I am here at a local school where I am to sub for a colleague who teaches English here.

Class is to begin at 8:00 a.m. It’s an exam day. It’s 7:50.

There’s no staff here yet.

I try to put myself into the mind of my coworker. I see her coming in the gate, stopping to chat with the doorman, as relaxed as as a rag doll and as nonchalant as . . .  well, as a Mexican.

I’m trying to slow my breathing.

Not only is this a completely new experience–being a substitute teacher in a Mexican school–I’m to administer exams for an ESL class. I have no experience and no qualifications for the task. I received the materials from la Mexicana last night at 8 o’clock.

I’m to administer exams for an ESL class. I have no experience and no qualifications for the task.

Students are trickling into the courtyard. Doves are cooing and finches twittering in the trees. The traffic noise is increasing outside the gate. I’m working at keeping the corners of my mouth turned up and my forehead relaxed.

7:58. Someone opens the outer door to the office. I go in with others who crowd the counter behind which three employees have arranged themselves. Those who came in with me seem to be paying for tuition. I hang back for five minutes and then step forward to the counter.

I am ignored completely.

After a minute I turn away and sit in a chair against the wall, waiting for the crowd to clear out. There’s now a line of about a dozen people. Each one seems to have a dispute to settle. I’m getting really annoyed. If I knew where the classroom is I’d just go and get started. I consider standing up and yelling.

Instead I take deep breaths and remind myself that I am not in the United States.

It’s 8:15.

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