Cross-posted at My Ongoing Struggle with Misanthropy

Part I/Part II/Part III/Part IV/Part V

Mojada, part VI

By Angie Sánchez

The school year ended but I was enrolled in summer school and that summer was great. I made friends both Latino and American. I became friends with two little girls living in the building as us. Imagine they spoke no Spanish and my sister and I spoke no English, but we still managed to have the time our lives. Hanging out with them helped me practice basic English words. But I was still very hesitant and I would avoid using long sentences. My parents kept telling me that I needed to practice the language otherwise they were going to send back to México. At that time I really did not want to go back because I wanted to be here.

When I went back to school the following year things were still strange. I was still getting used to the difference in schools. In México we wore uniforms even though it was a public school and we used to stand in rows outside of the school to pay allegiance to the flag every morning. I was used to referring to my teachers as “teacher” not Mr. or Mrs. Every time I called my teachers that they would correct me and tell me, “No, it’s Mrs. Jackson, not teacher, you are not in México anymore, Angie!” I used to think to myself, “But you’re a teacher why can’t I call you that?” During lunch time I had to go to a cafeteria. I never had to do that in México, our moms or sister’s or aunts or whoever would bring us lunch to school. A real homemade meal made by mom. In my case since I lived two blocks away I was allowed to leave the school for lunch and eat at home. There was even an ice cream vendor that would station himself outside school so we would buy ice cream during recess. Adapting to cafeteria food was definitely a challenge. It was even more challenging when I wanted something different than what was on the lunch menu. I had never eaten pizza, cheeseburgers, or chicken patties. They all tasted like they needed a few more minutes of cooking. The food was not tasty at all.

When I moved on to middle school I went back to step one and had to once again adapt myself. I know that every other student did the same but their adaptation was slightly different from mine. The reason I say this is because when I was in fifth grade I was learning English therefore the material that was covered by the rest of my peers was not what I was getting taught. I was learning my ABC’s and 123’s. Half of what they had learned the previous year I had to learn on my own the next year. This made things tough for me. Although I was still in the ESL program for most of my classes, a couple were in all English and I couldn’t understand some things. But I tried my best. In seventh grade I did not have any bilingual classes. The ESL teachers thought that I was ready to graduate from ESL. I was ready, but it was still challenging because everything that was said to me I had to process it in Spanish and then into English, I couldn’t help it. Things did not change much except for the fact that I was more proficient at speaking English. By this time I had made more friends so I felt a lot more comfortable when speaking.

To be continued…

Gabacho– according to the Dictionary of the Spanish Royal Academy– is derived from an old Provençal word “gavach,” meaning a person from the foothills of the Pyrenees who spoke incorrectly. These days, it means “outsider,” somebody who just doesn’t fit in.

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