Jan 10, 2007
You couldnīt have asked for a better night. It was warmer than itīs ever been and it hadnīt rained in four days!!! As we finished getting ready and took some pictures, we could hear the band warming up. I was almost giddy with excitement. It felt like I was on my way to homecoming or something, but instead I was about to experience my first Baile in La Estrella. As Jessica, my host sister, and I walked up to the salon, a hug cavernous place with a little stage that is terrible for theatre, but perfect for a dance, all eyes turned to us. I was causing quite a stir decked out in my short jean skirt and tank top, though I was forced to wear flats instead of my usual dancing heels as I already towered over most of the guys in town. Muchachos leaning on cars and the outside wall whistled and I could hear little murmurs of "Teacher" all around me. But for once it didnīt really bother me. I was going dancing!!! Jessica, Ileana, and I had practiced dancing Salsa, Meringue, and Cumbia the night before in preparation, so I was ready to put my lessons to the test. I paid my 1,000 colones, got the stamp on my arm, and walked into a scene out of an old movie. I almost laughed it was so spectacular its wonderful strangeness. People lined the walls watching as a few older couples danced to slower songs that the young people obviously disdained. But there were grandmas and grandpas shuffling around in circular motions to a dance from their youth, somehow still managing to do so with some grace despite hunched backs and arthritis. But the music suddenly changed to cumbia and Ileana was whispering that her primo wanted to dance with me and I was off to the dance floor. No longer and observer but one of the observed. My first dance partner, Edwin, was tall and cute, which made up for the fact that he was only an ok dancer. Cumbia is my worst dance anyway, and I was enjoying looking up for once. The next song was a meringue, and I was quickly swept up by another brave muchacho. He was short and stocky and had a shocking red silk shirt on, but he was a great dancer. We stepped and twirled and twisted around the room, barely missing crashing into other couples on the increasingly more crowded dance floor. By the end of those two songs, which is almost a half hour of dancing, I was drenched in sweat and headed outside for some air and something to drink. This being a church affair, there was no beer, so I tried to enjoy my kool-aid while fanning myself and observing the scene around me. There were guys obviously too cool to be out on the dance floor smoking and sipping beer. I wondered if it would be bad to go and ask for a can, and decided that wearing a short skirt was as scandalous as Teacher was going to get tonight. Little did I know what was to come. Some of my students excitedly came up to give me kisses while some of the older ones came out also fanning themselves, saying ĻHot! Hot, Teacher!Ļ Then Ileana was at my side again. They were playing Reggatone and downing the last of my sickly sweet drink and throwing my cup on the ground (hey, when in Rome...) we headed back into the crowd, the heat, and the craziest dance Iīd ever been to. So there I was shaking it for all I was worth while everyone looked on, not in shock, but with approval. It seemed that everyone was very proud that their Teacher knew how to dance. But as the song was ending, the singer started saying something in rapidfire Spanish that I could not understand, but that really got Ileana excited. She grabbed my hand and before I knew it, I was up on stage in a dance contest...well, more like a booty shaking contest to see how low we could go. When the lead singer called out "A bajo, a bajo, a bajo!" Each of us took turns gettinī down...which was difficult in my skirt. After a few rounds of me trying to go a bajo and not flash the entire town, me and Ileana were the only ones left on stage. It was time to cheer for the winner. When the hand went over my head, the entire room erupted, led by about twenty of my students right up in front screaming and chanting "Teacher! Teacher!" Ileana also garnered a lot of support, but in the end I was named the winner. My prize, to basically be the back up dancer for the band for the next song. But Ileana, who had gotten me into this in the first place, was not going anywhere. Together we danced before all of La Estrella, she in her tight pants and me in my short skirt. When I finally managed to get down and head the refreshment stand, everyone was patting me on the back and telling me what a good dancer I was, my students jumping up and down in excitement at having helped Teacher win the dance contest. Amazing! Thinking back to when I was their age, it was embarrassing to even see a teacher at the grocery store, let alone going "a bajo" on a stage in front of hundreds of people. The rest of the night I had various dance partners, some good and some where I was holding in giggles as we bobbed around the room to a beat only known to him. One man with a full mustache and thinning hair was so short that I was doing backbends in order to complete the turns in which he was continually spinning me. The night ended with a final meringue, and even though it was only 11 pm, we had been dancing for almost four hours straight, and I was ready to go home. I kissed Ileana and my new friends goodbye, and headed home with Jessica. As we walked I threw my head back and looked up. Ahhhhhh, finally, stars in La Estrella...