Today, as I was leaving school for siesta, I heard the word "Kimchi" screamed in my direction. It was one of my teenage students, smoking a butt on a park bench. I just started teaching two days ago; no doubt this nickname will spread. I asked him what he was up to. He and his friend were just smoking some dope before class, he explained. I nodded. I've never understood why my students are this cozy with me, but they always are. They spill their guts to me, tell me about their sex romps and drug regimens. It is my greatest asset as a teacher and it is my Achilles heel. In a profession where bonding with one's students on anything but the most platonic subject-verb-object level is strongly discouraged, I somehow wind up playing guidance counselor and wizened sage for people only slightly younger than I am. It's frightening and reassuring.
In Spanish class, my teacher turned around and searched the coffee shop for a la object. She couldn't find any. Everything in the room was male. (She finally found (and later devoured) a tarta.) While the rest of the class moved on to ser and estar, I couldn't get my mind off it: a room full of el objects, of masculine nouns. One could work with this. One could arrange one's rooms in a German gender-based feng shui. You could bring your MENSA friends over and have them guess the motif. "Wrong, Blaise. Everything in this room is neuter in Slovakian, not in Serbocroat." Would there be a palpable difference in aura? In a room of der objects, would a game of poker break out? In a room of die objects, would everyone start ovulating at once? My curiosity knows no bounds.
The lazy Mexican is a myth. True: for two hours in mid-afternoon – the standard hours of Nordic productivity – the Mexicans loosen their ties and lay around in the shade drinking and smoking and sleeping. But that just means that they get up earlier in the morning and work later at night. Mañana exists, but it only applies to social engagements: my friends show up an hour later than they say they will. Hell, I do that in America. But work-wise, mañana doesn't apply to me, or the taco vendors, or the bankers, or the clerks at the supermarket. It might be different with Mexicans in the States. I'm not sure. But after someone has made a mad dash across hundreds of miles of desert at the risk of death by gunshot, starvation, thirst, or combinations thereof; after they have lived in a sublet closet and spent months scrapping around for work before finally earning the privilege of disemboweling pig carcasses for twelve hours a day at minimum wage; after they have sent the last of their paycheck back home so their children, parents, and grandparents can scrape by in rural Michoacán; after all that, how anyone can call the Mexicans lazy – I must admit, it is beyond me. But then, so are many things.