Just the other day Isa, one of the 8th graders, exploded with laughter. It was my fault. I seem to be very good at making my students laugh. Not because I’m a great stand up comedian. No, that would probably mean my classes were entertaining.
Most of the time my students laugh at me for things I don’t understand. Like one time I was at a birthday party. A group of 8th grade boys, they’re in 9th now and much more mature now, were asking me questions in Spanish. They couldn’t control their laughter. Apparently I was saying yes to a bunch of ridiculously inappropriate questions. They still haven’t told me what they were talking about and now I know not to say yes to things I don’t understand.
My Spanish has improved greatly from that night when I may or may not have said yes to liking certain really gross things like cats or butterflies (I am just guessing here). Yet, I still have slip ups.
I was in my Spanish class a couple of weeks ago and Letty, my teacher, asked me, “Do you have a girlfriend here in Guatemala?”
I chuckled and answered with a sad, “No.”
“Are you looking for one?” She responded quickly.
“I have friends who were helping me,” I said stifling a laugh.
“The secretary at my school said she would look for me.” Or at least that is what I meant to say, remember all of this is in Spanish, the only part I was sure of was when I’d responded with a sad no. What I actually said was, “Yasi is good looking for me.” Letty started to chortle and at first I didn’t really know why. Then I realized what I had said and a hard long laugh erupted from deep in my gut. After I regained my breath I explained to Letty that my secretary was just my friend and that I wasn’t interested in her because she’s married and has a child. Now every time I go to my Spanish classes, Letty gives me a hard time. At least Letty didn’t hear my next slip up.
So, why did Isa laugh? Well, it was lunch time and I was on duty down in the middle school building. I was making my rounds through the building. Checking on the students, just the usual. Isa was sitting by the microwaves with her friend Danitza. These girls love it when I make a mistake with my Spanish and so sometimes they try to bait me. But I was being careful. It didn’t matter. I set the trap for myself.
Isa had a Pizza Hut box and so I asked, “Are you having Pizza?” Earlier this question worked to get me a slice of Pizza from one of the 6th graders, but this time I received a “I’m too cool for this,” response, which I guess is the difference between a 6th grade boy and an 8th grade girl. But then I looked at the box and realized my error. She wasn’t eating Pizza, she was eating a Calzone!
I love those. So I said, “Nice Calzone. How is it?” Isa and Danitza looked at me and then their laughter started to build like a giant title wave.
“What did you say, mister?” Isa replied.
“Calzone,” I stated cautiously, what had I done wrong? They started to laugh harder and wouldn’t tell me what I had just done. All I could do was stand there confused, but then Isa tossed me the second half of her calzone. She must have been feeling sorry for me, but not sorry enough to let me in on what I’d just said.
Fortunately Yasi, my secretary who I am not interested in, was able to help me out. After stifling a laugh she explained to me the error of my ways. In Spanish Calzone pronounced Kal-zown means women’s underwear. I’d just asked my 8th grader if she was eating girl’s panties.