Why Are You Here?

Why Are You Here?

This is a question I frequently ask myself at times when I’m not having fun. It’s my “mind-snap” to either get more involved with the situation so the fun level increases or step aside and seek another pasture as perhaps my time in the situation has expired. Change is the only constant in life. All activities, no matter how fun they once were, change and often end.

I had just asked myself “Why are you here?” early one Friday evening while in Escobedo (about an hour south of San Miguel). There I volunteer to teach Cuban dance each week. One reason for my boredom was obvious. I was into year three of this class, which is a long time to volunteer at anything. Another cause of my discontent was that I never liked the hour-long drive to Escobedo. Then, another reason I asked the question was the increase in holiday tourism here in San Miguel. As a result I am often forced upon my return to SMA and taxis aren’t around to walk for an hour to get home. In the cold and dark that’s not much fun.

Plus there was the changeover in students. With every holiday break some leave, having outgrown the level of the class and graduated. As a teacher you are proud of them, but also a bit frustrated as you’d like them to stay on to form a more advanced class which, unfortunately, is not being offered by the Cultural Center, my “employer”.

Right about when I was asking myself “What are you doing here?” I notice a twelve year-old student with whom I worked the week before. She loved learning to dance and comprehended passes with remarkable speed and endless energy. Her grace and enthusiasm swallowed up my self-doubts.

Then the gentleman caller of a student in her twenties came by. They’d obviously been a couple for a while, as it was the first time I saw her ever-present pug dog show an interest in any human other than herself. I admired how he was trying to learn what interested her and how she had succeeded in teaching him. So I worked with him directly to enable him to share in her joy.

Certainly I was no longer lacking a fun factor. So imagine my surprise when a middle-aged local man approached me to ask, in flawless English, so I misunderstood nothing, “Why are you here?”

I was taken aback and answered the obvious, “Teaching dance.” “I see that,” he replied, “but I mean, why are youhere?” I was taken aback having the voices in my head come out of someone else’s mouth.

So I explained how every Friday we three teachers come from San Miguel to Escobedo to volunteer teach dance and that it is a fun way to start the weekend. The fellow goes on to explain how he left Escobedo for Des Moines when he was 18. He became a US citizen and served in the army. He recently returned to his hometown and was gob-smacked to see a person from the US, who he knew didn’t live there, teaching Cuban dance in the town square.

He was perfectly nice and fun to chat with. Still, I’ll never forget the feeling of having someone else say my inner thoughts out loud.