Sunday, September 21, 2008

to be a salsa instructor, part I

Between working, going to church and taking Vietnamese and Japanese lessons, I am now a salsa instructor.

A number of weeks ago, a friend (who I will call Ms. J) approached me at church and asked me if I could teach salsa to her 3rd and 4th grade students at the school she teaches in. At the moment I didn't really think much of it, so I agreed. As time went by and "the date" drew nearer, the fact that I was going to be teaching salsa to 9-10 year olds began to sink in. If you try and remember, when one is that age, one doesn't have the greatest attention span, nor the greatest interest for things other than toys/playing with other kids/etc, especially if it involved someone of the opposite sex. At that age I just wanted to play on my Super Nintendo all day. I realized it wasn't going to be easy, and I started praying and preparing myself for the day. A whole lot of patience and perseverance would be needed to teach salsa to kids.

The day finally arrived, and I made my way to the elementary school. I asked directions on how to get to the classroom, and when I got there, found myself in a room with Ms. J and around 15 kids. Immediately the kids started asking Ms. J who I was, if I was the salsa instructor, if I was a good dancer, etc. They seemed like a great bunch of kids from the get-go. The first funny dialog I got into went something like this:

Me: *approaching a group of kids in the middle of the classroom* So, what grade are you guys in?
Girl 1 & Girl 2: *excited* 3rd grade!
Boy 1: *with a cocky attitude* Well, I am in 4th grade.
Me: -_- Haha, well, excuuuse me kid. ;-)

But like I said, they were a great bunch of kids. All of them were excited and were telling me how they wanted to learn salsa real bad as we made our way to the gym. There was a total of 16 kids: 12 girls and 4 boys. When we got there, the kids sat down on the floor, and Ms. J proceeded to introduce me (she introduced me as Mr. Wired). I gave them a little background info of myself, and then started to talk about salsa. I told them where it came from, where it got its name, etc. Then I started to talk about the actual music.

Me: For now, I'm just going to throw this info out there - you may not understand all of it just yet, but you will when you actually start dancing. Salsa music has 8 counts and we count them as "1,2,3 ... 5,6,7" etc etc etc.
Boy 2: *raises hand*
Ms. J: Yes, Boy 2?
Boy 2: Ms. J, Mr. Wired said he was going to throw something out there. What is he going to throw?

Ms. J and myself almost died. Boy 2 forced me to remember that kids tend to take things very literally. :-)

The kids were doing pretty good. They picked up the basic step pretty quickly. Only like one girl and one boy were having difficulties, but the rest were doing good. It was really nice hearing the whole room go "1,2,3, 5,6,7. 1,2,3, 5,6,7..." as they tried their best to get it right. Some would call me excitedly, wanting to show me that they "got it". Things were going smoothly, but it was really tough to handle 16 kids at once, so at one point Ms. J came up with the idea of dividing them in four rows of four students each. On our first rotation, the first row ended up being the four boys. As Ms. J went on to take care of arranging the rest of the rows, I decided to approach the boys and give them some encouragement.

Me: Alright guys. You need to give it your best and represent the boy band. :-D !!
Boy 1: *Looking at me in the eyes* Um, what's a boy band?
Me: Hahaha, I don't know. I just made that up. (What does a boy band have to do with salsa and giving ones best?)

... 5 seconds later ...

Boy 1: Ms. J, Mr. Wired said we have to represent the boy band!
Boy 2: And he said he just made it up!
Ms. J: *dies laughing*
Me: .... gee, thanks guys. Thanks a lot. -_-

The whole thing was definitely not boring. It's awesome how kids are so easily amused, too. I got them to do the basic step to some music, then taught them the "segunda" (which is the "side to side" step, I don't know the name for it in English). They said it looked pretty easy, and sure enough, picked it up pretty quickly. Then, I told them how you can switch between the two steps anytime you wanted, and gave a little demonstration. The whole room went "ooooooooooh". It was great.

When class was over, I congratulated the kids for a job well done, and told them to keep practicing until next time. I also told them that next time I would be teaching them the "cuarta" and "quinta". More "oooooooooh"s from the whole room. Before leaving, they all group hugged Ms. J, and one of the girls even came up and gave me a hug. I love these kids. I am very grateful to God for giving me this opportunity.

I was told that the next time I am to speak only in Spanish. I already started getting ready for it. Should be good. =)

Monday, September 1, 2008

pink shirts, yellow balloons and fortune cookies

So we made a trip to Austin, TX this labor day weekend. Our "out of town" plans usually consist of a combination of meeting up with friends, eating, salsa dancing, and sleeping. We sometimes do some sort of sightseeing as well. Austin delivered in all aspects, but what might be exciting and cool to me might be boring to you, so I'll try to keep you from clicking the "x" button in your browser by only posting the highlights.

Friday night we went to 6th street for some Cuban/Puerto Rican food and dancing. I think it was the first time ever that I went to a salsa club, actively asked a good number of different people to dance, and didn't get rejected once. At one point I danced with a very nice (and cute) Mexican girl with a great attitude. I played the "beginner" card which resulted in her being impressed as I did the more advanced (not really) moves. So she had a good time, and ended up introducing me to her (also cute) friends so I could dance with them as well. Zing.

Later on some of my friends wanted to get drinks so we moved to a place called The Library. I just did some people watching while my friends had their drinks and did some dancing. At one point, one of my friends sorta challenged me to go up to a group of girls to take a picture with them. So I did.

Me: *walks up* Hey, let's get our picture taken. (or something like that)
Them: Uhh... *one of them points to another* take a picture with her!
Me: *looking at the single girl* Ok! Just look at the camera over there! My friend is taking the picture
Her: *with a confused look* why do you want to take a picture?
Me: -_- ... I just want to have a cool picture to take back to Dallas! :-)
Her: Uhh...
Me: Aww, come on. Am I a scary guy?
Her: *touching my shirt* ^_^ No, you're wearing a pink shirt!
Me: OK! Say cheese! :-D ...
Her: Cheese! :-D
Me: *explodes*

So I guess it didn't turn out too good haha. I'm not the kind of guy that "begs", but I really didn't want to walk away without getting that picture taken. It went from a group of five to just one girl, and me having to pull out all sorts of tricks from my bag (I omitted stuff from the conversation) in the process. I did get my picture taken with a random cute Austin girl however, and learned that wearing pink somehow lowers girls' defenses. Woot.

We're back in Dallas now, but Austin was such a great experience that we can't wait for another chance to go back. I'll just make sure to keep stocking up on pink shirts.