Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Dead Wrong

I decided to start the day off on the right foot and arrived early  for round two at the language school in Cuernavaca.  To my relief they had found me a teacher as well as another student to join me in the class.  My new classmate, Gretchen, was a Political Science student from Germany. She did not share my same level of oral language fluency or vocabulary, but she needed to be able to pass an advanced grammar test. I didn't mind the slightly mismatched levels as long as we remained focused on grammar.  Gretchen's lack of fluency and comprehension were seldom a problem. In fact, she was the one that brought some tragic news to my attention.
I was waiting for the bus when Gretchen came running up to the stop.  As she tried to catch her breath she managed to ask if I had heard the news--that Fidel had died.  All I could say was "Wow, how did I miss that one?"  After all, a meal at my host family's house was always accompanied by the T.V., and just that morning we had watched the news.  Gretchen insisted that her host mother had told her while eating their pan tostado.  Our conversation, normally dominated by grammar discussions, switched to speculation.  Who would take over? What would happen to Cuba now?  Would Cuban Americans return to Cuba?
As we passed through an intersection, Gretchen pointed out the paperboy in the middle of the street.  In his hands he held a paper that read "Fidel Ha Muerto." I caught a quick glimpse of the photo below the headlines--an open casket of Fidel.  Boy, I know it had been a while since I had last seen a photo of the dictator but I was amazed at how much he had changed.  Gretchen suggested that perhaps he had been on some medication that caused him to gain weight and that his family had decided to shave him for the burial.  Hmmm, possible--but fat, bald and beardless?
When we arrived at the school Gretchen anxiously asked Julia if she had heard the new about Castro?  Her response was "Quien?" The clarification of Fidel Castro brought a smile to her lips. As I glanced down at the ever present daily newspaper on her desk it became apparent that Gretchen's host mother had been discussing the death of one of Mexico's union leaders, Fidel Velazquez Sanchez, not the famous Cuban. Perhaps it was time to focus on comprehension.

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