Ramón is an English teacher in Somoto, and he is probably one of the best that I have met in town. Ramón’s English level is incredible, especially for someone who learned in Somoto and has never traveled to an English speaking country. I met him after being subjected to several terrible renditions of “We are the world” by Michael Jackson, “Eye of the Tiger” by Ozzy, and “Hit me baby one more time” by Brittney Spears at a local English singing competition. He was interested in practicing his English, so I suggested we meet at one of the local coffee shops to hang out. He was my age, and I was trying to make friends in town, so it was a great for both of us.
Our afternoon coffee sessions quickly became a tradition. I decided to name our meetings the “Mug Club” since we would drink coffee while chatting. (and who doesn't like a name that rhymes?) Ramón would invite his friends occasionally, and one we had eight people chatting in an odd mix of English and Spanish. I would switch into Spanish if the conversation got too complicated, or they didn’t understand certain parts of what I had said.
I wouldn’t cut them any slack and spoke to them as I would normally with friends. Ramón loved it because it gave him a challenge, and he really improved his comprehension during our Mug Club meetings. He would eagerly write down any words he didn’t know in a notebook he carried with him. We both learned a lot as I asked questions about how to say different things in Spanish too. No topic was off limits for the Mug Club.
Last week, Ramón and some of the guys from the Mug Club invited me to dinner at their home. They said they wanted to do something for me, even though it wasn’t that big. Ramón’s wife, Maria Magdalena, made a chicken dish that was a special occasion meal and we pulled out the three liter bottle of Pepsi (a necessity for a Nica party). Similar to my dinner with my host family, we sat and laughed at all of the funny things we had talked about over the last two years.
I gave one of the guys grief about not doing a “homework” assignment that I gave him over a year ago. Every time I saw him he always said he was going to do it soon and he never did. We decided that in five years when I come back to visit he might have it done.
Ramón went through some of the funny words I had taught him like “hoodlums” and “disenfranchised” or odd sayings like “I was so bored I sat and watched the paint peel.” We laughed about some of the words that would catch them in English like the pronunciation difference between “leaving” and “living.” I talked about how I still can’t say certain words with lots of Rs in them.
I’m glad we were able to have that dinner and spend one last time together. The Mug Club didn’t really factor into my role as a business volunteer, but it was considered a “side project.” Not that I really considered it a project at all. We all left having learned something. Ramón says he’s going to continue the Mug Club with another PCV in Somoto, and he assured me that my legacy as founder will never be forgotten.
|The Mug Club|