Monday, December 16, 2013

"Will You Teach Me English?"

Exhibit A
Around 3am, during our overnight drive to Sofia, I grumpily tried to answer my driver's questions. He talked and talked and I only occassionally woke up enough to answer. "You know why I invite you?" he asked. He didn't wait for an answer, "Because I need to practice my English. This is the only reason."
Exhibit B
It was towards the end of a hard week. In fact, the end of a hard month. The kind of month with lots of grey rain and sleet and snow. The kind where the emptiness of an empty apartment seems a little too accusatory. The kind where...

You get the idea.

I hadn't been to salsa in a month. But last time I was in Varna, I saw one of the ladies from the class. She passed me and Robbie as I was childishly pointing towards the full moon that had risen above the busy Varna center. We had said hello and she said she wanted to talk to me more. I was excited. A friend!

After salsa, she asked to talk to me again. We chatted as we changed out of dance clothes and back into street clothes for the icy trip home. "My husband needs to learn English good for his job. Can you teach him?"

The Friendship Game
I get it. I do. My native tongue is a money maker. It's a strong need and it's everywhere. That's why I'm here on Fulbright at all: share my language, share my culture, find a love for theirs. I wouldn't get to do what I do if people didn't need my language.

But I've been here six months. And at the end of it, I have one good friend in Dobrich, and she works too much to call me consistently for a coffee date. One. This isn't for lack of trying. I've gotten numbers from people at salsa. I've tried to befriend teachers. I talk to people in stores. Nothing. Zilch nada. So when me hope rises with the thought Aha! Someone wants to be around me! and I find out they just want what I can do without trying, this skill I have that almost doesn't feel like a skill...

It is kind of like being rejected. Or wanted for my money. Or wanted for my looks. Or something else, some small piece of me. Of course English is part of me, part of my identity.

However, now, on nights where I walk back to my apartment for an early bedtime, I wish someone would stop long enough to wonder if I'd like to be their friend.

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