When Profesora Patty rings our doorbell each weekday morning, the kids run to the window to lower a string to her with the front door key attached. After entering and climbing the stairs to the 3rd floor, she settles in to start each day teaching our kids Spanish from eight in the morning to one in the afternoon. While she patiently teaches them the difference between the indefinido and imperfecto tenses, my wife and I have our mornings free to volunteer.
Patty is an attractive woman around 30 years old with dark hair and dark eyes and usually dresses in jeans and heels. She is personable, engaging and is a very good teacher. She’s single and engaged to be married, although it seems like the wedding date keeps getting pushed out. She’s patient with our kids and seems to genuinely enjoy their company. Encouraged by Patty, we began speaking only Spanish in the house. We started out by having a contest: anyone who spoke English gets a point and the person with the most points at the end of the day has to give each family member a massage. Any mistaken utterances in English are greeted with a chorus of “PUNT-O!” (one point!) We’ve had fairly good success keeping consistent but trying to keep the kids focused on their homeschooling using only our intermediate-level Spanish has been a challenge. (Sometimes the words Stopping screwing around and do your homework! lose their force when translated into another language) My wife thinks that we are developing our own Span-glish language, mutually reinforcing grammatical errors that we all share. Despite these challenges, Profesora Patty applauds our efforts.
Patty teaches Spanish about 30 hours per week and she also has a travel agency. She has a tourism degree and attends to her travel business in the afternoons and on weekends. She occasionally calls us to rearrange her teaching schedule, because she needs to take a client to Machu Picchu or the Sacred Valley. Despite a travel agency web site that is always “under construction” she seems to do pretty well. We enlisted her services for a mid-July trip to the Virgen del Carmen festival in Paucartambo, a small town between Cusco and the Peruvian Amazon. It is at the midway point on the dirt road to the Manu biosphere and it hosts a yearly festival honoring the patron saint of the mestizo population. Patty’s boyfriend took time from his work to drive us on the sometimes-treacherous mountain road. En route, we passed a group of men working furiously to rescue a truck with one wheel dangling off a precipice. A half hour later, the power windows on the driver side stopped working. Once we found some packing tape and a plastic bag, Patty’s boyfriend taped it up and the remainder of the trip was uneventful although very dusty. The festival itself was an amazing display of colorful, choreographed dancing by 16 separate groups of dancers. Two of the more memorable were the drunken hacienda owners on horseback (see photo) and the African slaves in chains. That night we stayed in a government workers pension. Our family of 4 shared a very basic room (no running water) with 3 beds pulled together while Patty and her boyfriend (appropriately) had separate rooms.
One of the benefits of our two-day trip with Patty was speaking Spanish around the clock with our personal grammar coach. With her travel agent services thrown in, we were fortunate to take advantage of Profesora Patty’s twin professions: Spanish teacher and tour guide.