7am Monday morning. Damn I had a heat hangover. It didn’t help either that the street dogs in front of my hotel were constantly barking out the current minute count like church bells. Oh well, I was off to school!
Hola, Professor Romell. What can I say about six hours of Spanish class a day? It was okay. But, it was more fun to imagine that my Spanish class was an interrogation.
“What is your name?”
“Where do you live?”
“What does our Father do?”
“Why are you here?”
“How long will you stay?”
Because my Spanish interrogator escorted me to and from my holding house, I could continue to pretend that I was captured in my on upscale Spanish version of Guantanamo Bay. After class, I would enjoy practicing my Spanish animal words as I would watch the live stock traffic pass in front of my safe house.
“Hombre, como se dice?…‘horse’?”
The next day, back to my Spanish interrogation.
“What did you do last night?”
“What are your friends' names?”
“Where will you go after class today?”
Being escorted back to my holding house, I would continue to practice my indecipherable Spanish with the naked kids in the streets.
“Dónde están tus pantalones?”
My handler would interrupt, “Reck [Craig], do you know this baby?”
“Ah, I guess not…”
Back at the language quarantine house, a group of hombres greeted me with a quick an easy pop quiz.
“Reck [Yeah, I think you meant Craig], your computer has Wi-Fi, no?
Wait…how did you know I had a computer?
“Great, we want to watch the Madrid vs. Barcelona soccer match today.”
“That’s cool with me.”
“Great!” They handed me the phone.
You know what’s totally not easy? I’ll tell you. It’s not easy trying to communicate to the local Wi-Fi customer service agent with a comprehensive and extensive vocabulary of 17 Spanish words. After I practiced asking the operator's name and age repeatedly somehow the coveted Wi-Fi came to life. All the hombres then shook me as if I had just scored the world cup-winning goal for their barrio’s home team.
Word spread about the miraculous Wi-Fi and kids sat on kids shoulders as they in turn sat on adult shoulders so all could watch the almost better than Atari quality download stream of the soccer game. Those that could not hang from the ceiling to watch the game, hung outside getting updates from those inside the mini house-stadium getting updates from those who could actually see the 2 inch x 2 inch streaming window on my laptop. The truth was, I too was excited to watch the game as I implemented a traditional learning tool and had a bet with my Spanish interrogator on the game. My team won. Yes!
Because of my recent good behavior, the next day I was allowed to walk to my class unescorted. Once I arrived at school, I discovered that my regular professor was sick…probably with a ‘lost bet’ fever---no biggie. I had a new interrogator. Obviously, they must rotate interrogators to prevent any positive sentiment among the interrogators and their prisoners—very smart. So, my new interrogator greeted me and we got underway,
“How old are you?”
“Where do you live?”
“Are your parents liberal?”
The interrogator was a little distracted as he tried to listen to the soccer game that was on TV in the school’s lobby.
“Will….will you work in Nicaragua?”
“Are you Catholic?”
And with this my interrogator would pause and look at me with hope.
“Okay, yes,” I would answer his unspoken question as we would both dash off down the hallway to watch the replay of the soccer goal. I’m pretty sure it is Federal law in Latin America that one is absolutely required to stop what they are doing to watch a recent goal.
I thought my interrogations were going well until I came home one night to discover that a 5-inch scorpion had been let loose in my room. Through the iron bars of my house door, I showed the street kids,
“Yep, that’s a scorpion,” they confirmed.
“…I found it in my room,” I announced.
“Really?” They all acted surprised.
“No, really.” Look we both know what is really going on here.
“Hey, I think I just saw it move,” one street kid announced.
“Yep.” I confirmed.
“Wait, it’s alive.”
“Surprisingly, we are both still alive,” I boasted.
The street kids took off howling with fright to leave me alone with the alive assassin 5-inch scorpion.
The kids would sprint past the front door squealing and sharing informative advice with me.
“…run!...” They did a fly by.
“…dude, it’s dangerous…” They dashed past the door again.
“…you have to kill it…”
Even though the scorpion had obviously been trained to kill gringos by triangulating their location by honing in on the hum from our iPods, I couldn’t allow myself to kill this mercenary scorpion. The kids pleaded as they continued to sprint past my house door.
They were utterly confounded with my announcement.
“…but it’s dangerous,” they argued.
Ah, hah! I knew it!!!
They wanted to kill it. I wanted to take the scorpion to the nearby park. We negotiated. We kind of came to a conclusion. They would smash it with a rock. I wouldn’t look. Oh, well.
I made it clear that I didn’t want to watch.
I pleaded, “Look, not like my soon to be death, make the scorpion’s death quick and merciful.”
“No wait, really. Make it quick.”
“I won’t watch.”
I turned. I heard the rock drop. And I tell you this is true…but another miracle happened. Seriously, the rock only removed the stinger on the now 4-inch scorpion obviously and ironically sparing the scorpion’s life.
“Wait! Look! Perfecto! It’s a miracle, no?!”
After the kids dropped the rock on the scorpion’s head, all the kids agreed that it was a miracle. They also explained that the pincer hands were also poisonous. Wow, this was news to me. But, what did I know about scorpions that are bred to assinate gringos who win bets with local interrogators?