Lessons learned through foreign language

By Renee DiPietro
April 26, 2001

by Renee DiPietro

On Friday I went to the dentist. The last time I went to the dentist before that I had an 8:30 a.m. appointment, which I showed up for at 8 a.m. because I am a dork and was hoping to be seen early; but that did not happen. I fell asleep in the waiting room for 45 minutes while the various employees strolled in the door. On the visit last Friday, the wait was much different. One, I was awake and two, I did not have to be woken up by the crazy “I’m too happy” desk lady. The reason for dragging my tired teeth in this morning was for a “maintenance check up on two possible cavities.”

So, I just happen to land in the seat of the youngest and cutest dentist I have ever met, and I am certain that he never met a beauty like myself. Though I think he did not expect me to promote a pair of M.C. Hammer/wide style sweatpants with Adidias sandals, he understood the reason of my scariness. setting the alarm on p.m. does not help much for a morning appointment.

The dentist gave me the choice of which type of fillings to get for my two miniscule cavities, which were my first two ever. I went for the silver fillings over the white ones because it saved me about $100.

We started the process and he decided not to give me the needle since he said my cavities were the smallest he had ever seen. Looking back now, I think I was more scared of not getting the needle than actually getting it, but after all was said and done, everything worked out perfectly.

When he started the process he began 20 questions, challenging me to spit out answers in between the fillings. I somehow got out that my summer plans are to travel to Cadiz, Spain with the Spanish department.

I do not know how or why Spain comes up every time I meet a stranger, but it does, and it is probably the one aspect of my life right now that is a common ground for most people that I meet. If I were to disappear people would say, “Oh, yeah, she’s that girl going to Spain.”

I am pretty excited about going to Spain. Actually I am ecstatic and the day cannot come fast enough. Every Wednesday I get a glimpse of what is to come in those five weeks across the Atlantic from my friend Maria. Every Wednesday I baby-sit in the area and help translate and communicate between the children, their mother and Maria.

Maria is their cleaning woman and is an immigrant from Paraguay.

Her family still lives in Paraguay, including her 12-year-old son who she madly misses. Maria works here in the States to send money back to her family. Every Christmas she goes home to Paraguay to see her family.

Maria is a very hard worker. She cleans the entire house and makes it spotless in seven hours and rarely takes a break besides for lunch. During lunch is when we get to talk. She tells me about her other cleaning jobs and how she is up to her knees in laundry at one house because the family refuses to put clean clothes back in the closet after they wear them.

We laugh a lot throughout the day and talk about how beautiful and happy the children are that I baby-sit. Through our relationship I have realized how truly important it is to be bilingual. I am a lover of stories and lessons, and the stories Maria has shared with me have taught me a great deal.

Maria has really bad teeth. Over the next year she needs a lot of work done to her teeth and a lot of money to pay for the large dentist bill of $6,000. She asked me to help her find additional work so she can make some extra money, so I asked the lady of the house if she had any friends who need a cleaner on Saturdays. I was upset that Maria needed additional work on top of her already strenuous weekly workload, but that’s how the cookie crumbles sometimes.

There are many gifts that I take for granted, but from being educated in a foreign language my knowledge grows and I am thankful for more and more of my newly discovered gifts. Maria told me how important it is to be bilingual and now I am learning more than I ever expected.

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Renee DiPietro

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