my high school french teacher was a bit of an armchair psychologist. eccentric, weird... and the complete opposite of the type of language teacher i tend to think i am. if i learned anything about teaching from him, it was what not to do. at the very least i learned to read and write cohesively in french... understandable in speaking, but my most recent haitian teachers have done way more for my accent and my fluency than i ever thought possible.
however, i did learn a lot from Mr. Joseph. we made fun of him a lot, complained about him. he tried to get me kicked out of the japanese exchange program for cutting his class. tried. unsucessfully. i went to japan - but i learned my lesson, i never cut again.
joseph would tell stories. over. and over. and over. i can still retell them. well, a lot of them. he would tell us of a time he was in france and two american women tourists entered a parisian restaurant. it must have been their first night in paris, and we in awe of everything they saw. and as most of us tend to do in foreign situations, they began to make generalizations. i don't remember the specifics of the generalizations they made, but it had to do something with the ice and how it was shaved ice and perhaps being used to keep the salad chilled. the details aren't important, the fact is that the women - quite loudly according to joseph - were declaring how quaint the french were with their cute food habits. my teacher had never seen this ice-trick before - in paris nor any other french city, country or town.
on thursday night, we traveled to santo domingo. amalio had an appointment for a non-immigrant visa and samil was going to social security for his own number. (it's on its way jackie, but who knows how long it will take!) since we're not permitted to take anything into the consulate with us, we traveled in the clothes we would be wearing the next day and had thrown some light pijamas in samil's diaper bag. we were pretty dressed up - dress slacks and a button-front shirt and shoes for amalio and me in a skirt and top. we arrived at the bus station early, so we crossed the street to Pollo Victorina where a huge group of american high school seniors were eating. they were on some sort of bizarre mission trip and were stopped in santiago between bus routes.
we ordered our food, amalio sat down with samil while i paid and wiggled through the americans. and then their teacher. yah, their teacher, says:
"look how cute. dominican people get dressed up for fast food. what a treat for them to be able to eat out. see kids, you don't realize how lucky you are, they probably had to save up for a month for this little family outing."
their teacher, obviously, never had culture lessons from my teacher. it took everything in me to just smile and laugh.
assumptions and generalizations are... well, just that. and we all know what assuming does. if you're traveling abroad, be careful when you speak english, you never know who understands - or who you might offend.