Folks file out of the rec center Tuesday nights and I rearrange tables and wash dishes. The frenzy of organizing abates, leaves relief in its wake. At times it’s a satisfied relief, paired with enthusiasm for the next week, yet other times it soon gives way to apprehension: how will I manage to make next week fresh? How could I have better facilitated that conversation?
Week One of La Mesa found me enthused and ready to take on challenges in the next week. The following Tuesday, we catered delicious fajitas from the same restaurant as before, a local Mexican-owned diner that offers few Mexican food options but will cater just about anything. Again, I was ecstatic about the turnout- nineteen people, but a slightly different nineteen than the time before.
I’d had some trouble facilitating one-on-one partnered learning the first week, and so this week had printed off a worksheet-esque set of questions in both languages. The questions ranged from simple (“what is your favorite color?”) to slightly more complex (“what’s your favorite summer activity?”)
Beautifully, the group self-organized so that Spanish learners were sitting next to English learners. The task was simple: use the questions on the sheet to introduce your partner to the group. I paired with Marisol and we quickly went through the questions, soon falling into a conversation about school and work. At some point, I noticed the timbre of the group had changed, and realized that every pair had a) finished with their questions, and b) not stopped talking. Somehow, the activity had successfully led to the more informal dialogue I’d been hoping to create.
The happy buzz of conversation continued for about twenty minutes before I brought the group together for a larger, translated conversation, around the topic of summer celebrations. Very quickly, this morphed into a more specific discussion of weddings, marriage, and divorce, which proved to be a hilarious topic, easily lasting for the rest of the meeting. My mom, who has been attending La Mesa and bravely practicing her Spanish, left the meeting completely energized. “How great it was to laugh with each other!”