they came home with stories.
Our latest fun experience happened right here at Chrysalis as our great chef Bob set up our very own tamalada so that we could have tamales for Cinco de Mayo. A tamalada is like a quilting bee except instead of making quilts, the family gets together to assemble tamales. It’s a very traditional Mexican family gathering.We went to the center and watched as Bob made masa, and then the girls formed groups that assembled the corn husk, masa, and filling into something that could be wrapped and steamed the next day for the school lunch. His expertise and patience made the whole experience a heartwarming time for all that added realism to our celebration. It augmented our regular classroom routine in a very meaningful way.
I look forward to finding more of those opportunities next year.
Loree Campbell (Doña)
Spanish and French Teacher