The light does not trickle in, shut out by the impermeable Persian blinds, their density and power a force to be reckoned with. What does trickle, or rather blast, in is the sound of the cell phone’s tinkling alarm, its melody increasing gradually, annoyingly, until I can fumble in the dark to shut the darn thing up, for goodness sake.
I sigh, swing my legs over the edge, and stick my feet into my slippers, an indispensable item of clothing, something any good Spaniard must, by obligation, wear inside his or her house, lest he or she “catch cold.” The bathroom awaits me, but first, first comes coffee. I stick a mug in the microwave, wipe my bleary eyes, and trudge slowly into the bathroom, hoping for a fresh blast of energy that never seems to come until the sweet nectar of coffee makes contact with my taste buds.
The first taste is best, no doubt. The rest is a sort of take-it-or-leave-it necessity, something my blood cells need to continue pulsing with energy. My head is fuzzy until that first bit of caffeine rushes into my eagerly awaiting bloodstream, depleted from its overnight fast from its favorite stimulant.
After coffee, hair brushing (sometimes), and bundling up, I head out onto the street, the cold air biting at my face. The early morning streets in Zamora hold little evidence of life: city workers and little children with their mothers and not much else. The stores aren’t even open this early. It is 9 o’clock.
Upon arrival at school, I ring the doorbell located at the back of the school, the teachers’ entrance. They buzz me in (it’s never failed), and I enter school. The school here feels nothing like my high school, its classrooms void of decorations, the lack of lockers, the absence of a cafeteria. The teachers are also different, with more stylish, but often less formal, clothing. They come and go at will, not required to stay the whole day if they only have classes from 8-11. They are young and old, fat and thin, funny and serious. In short, normal people.
My first class is always intimidating in its own small way. I begin each week, each day, anew, full of hopes and fears. The children in each class are different, some loud and obnoxious, others quiet and reticent. I speak slowly, e-nun-ci-ate, repeat, smile, joke…in short, I try my best to engage them. They are loath to talk aloud in English, embarrassed to be seen as stupid in front of their classmates. I hate this attitude and wish badly to rid them of a fear of what others will think. I realize this is hypocritical of me at the same time as I wish it for them – my greatest fear is how others will perceive and consequently judge me. I empathize and yet wish so badly that these fears would dissipate and a new, freer attitude would arise among them.
At 11:10, we break, the students to the courtyard, toting ham sandwiches and bags of chips, the professors to a nearby café, excited at the prospect of a coffee the size of a shot, a little pithy glass that’s not worthy of being called a mug. It costs €1. I always leave smelling faintly of a smoke, although the smokers make an intent to blow the smoke away from the table. (It never works.) The café is typically Spanish, a leg of ham resting in the corner, a special wine refrigerator at the other side of the bar. We have our own table, reserved everyday at 11:10. We talk politics, teaching, anything that comes up. I try to follow along, but I admit I get distracted, my eyes glazing over at my lack of understanding of the Spanish parliament.
We all begrudgingly head back at 11:35, walking in groups of twos or threes, finishing the conversations that lingered. Only three more hours of class.