High School Spanish

Daily writing prompt
Describe something you learned in high school.

My life might have taken quite a different turn had I pursued what I was really adept in High School. My skill was not in sports nor was it math. And it was not Woodshop. I only passed the latter because a classmate and the instructor helped me finish my Final project (I had broken my wrist during PhysEd, when I dived on the loose football and someone fell on me). It was hard enough to fit in as I bounced around schools and states. I was originally a California kid who started high school in New England but completed Junior and Senior years in Arizona. Moving there had a lot to do with me taking Spanish for all four years of high school. I do not know really why I chose Freshman Castilian Spanish. There were no Latinos on Cape Cod, Massachusetts in the mid-1970s. In Arizona, I thought it best to continue learning the language. Everywhere I went in Tucson, the street names, schools, and many businesses had Spanish -sounding names. The Mexican border (and the Sea of Cortez) was not all that far away. I did not know it that I would be traveling a lot in my future.

The dreaded semester of language that all high school kids have to take – and most just as quickly forget -was not boring but easy. One semester turned into four years. And introductory French as well as advanced Spanish. Foreign languages, when I traveled to Mexico, lead me to negotiating successfully with street vendors – and once, with the local policia and magistrate. And I met girls.

The worst part about Spanish, is that we all had to adopt Spanish names. Bob became Roberto. Jane became Juana. Eric- there is no equivalent in Spanish, so I became Enrique. Which created a lot of confusion as I didn’t look like, nor respond to, Henry. I was actually pretty good in Spanish, which was great as I had a crush on a blonde senorita, and always joined a little conversation group of kids on weekends at a café or sometimes at the teacher’s house. I later found out Cindy was dating an older guy, a college student, and was not interested in me. But Enrique was not dismayed. In high school French classes and afterschool clubs, Henri was more glib with the mademoiselles -especially when we enjoyed a little wine & cheese (we were Seniors).

I might blame a lack of proper career aspirations on “guidance counselors”. For some as yet confounding, no, worse – stupefying, lack of self-confidence, I never pursued a career using those skills. However, it does not mean that I found no use being a polyglot. In the years since high school, in addition to Spanish, I learned to speak and read passable French and Russian. I went into the Navy and traveled to many places where I put those languages to good use. Though some were critical of what I might, or might not, have taught my shipmates, I always felt I was doing my part for ‘foreign relations’.

When I think of the lessons I learned from High School, I can appreciate those.


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