In July, I moved to Gyumri, Armenia, and began teaching English and Spanish at a language school. My first class was one where I helped an English teacher with her class of six-year-olds. When I finished introducing myself the the students, one of them, a little girl, told me I had an American smile. Afterward, I devised the following definitions of American Smile.
My internet in Shanghai is really bad. I recognize that I’m in Shanghai and I ought to have more interesting things to write about, and I do, but looming over all of those crazy cultural epiphanies that they said I would have in the study abroad office is that fact that when I get back to my room, the internet is really bad.
I rustle down a semi-trodden path of grass and ferns and heave myself atop a boulder carpeted with lichen. I feel strangely at home here in this climate, on this mountain wrapped in fog that makes the trees look like evergreens when I squint.
But I am not at home. I am atop the Gran Piedra, a windy peak that crouches in the foothills of the Sierra Maestra.
All is well here on Zheleznovodskaya Street. The giant rectangular hole in the driveway has been partially filled in, and someone ripped down the caution tape, making leaving the apartment easier. There was a beet and potato salad for dinner tonight, and my printmaking professor was wearing his t-shirt with the erotic embroidery again today. He even showed us the book the original image is from – it’s called “sex in the life of men.” The temperature is fluctuating around 0 °C, and the sky is producing a mix of snow and rain.
If I don’t return from Sevilla it’ll have been because of the streets. The streets here are smaller than the sidewalks in Portland and the drivers crazier than 16 year olds who have had their license for only 14 hours. Getting to class is practically a matter of life and death, 15 minutes of dodging cars, switching sides of the street when the sidewalk disappears—because that’s usually something sidewalks do—watching for people coming out of the various hidden entrances to the various churches and trying not to step on small dogs or step in what they leave behind. That being said, I like it. And not so much for the Indiana Jones obstacle course aspect but because it’s nice to walk through a city and not fully understand what’s being said around me. It’s like a game—can I pick up on that person’s Spanish fast enough to eavesdrop on their conversation? Nope? Oh well, onto the children.