And I’m Two Hours Late
There’s nothing like going back to school in your sixties. Unless, of course, it’s going back to school in your 70s, 80s, or 90s.
Last June I signed up for the state-offered Portuguese language classes at the local high school. You sign up and then you wait, checking the website every other week until September when you start checking it every other day. At the end of September, class lists were finally posted. I made the list; my friends are on a waiting list. I’m pretty sure they’ll get in once all the paperwork is sorted.
I am taking the classes for a couple of reasons. First, I’m in Portugal and it would be super-helpful to actually speak the language. (Right?) While I am in an area where most everyone under 60 speaks some English, there are certain things that are better handled in Portuguese: dealing with the motor vehicle department, taxes, immigration, and local hospital, for starters. So far I have muddled through with what I need (driver’s license excepted) by printing out a few simple statements in Portuguese and mispronouncing my way into a basic understanding. It’s not pretty, but it has worked.
I would like to eventually become a Portuguese citizen and for that, I need to be able to speak and write Portuguese. If I pass the classes, I don’t have to take the big, scary test. If I don’t pass the classes, I will keep taking them until I do. I’ve got four years. I hope I won’t need all of them.
Why I Was Late
I saw on the website that classes ran from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm. I am not at my sharpest at those hours, but I figured I could suck it up and adjust to the times. So, I show up at seven. (After trying to catch buses at 4:30, 5:30, and finally getting the 6:30 bus. Don’t ask.) I go to the building where I registered and a lovely lady with very little English but a great sense of humor helped me find my way to the other building. She did this by walking me half way there. What was really fun was she was telling me to go down a ramp and around a corner, so there was a lot of gesturing and laughing. Then a man walked by who she knew was going where I needed to go. She gestured to me to follow him. And to make sure I understand, she did a sneaking little walk and starts singing the Pink Panther theme.
Da doop, da doop, da doop da doop da doop…
More laughter. I imitated her sneaking walk for a few steps. Eventually I caught up to the man, see the building number she had told me, and go inside. It’s a little bit frantic in there.
The woman at the registration table is taking care of the people who were ahead of me. One of whom turned out to be a man that talked to me at the bus stop (one of the times the bus did not come). We smiled and greeted each other. Another lady came down the stairs and started to help me out. The first lady came back. We found my name and I was escorted into a classroom. At 7:00 pm. Unfortunately, the class started at 5:00. And ended at 7:30. Oops.
Looking at the class list, there were 19 people signed up. Five of us showed. I’m not even sure the people in the class were on the same class list I was. (Must. Learn. Names.) The teacher assigned to our cohort was not the person at the front of the classroom. I am very sure that people had a hard time figuring out the times and where to go. But now I am here and it’s all good.
Of the four other people in the class, three were Brits (I think) and one US lady. I said, “Oh, I don’t know if I can catch up.” The British guy in front of me said, “Yeah, we’re all fluent now.” Laughter all around. The instructor was lovely and caught me up quickly. (We were working on consonants and that damn rolled “r” that is so tricky.)
I was so worried that I would be the worst one in class. Last night I was and it was fun. We laughed so much at ourselves and our mispronunciations. Definitely a good-natured group and the instructor just rolled with it.
There is no school on Wednesday (national holiday) so I have a week to make sure I figure out the buses and to go over my consonants.
If the first class is any indication, adult education is a lot more fun and forgiving than the required years of schooling from my childhood. Most of us, as we get older, get more comfortable with ourselves. We don’t care (as much) about what people think. Hopefully, we’re less judgmental and more forgiving. If last night’s class is any indication, I think going back to school will work out just fine.