I have a giant crush on my Spanish teacher. I am not the only gringa in this Mexican seaside town that does. His huge smile with deep dimples are enough to make me swoon. Add big chocolate brown eyes, a full thick head of hair, an energetic personality plus a sweet laugh and he is imposable to resist. I consider myself infinitely lucky that I have private lessons with him. We don’t bother sitting in chairs fixed at a table with paper and pencil in hand. El Profesor is a proponent of learning through doing ~ an interactive approach you might say. An afternoon walk on the beach yielded many new words for my vocabulary – ‘caracol, arena, sombrilla. Flying a kite had me learn ‘cometa’. Hanging up laundry added ‘sábana’ and reinforced ‘limpio y sucio’.
The town has a Cocodrilerio at the edge of the mangrove that we decided to visit. The day we went the sewers were overflowing onto the streets and into the crocodile infested waters. El Profesor’s flip flops were thin. The milky brown water rode over them onto his feet as he walked through the stench ridden sludge. To my horror, once he had cleared the human feces cesspool, he removed his flip flops to wipe the bottoms of his feet with his hand. Still, I paid for his entrance and mine, least I could do since my lessons are free. He led the way down the wood sidewalk built over the sewer flushed mangrove waters. Counting all the crocodiles (18) and different birds (11 not including the little black ones). In the midst of these delights, I couldn’t stop myself from obsessing about the filth on his hands. Let it go, let it go, my brain kept saying.
His excitement built when the path split with one side leading to the museum. He was speaking rapidly about the museum when he took my hand! I didn’t swoon like I usually do. When we arrived, I looked frantically for a place to wash. There was, of course, not even a toilet much less a sink in sight. I struggled in my head to remember the second person past tense preterit verb form for ‘tocar’ – to touch – but without success. El Profesor was so delighted to point out the crocodile skeletons, their spines, their teeth, their eggs. Why would I possibly want to ruin a moment like this with hygiene anyway? Suck it up! It won’t kill you, I kept telling myself.
The swaying ride of the suspension bridge outside the museum was at least half as good as anything at Disneyland. It was a giddy thrill to jump up and down on it on our way to the crocodile nursery. In the nursery, El Profesor walked up to the cage with a 3 year old croc inside ready to undo the latch. The attendant come over to help out. She picked up the small croc, at 3 they are not as large as you might think, and handed it to him. He held it by the neck and back end right above its tail. I strained to understand him while he told me all about it. I could tell that he was showing off for me which I didn’t mind in the least. He tried to get me to hold it but I wasn’t so brave. I only tentatively touched its hind leg and under belly.
At the exit, El Profesor was ready to begin our tour again. Watching the crocodiles gnash their teeth and splash around does give an adrenaline thrill. Well worth the few pesos price of admission. I braced myself as I took his hand. I said I really had to go. He didn’t seem to mind so much once I told him we could go to my casita on the playa.
On the way back to the car, he enjoyed singing one of his favorite English songs with me, B-I-N-G-O. It’s fun to entertain him with this ditty. It’s the least I can do as he is so forgiving of all my errors and my struggles with Spanish.
Back at my casita, I made a beeline for the sink. I washed and asked him to do the same. I picked him up to run water over his hands. We soaped up and washed all four hands as one. His dimples sunk in deep to his round sun kissed face as he smiled with complete joy. My heart melted with sweet tender love for El Profesor who is not yet quite as old as the baby crocodile he had just been holding. Such an endearing gift, this love, that far outweighs any and all concern of cleanliness.