Saturday, April 19, 2014

Class Differences in a Cuban Classroom?

Class Differences in a Cuban Classroom?
April 18, 2014
Kabir Vega Castellanos

HAVANA TIMES — When I look back at how I felt in the classroom when I
first started my English course, the changes I've experienced seem
incredible to me. At the time, I would see so many people with
touchscreen phones that I was embarrassed to pull out my MP3 player, for
even something as insignificant as this is a status symbol.

Sometimes, I would worry about what they might think about me, who often
wore the same clothes – and shoes – to school. I hated it when we were
given exercises in which one had to talk about oneself. I would go crazy
trying to come up with something – it seemed to me that my house, my
situation and my life in general was simply too boring, while the lives
of the other students struck me as very interesting.

When, in these class exercises, we were asked whether we took the bus to
go to work or school, everyone answered: "No, I take a taxi." So, I also
came to think I was the only one who had to endure nearly three hours
inside a crowded bus every day, where there isn't even enough oxygen to
go around from time to time.

At recess, I felt envy of those who ate apples, a hamburger or fruit
juices as expensive as 3.30 CUC, in front of everyone. I was convinced I
was the only one who couldn't afford such things.

I recall that a girl who didn't often show much interest in
participating in class discussions anxiously put up her hand when the
exercise consisted in describing one's home – and it was simply to share
with us that her house had fifteen rooms.

In another exercise designed to learn the past tense, we were asked to
describe what we had done on our last vacation, and everyone answered
they had gone to Varadero. It was so evident many people were lying that
the teacher finally said: "If everyone went to Varadero, how come no one
saw each other?"

One time, I went to Coppelia, Havana's main ice-cream parlor, with two
classmates. At one point, the conversation centered on the country's
problems. Among other things, they said that the country's prices were
conceived for about one percent of the population. This encouraged me,
for I thought we were finally sharing sincere concerns, but the tone of
indifference my classmates spoke with made it clear they belonged to
that one percent.

It is said similar people are drawn to one another. The student who sits
next to me in class began to notice I was different and began to use his
MP3 player in front of me without any hang ups. During recess, when we
went out to the street, he started buying cheap peanuts to assuage his

Little by little, people's fears of revealing who they were disappeared.
One day, a classmate I often talk to opened her coin purse in front of
me without any kind of embarrassment. She only had six Cuban pesos in it.

I gradually realized that all of us started playing a certain character
when the course started, as a defense mechanism. Like all lies, it
couldn't last long and, with time, these characters fell apart.

In the end, it came to light who we truly are, people saddled with all
of the problems the average Cuban faces.

Source: Class Differences in a Cuban Classroom? - Havana -

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