When we were in Cuba in May I was thrilled to luck on the 9th International Conference on Organic and Sustainable Agriculture that just happened to be on in Havana in one of the two weeks we were there. We even managed to squeeze into a booked-out field trip to the urban farms of Havana, which I had been longing to visit. (For more about our wonderful experiences with the food gardeners of Havana check out Earth Garden No 161 Spring Sept - Nov 2012 at your newsagents or via www.earthgarden.com.au )
There was only one problem. In Cuba, expect the unexpected. Despite the promise of an English interpreter, we found ourselves interpreter-less, and Peter and I turned out to be the only non native-speakers in the group. We spent a lot of time looking on as the people around us from Costa Rica, Ecuador, Colombia, Argentina and Cuba connected effortlessly with each other. We tried hard, our Spanish got a real work-out, but we missed heaps of the information and sadly, most of the jokes.
And glancing around during one talk (below), I realised something. As a Westerner, I am so used to being part of the privileged majority, but for once that wasn't the case. I was in the minority, on the outside looking in. Which was probably a very good experience for me to have.
But it made me think of another reason why I love our Spanish class.
|Me in front row, concentrating hard on Spanish|
|Cynthia (front row in middle), Ramon (behind her) and class at Cynthia's Farewell last week|
Because our teacher Cynthia is Mexican, we - or perhaps I should just speak for myself - I, have ended up feeling more than a little Mexican myself. Helping me to struggle along in Spanish, she has managed to introduce me to Mexican food, TV programmes, slang, popular culture, politics and even bloopers. Do you know that if you say you are 'embarasada' in Spanish it doesn't mean you are embarrassed as you might expect, but pregnant? So watch out!
I've found that trying to speak the language myself with a native speaker has introduced me to Mexican culture in a way that no amount of informed translation by someone else or even travel in Mexico would necessarily do.
So I am sad to report that Cynthia has decided to return home. She leaves us in the capable hands of Ramon, a young writer from Venezuela, and I look forward to soon feeling a little bit Venezuelan.
But in the meantime, I would like to say to Cynthia: 'Adios, mi amiga, y muchas gracias.'