I learned Spanish when I was in first through third grades. It’s always fun to throw in a new language when you are still trying to figure out what the hell a vowel and a consonant are in English. Honestly, though, the earlier you learn a foreign language, the longer it sticks in your head. I learned Espanol when I was incarcerated in my early grades at the Immaculate Conception Mary Mary Quite Contrary Academy.
I have mentioned over and over how much I hated attending that private school. I will never forget my first day of school and coming face to face with Sister Dominica. In my book, Jumping in Mud Puddles (shameless plug), I lovingly describe Sister Donkey:
“…so I opened the door and stepped outside. I must have walked back and forth the length of the car twenty or twenty-one times before that bus pulled up. Shit. Are you kidding me? It wasn’t a bus at all. It was an ugly blue van. And when that ugly blue pretend bus pulled up that first day of school and opened its door, out jumped a freaking nun. A nun was driving the pretend bus! She introduced herself as Sister Dominica, and she was the bus driver and a teacher at the Blessed Baby Jesus and Mary Conception Academy.
“I had never seen a nun before in real life. My mom tried to explain where I was going and who I would have for my teachers, but I couldn’t get past the fact I couldn’t see this Sister Dominica’s hair. Did she have hair? If she had hair, what color was it? Was that cardboardy white thing pinching her underneath her chin? I reluctantly got into the van and waved goodbye to my mother from my seat. She was standing there with her hand over her mouth. Shit. Thanks, Mom. This was not going to be good.”
And it wasn’t good. I think I was the only one who wasn’t brainwashed. The other kids seemed really happy to be there. Dear God, I was in Stepford. That’s the only explanation for this parade of smiles and unicorns I could come up with. The only thing I liked about the whole damn experience was the time I sat in Spanish class. Of course, Oompah Loompah Sister Dominica was the teacher, but her whole “I’m a bitch nun, don’t even piss me off” persona was left at the door when she taught Spanish. It was so much fun.
We were in school for a few weeks before we were told we would also be learning Spanish. I was going to love this. Ok, there is one tiny thing I didn’t like about Spanish class. On the first day of school, Sister Dominica pulled down a map of South America and pointed with a long stick, which I think was a yardstick instead of one of those white sticks real teachers use. She told us all about her coming all the way from……Peru? (I don’t know, I wasn’t listening) and how she learned to speak English just like we were now learning Spanish. I had a question.
“Vickie, no, the capital of Peru is pronounced LEE MAH………Yes it is……………..Yes it is………..Vickie, I can tell you for a fact that it is pronounced like that. I lived there for many years……..No, it is not where lima beans come from because it is not the same thing…………..Because it is not…………………It’s LEE MAH, Vickie…………………….That’s enough. Please quit asking questions.”
Well, hell, aren’t you supposed to ask questions in school? Sure, I could sit there like Hansel, the kid who wore suspenders every day. He was dead. He never moved. He looked straight ahead and that was about it. I threw a piece of rolled up paper at him one time, and the damn kid never flinched. Someone should take his pulse. If I had my mom’s bright pink lipstick, I would have put lipstick on him. How fun that would have been. But, anyway, I thought my LEE MAH/Lima question was pertinent. Sister Dominica had the patience of a saint. Oh wait. They are patient. She was no saint.
Sister Dominica pulled the map down on the second day of spanish class and reminded us about her being from South America and asked us what country she was from. Duh. But, oh my god, Hansel raised is hand. I almost fell out of my freaking chair.
“You are from Peru.” Hansel was alive! Dear god I had witnessed a miracle! It was like Kathryn Kuhlman, American faith healer and evangelist, had just performed one of her healings. “Heal!” My mouth dropped open. Thank god he didn’t answer that question while wearing pink lipstick. I just smiled at him. I was going to make him my best school friend. I’d have to find out some day what his real name was. I was so glad he was alive.
Sister Dominica brought down that damn map of South American almost every day of the week. Ok, we get it, Senorita Dominica. Let’s learn some more words. And we did. We first were given spanish names. I didn’t really understand this part, but I went along with it. People were picking great spanish names like Pedro, Paco, Chico, and Miguel for the boys. The girls were choosing Anita, Benita, Bonita, and Lupita. I was seeing a pattern emerging with the names for the girls ending with -ita. Mine was going to end that way also.
“Your turn, Vickie. What is going to be your spanish name for the year?……………..No, you can’t have Vickita……….No, that is not even a name………….No, it is not………………….No, it is not……………….Do you know of one person whose name is Vickita?…………………..No, that is a Chiquita banana, not Vickita…………………….Ok, if you can’t choose one on your own, I will give you one. Your new name is Rosita.”
And with that remark, she wrote it down in her book and I was pissed. I mean, like shoot red lazers out of my eyes pissed. I was goddamn Rosita from LEE MAH.
Ok, so the map and my name and having Sister Donkey as my teacher were the only thing I hated about spanish class. The rest was just awesome. I learned to count in spanish: uno dos tres cuatro cinco seis siesta ocho nueve diez. Sister Dominica always corrected me with numbero 7, but I wanted to be a comedian and say siesta instead of siete. She had enough of me. But, guess what? Hansel/aka Paco laughed out loud. Oh yes, Paco was my new best school friend.
Pretty soon I was speaking fluent spanish. Ok, I wasn’t, but I thought I was. I was learning new words every day:
por favor- please
gracias- thank you
Aprende a conducir aweonao!!- Learn to drive asshole!
Kieta el stupido elephante- Shut up you stupid elephant
Tu eres más feo que el culo de un mono- You are uglier than the butt of a monkey
Tirate a un poso- throw yourself in a hole
and my favorite, Las monjas no se puede enseñar- Nuns can’t teach.
Ok, so I may have just learned colors and numbers and places on my body that first year of spanish. But, it was fun.
And years later, I still know that Lima (LEE MAH) is the capital of Peru…..home of sister Donkey. AND, I just found out that lima beans really did come from Peru. So, who is the smart one, now, Sister Dominica? Not you. So, next time you have LEE MAH beans, pronounce them as they were intended to be pronounced. And you will be looking like the smart one. Really.
Aargh, I’m a pirate.