Maestra, Sensei

I have a little note pad that I carry around with me throughout the day, scribbling odd Japanese words and phrases. I would never dream of becoming conversationally proficient in the little time that I'm here, but it always surprises me how stimulating just hearing the language is. Stirring long-lost lessons from the Saturday Japanese classes that I attended as a child from the recesses of my brain, I can often grasp onto particles of concepts - verb endings for the past and future tenses and the command for, phrases like "be careful." I can't force it though; it's like trying to remember a dream from the night before. Best to let it bubble to the surface on its own, and even then it's only bits and pieces.

If anything, though, it's my Spanish that's been getting exercised of late. The owner's daughter decided a while ago to teach herself Spanish and, now that V is gone, I've become the de facto teacher. (Not that I'm totally unqualified - in total I've spent some eight years or so learning it in school). We make an unlikely good student-teacher pairing. She's learned quite a bit on her own, but is not so advanced that I can't stay ahead of her. And while I'm rusty on compound verb forms and more literary grammatical rules, I still know the most commonly used conjugations like the back of my hand.  

On light work days when there are no guests, we'll have "lessons" where she comes to me with a page of handwritten questions and vocabulary that she wants to learn. We'll practice speaking, me sometimes having to mentally extricate the Spanish from the French, and before I know it an hour has gone by. And then I realize how much I miss it - languages, learning, classrooms.  

I've also become the unofficial photography mentor, as she purchased a DSLR kit several months ago and is earnestly trying to improve her style and technique. This I feel more unsteady about; once you've mastered how to use the hardwear, it's a little impossible to teach artistry. Regardless, I provide feedback when I can on lighting, framing and which lens to use. Together we've gone out to shoot near the beach a couple times at sunset. Watching us one day, her mother joked that I was like the big sister even though she's a few years older than me.

This, of course, reminds me of my own older brother, who for many years growing up I believed knew everything. Literally. As in I took whatever he told me to be the absolute truth. Maybe that's part of why he continued to feed me such tall tales even after I was old enough to know better - there's something warm and fuzzy about someone putting their complete trust in you when, half the time, you don't even believe in yourself all that much.