Tramps Abroad

The people studying at the institute tend to fall into three broad categories. There are the adults, vacationing while improving themselves. There are school groups, arrange and organized by a college and usually chaperoned by one or more teachers. Lastly, there are the college students, coming to Oaxaca individually or in small groups to study and receive credit towards graduation.

The latter group can easily be divided into two classes; the mature and the immature. The mature students treat their visit to Oaxaca as a privilege. They study hard, explore the city, and try to interact with the natives. The school encourages this with after-class ‘intercambios’ (exchanges) between students learning Spanish and natives learning English. In the afternoon the lawn and gardens of the school are filled with groups of two people, eagerly exchanging ideas via language and hand gestures. At these times, the school has the feel of a particularly intense college campus.

The immature students tend to be sulky and resentful of their time in Oaxaca, or alternately, see their visit as an extended party. They study little if at all, and often don’t do homework. In class, they don’t participate or treat the experience as a joke. “This guy can’t seem to make a sentence without the word ‘cerveza’ [beer]”, said one frustrated classmate.

amigos y mariachis

I’ve enjoyed spending time with several of the more mature students. Particularly I enjoy Sabrina, from Chico, California. Sabrina is hoping to pass the course in an exam on Thursday and thus finish her college language requirement.

Back home, Sabrina cares for kids who are severely developmentally challenged. She loves the kids, and you can hear it when she talks about them. Actually, Sabrina loves kids in general, and will probably make a great mom someday.

Sabrina has been my source of English-language books here in Oaxaca. After a week of studying Spanish exclusively, Sabrina went out and bought “The Reader” and “The Pilot’s Wife“, both Oprah Book Club selections. When she finished them, she passed them on to me, and they’ve both been very interesting. You can see why they would be good book-club books… both of these inspire discussion and moral questions.

Another college student who I’ve been delighted to meet has been Stephanie. Stephanie is a married college student whose husband is doing post-doctorate work in Washington D.C. While he’s down there, Stephanie is here with her friend Robby. She and Robby are sharing a room, which caused our teacher to remark “Muy modern!” [“Very modern!”] They seem well-suited to one another. Stephanie is very self-assured and gregarious, while Robby is shy and appears to be somewhat insecure.

stephanie & robby

Like some insecure people I know, Robby is able to compensate by doing some things that more secure people would never do. One time while he was taking a shower, Sabrina’s roommate Erin stole all of his clothing except for one sock. Robby put on the sock (and not on a foot), walked over to Erin’s room, and started having a conversation. When Erin (a bit flustered at this point) didn’t produce the clothes, Robby decided that he didn’t need the sock any more. Robby removed, and the clothes appeared.

The other day in class, Stephanie told us she had had the most embarrassing dream. It was completely embarrassing, she said, and then she proceeded to tell us all what she’d dreamt. She and Robby had decided that they were both so horny after being in Mexico for two weeks that they were going to have sex. Soon Stephanie had her hand around Robby’s cock, and was pleased to report to all of us that she couldn’t get her hand all of the way around. Unfortunately, Robby then told her that he had ‘genetic genital herpes’, and Stephanie called off the assignation. End of dream.

A few weeks ago, Stephanie came down with something very bad. She had a fever, and (this is from her) had ‘fountain of ass’ out of one end while vomiting into a wastebasket from the other. During her more lucid moments, she studied how to say ‘I hate Mexico!’ in Spanish, and started writing a letter to the president berating him for the country’s sanitation standards.

The adults are much more reserved, and therefore not as fun. They don’t talk about slutting it up in the zocalo, or about Robby’s big penis (veracity as yet unconfirmed, but Brian, you would find him very cute.) This doesn’t mean they’re boring. Ana, who I took a massage with, is anything but boring. But they’re not going to talk about the stupid things they’ve done, or how horny they’ve gotten. Naturally, I prefer hanging out with the college students.

It seems like most of the adults I’ve met here have been teachers. Ana is a teacher of ESL (English as a Second Language) in Fort Worth. For 3 days last week, we had a teacher from San Diego in our class. She and I got into a big debate about bilingual education (she against, me for.) Then she disappeared. Her young daughter wasn’t happy in Oaxaca, and I expect she returned to the states. Today I met two more teachers, these from Oakland. They were both charming, and I hope to spend a little more time with them this week. I expect that Oaxaca appeals to teachers because 1) they can deduct travel expenses as work-related, and 2) it’s cheap.

I haven’t spoken much about the folks associated with school groups. Since they come to Oaxaca with classmates and teachers, they tend to keep to their groups. They take tours organized for their groups, rather than joining the general school tours. This is one of the dangers we face on Caravana Pan-Americana. It will be easy to spend all of our time with one another. People on the trip will soon become predictable, known, and comfortable to one another. Cliche though it may be, this is the adventure of a lifetime for many of us. It’s not about being comfortable. It’s about each one of us challenging ourselves, and part of that is reaching outside the group to meet new people, make new friends, and experience new things.


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