Profesor Fidencio and I drove an hour south of Durango to the town of Vincente Guerro on Friday morning. I was invited to talk to the students at Fidencio´s former secondary school about the importance of learning a second language. My talk took place in the school´s library. It was set up very Mexican style: a podium and microphone on a raised platform flanked by tables on a higher platform where administrators, the town mayor, and others sit amongst plastic flowers and bottles of water. Uniformed school girls stood erect on either side of the tables. The school´s counselor was the master of cermony. After using tons of language to express very simple ideas, or none at all, he introduced me. I got up from my place at the table and stepped toward the microphone, forgetting that I was a good step above the podium. I tripped. It was a slow motion trip. We all saw it coming but no one could stop me. I was in motion. I grabbed the closest thing I could get my arms around – one of the uniformed girl guards. I held on to her like I hadn´t seen her in years, which, in fact, I hadn´t. We were total strangers. For being accosted by a strange gringo, the young lady maintained her composure incredibly well, while supporting me as best her 90-some pounds could. I tried to recover by hugging the master of ceremony, a teacher, and a mom standing beside the podium, as if pre-public speaking hugs were part of my culture. I not only didn´t pull it off, but I think I offended the mom in the process. I have felt more affection hugging a lamp post (we´ll save that one for a future entry).
My talk went without any other surprises, although I don´t think my audience could overcome the shock of my introduction. I did that walking-through-the audience thing while I talked, you know, to get that Phil Donahue thing going. Kids would lean away from me as I approached. At the end of my appearance I was presented a plaque, but was not invited to return. I think I lost that gig. There will always be other small, dusy, desert towns to appear in.
Cuidado con donde pisas,