September 11, 2013

Most of my classes are in Spanish, meaning my most coherent form of communicating with my teachers is interpretive wiggling. I have one class in English, however, in which I’m the only American. Let me tell you – there’s no better way to feel like a superhero than being the only person to raise your hand when the professor asks, “Does anyone know what “avid” means?” Of course, this becomes quickly counterbalanced by trying to pronounce “paradigm” and being corrected by the Ecuadorian sitting next to you.

I have one of those unpredictable professors, the type that will spend the majority of “Principles of Administration” telling an enchanting account of Humphrey the Whale and then abruptly say “Great! We have five minutes to learn the finer points of SWOT Analysis. Quiz tomorrow.”

This morning he sat on his desk describing how the internet has changed Ecuador’s entrepreneurial environment in recent years (now it’s heavily based in cat photos). Mid-sentence, he scratched his head and said to no one in particular, “I need to go to my office for something. Evan, explain to the class how to play baseball. You have two minutes.”

An odd request, but no sweat, prof. I sauntered to the board and asked, “Who’s played baseball before?” No hands went up. “Who’s seen a baseball game?” No movement. “Does anyone have the slightest idea how to play baseball?” A tall boy in the front offered that he believed it involved hot dogs. Progress.

I know the finer points of baseball inside and out. I really do. Infield fly rule? I practically invented that. But as I opened my mouth to lather the class with my knowledge I suddenly realized I had no idea where to begin. I tried, “You have two teams, one bat, one ball, four bases, and nine mitts.” Not quite right – too detailed. I started over with “A man will throw a hard object in your general direction and you must decide whether you’d care to whack it with a piece of wood or not.” Blank stares from the class. “Does anyone mind if I start with the infield fly rule?”

Ten minutes later, sweating profusely, I had managed to convey the basics of baseball. The professor had long since entered the classroom and was quietly sitting by the door. I answered question after question, explaining everything from force-outs to foul balls. Finally, a girl in a soccer jersey asked “Why would anyone ever want to play this game?” Huh. Some questions are harder than others.