“Oh language, my language…”

Okay, so the scene from “Dead Poet’s Society” might be a bit dramatic, but I do feel a fierce gratitude for the folks that run and participate at the E3 language studio! Generally speaking, I am surrounded by men over the age of 50, which is totally great and I learn a lot and they are a hilarious crew, but

Yay for E3!!

it’s hard to meet people my age  in a new city, not to mention a new country! That’s where E3 comes in. During my first week of classes they were celebrating their 3 year anniversary  and since they were going to be having a little party, they invited me– this was after meeting them for the first time the previous day. And they welcomed my vegetarian self with open arms, and since every Filipino gathering centers around food that is no small feat! At first I was nervous because I obviously didn’t know any of the students or teachers, but they sat me down and tried to feed me, and when that proved to be slightly impossible (I couldn’t even eat the cake!), they asked me about myself and my interests, and explained a bit about their business, and all in all it was a great time and I met a bunch of people. Little did I know that was only the beginning!

Everyday I have class I walk into the office looking forward to seeing them. Usually they greet me in English and then in Tagalog, making sure to speak slowly, and then teacher Malou will ask if I want coffee or tea, maybe they have a snack to share (if I’m lucky it’s warm pan de sal, my favorite little Filipino roll!), if she’s not too busy, teacher Joanne will ask me about my day or weekend, and then teacher JP will pop up from behind the divider and comment on how I’m 10-15 minutes early so we can hang out for a bit…and then we go into the next room and start a lesson that usually requires a lot of vocabulary, repeating phrases and possibly a slight headache, but always with a lighthearted sense of humor! And while it’s possible that I will forget a good portion of the lesson (only to study later of course!), I will always remember these times spent torturing me with short ‘o’s at the end of sentences and round ‘a’s in the middle of words 🙂

The students are no exception to my gratitude. We have gone out to dinner together, had coffee, mused over the differences and similarities in our cultures (whether that’s Vietnamese, American, Filipino, or Colombian), and most recently several of us went on a field trip put together and paid for by E3. It was a fun-filled day of traveling in a van together seeing the sights of Laguna de Bay, eating and sharing our food (pretty much the moment we shut the doors, because that’s the Filipino way!), then buying more food on the side of the road, and laughing, always lots of laughing. That is one thing that I have really noticed, and I am going to just go ahead and attribute it to Filipinos as a people: they are some fun-loving folks, young or old it doesn’t seem to matter! It’s like how we have a term for “British humor”, well I think there is a “Filipino humor” and it is one that borders on silly and ridiculous but always seems to crack everybody up, and at the same time laughs at life’s hardships. It actually helps me understand my Grandma (or Lola) better, I remember one time after she was recovering from major surgery she was lying in the hospital bed while one of my cousins was watching her, and as my Lola slowly came into consciousness, she slightly opened one eye and in a low, thick, Filipino accent said “I’m not dead yet.”  and cracked a smile. And that folks, is a perfect example of Filipino humor, taking the tragic and making it ridiculous! 🙂

And my friends at E3 really know how to laugh and make an foreigner feel like this place could really be a home away from home. To all the teachers and students, I thank you all from the bottom of my heart… you’ve helped me ‘maging Pilipino’ (to become a Filipino).

Maraming salamat po (thank you very much),

vanessa

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Carson Fixmer on July 24, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    oh, Vanessa…thanks for this entertaining story. As you already know, we Fixmers have plenty of hilarious grandparent stories so maybe it has less to do with cultural factors and more to do with years on the planet. Perhaps one acquires this as one ages and has the wisdom to impart thoughts economically. Do you remember Grandpa Fixmer’s response when Natalie thanked him for allowing us to visit him at the nursing home last Christmas? He looked at her and said, “You mean I had a choice?”

    Reply

  2. Posted by Charmie Grace on July 24, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    We didn’t help you become a Filipino ‘coz ‘it’ was there all along. Seems to me that we just woke you up. 😉 Btw, you’re welcome. It’s not too obvious, but I am also a language trainer in E3. Haha. And the Filipino humor? You’re correct. We are fond of making fun of ourselves and our situation which is a good thing, I think… or else we’d all end up real crazy folks. Wonder how we survived everything we’ve been through? 😉

    P.S. Do you really have to use a photo with my tummy showing?! Grr.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Tim Fixmer on July 24, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    Vanessa,
    Very observant of you to identify the differences in humor from culture to culture. There are, I believe, sometimes very substantial, and sometimes very subtle differences between cultures in how humor is expressed and used in communication. These nuances are evident on the European continent for sure. Sometimes they facilitate business and sometimes they obstruct it. I am sure there is an entire field of study associated with comparison of humor between cultures. Maybe if we developed a better understanding of this the world would be a happier and safer place! Keep up the great work, always remembering the most important thing…”have fun”.

    Reply

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