I’d never think to ask for a submarine as a present. Maybe I need to start thinking bigger. Who needs a pony? I want a submarine. We head from the Naval Museum across the street to the entrance to the Submarine Park. Rodney told us about it and praised it as worthwhile to see. I’m eager to pay three soles and go tour an actual submarine. I’m practicing my favorite lines from The Hunt For Red October. “The hard part about playing chicken is knowing when to flinch.” “I always wanted to see Montana.”
Which to me sounds like, “Show taladriga taverish, Capitan,” and means “Cold this morning, Captain.” I’m testing the limits of claustrophobia. So far so good. We file over to the ticket booth like so many precious sheep only to discover the cost is ten soles per person. The poor in our group exchange glances.
"Ten is too much?” Rodney asks intercepting our mind code.We nod. I think also we’re all ready for lunch and know that another tour will keep us that much longer from eating.
To soften our rejection of the submarine we stand for a few minutes by the railing and gaze at the boat where it sits dead in the water.
“The submarine was a gift from the United States to Peru,” Rodney tells us.“That was some gift,” I muse.
“Happy birthday,” Oswaldo says.He and I laugh.
Why a submarine, United States? What was the gift for? I can just see the Chiefs of Staff sitting at their round table. One of the CoSs pipes up, “You know, Peru has been a great ally. Those spools of alpaca wool they mailed us have been a godsend. My nephew has knit three sweaters already. Winter will never have seemed so warm. Let’s send a gift back.” They all agree with nods and murmurs. “What should we give?” Silence. “I know!” Another CoS says, slapping his palm on the table. “How about a submarine?!”With these thoughts in mind I board the bus with Katrina, Oswaldo, Larry, Victoria, Rodney and Juan Carlos and we head off to La Punta. We get off and start walking toward the beach. The wind gathers chill when it passes over the sea and I debate putting my fleece back on. Katrina and I pick our way over the rock covered shore down to the slope and gaze out into the waves.
“I want to go down and stick my hand in the water and then lick the salt off,” Katrina says impulsively.
That sounds adventurous. I want to too. Then I look at the water. It’s dirty and sad. Suddenly I don’t want to touch the water much less imbibe any of it. What have we done to our world? What have we done? The shore rocks rumble together when the water sucks its way between them. A clatter of stones. A voicing of complaint. I listen to the words of the rocks; I hear the voice of the sea. I could sit here for the rest of the day and try to understand the conversation, but we move on and away.
We eat lunch at a Cevicheria where five out of the seven of us eat ceviche. I have an avocado and rice with a side dish of chifles. After lunch, we say our farewells, thank Juan Carlos and Victoria for a wonderful day and go our ways.
The rest of Sunday is a blur and wake up time on Monday morning comes early. I’m trailing Katrina this week as she teaches her classes in preparation for me to sub (substitute not submarine) for her while she’s visiting her family and friends in the States.
“You don’t dress up to go teach, do you?” I’d asked the night before.“I do try to look nice,” she said.
“Is it okay if I wear jeans?”She thought about it for a second then loaned me a pair of slacks. I’m a little put off about having to conform to a dress standard, but I comply. After all, I did ask, and I know that clothes make the man. I’d brought my blue Toms (http://www.toms.com/) with me and I have them on. I feel like a hippie playing dress up as a yuppie. I feel a little out of my self.
“My shoes don’t match my outfit,” I say as I don my jacket.Katrina looks me over. My shoes and jacket are nearly the same color blue and I’d actually brushed my hair. “You look like a J.J. Crew commercial,” she says. I’ve never been told that before. “Maybe I mean L.L. Bean,” she qualifies. I’m thinking more REI. Check me out being all trendy. I don’t see it though. There’s no full length mirror. I feel like a mismatched doll.
First class is with Pietro at his office. He doesn’t want a sub while Katrina is gone and had actually blanched when Katrina mentioned that I might come to a class. But it’s easier for me to tag along the whole day rather than meet up somewhere later. “If he doesn’t want me in the class, I can wait in the lobby,” I say. “I have a book.”
When he arrives he’s gracious enough to have me in. He’s nervous and I try to be invisible, nice, nonthreatening. He’s an accountant. I think I’d have known that about him if I’d seen him walking on the street. The way he carries himself, the way he processes information, the way he sits upright in his chair, the way his papers are stacked on the table all speak of a Type A personality. He relaxes one jot and tittle as the class goes by.
After conversation, grammar and a reading exercise, I thank Pietro for letting me sit in on his class and Katrina and I head across the street to a coffee shop. We have a couple hours to pass before her next class. Soon enough we catch another bus.
She’s told me about this next student. She’s warned me about him. He asks weird questions, he doesn’t seem to listen, he can’t seem to grasp the verb Do. “If you decide you can’t deal with him and you drop him while I’m gone, I’ll be totally okay with that. The other students please don’t, but him, I don’t think I want him. When I get back he can be your student if you want.”
Katrina had told him I would be coming along this week.
“Is the substitute a girl or guy?” he’d asked.“A girl,” Katrina replied.
“How old is she?”Ah, Peruvian men. I have my creep-o-meter calibrated and set. I’m prepared to stave off untoward advances. This is just basic self-defense.
We wait in the front lobby of his business until he comes down the stairs and calls us up to his office.Gian Carlo is probably only several years older than me. He’s dressed professionally in a suit, but no tie. My creep alarms don’t go off. But I keep all systems on high alert just in case. He has a restless energy. He seems like a child who is eager to please, wants to be accepted, and always tries to test his boundaries.
He’s a little nervous with me there. When Katrina encourages him to practice asking questions to me, she and I both expect him to ask me if I’m single. That’s the Peruvian Man’s Question Number 1. He surprises us both. He doesn’t ask that at all. However, he doesn’t go completely off the question grid and does ask “How old are you?” That’s usually Question Number 2.After Katrina explains Do, Does, Doesn’t, Don’t, Did, Didn’t again we bid him goodbye and call it a class.
We walk to Wong (a supermarket like Tom Thumb or Safeway) and eat the lunches we’d packed. It’s nice to sit, talk, compare notes, stare out the window, and just have a break.
The second hand ticks on and we truck it once again to another class. With Ivonna (a maybe nine year old girl) we read a really depressing story by Oscar Wilde called The Happy Prince. Don’t let the title fool you. (SPOILER ALERT) The Happy Prince is a statue who ends up torn down and burned up. His little sparrow friend dies of cold at his statuesque feet. Happy my ass.
Then to top it off we finish the book with another Wilde story called The Selfish Giant. Read it and then we can discuss how crazy a tale it is. Oh yeah, and The Selfish Giant who stops with his selfish ways, ends up dead at the end of his story too. Thanks Oscar Wilde.
I may have survived my first day of teaching, but for me... the night has just begun.