Friday, February 19, 2010

Wissler Remembers – Richard Stern

Richard Stern - born Feb. 25, 1928

The story of a Professor recalling his past students – all too easy for me to relate.

The total number of students I instructed back in Negresti during my two years there should be around 250.

I wonder from time to time where some of those students are today. I am absolutely sure where two of them are (successful cell phone salesmen in northern Romania).

The others – no clue.

It’s wonderful to think that they could be out there in the world using the English skills that I taught them over ten years ago.

But, let’s be real.

On a trip back to Negresti about 4 years ago, I ventured into a cell phone shop in an attempt to buy a SIM card to place into my phone so that I could make in-country calls.

The woman behind the counter was acting a bit squirrelly and I quickly dismissed it as just her reaction to a foreigner. After stumbling through the pronunciations of some technical words in Romanian, she switched to very broken English, catching me off guard.

“Mr H......”, don’t you recognize me?

I did a step back, looked her over and shook my head side to side.

“It’s me, Oana B......”.

I let a few words of surprise trickle out and finished off the incoherent sentence with the obligatory “how are you?”

This girl had been sitting in one of my classes only 6 years before...

This girl that I had scolded for smoking in a bar...this girl who I had counseled for bad grades on homework. - was married and had a child.

All of this raced through my mind as we attempted to get the SIM card to work (we never did).

After a few minutes, I wished her well, and made my way out of the store – attempting to hide my obvious state of shock as I made my way back to the bloc.

I hate to let reality intrude on my memories such as it did when I encountered Oana.

Oana was working at a cell phone store.

She would go home in the evening and fulfill her domestic duties.

Tend to a child.

Prepare dinner for a husband.

Purchase bread and salami.

Worry over finances.

And - If the above was the height of her worries, it would be wonderful, but we all know, that things are probably much worse for Oana.

I became so attached to these students, these children, these individuals.

I will forever keep the memory of my students set at the age where I first met them. 14,15,16,17 and 18 year olds.

They will never grow up-.

To place them into the reality that I know- the reality that exists for them within my minds eye, is so painful.

They deserve so much more. Life is not, and was not fair to them.

But, we know that. And so do they.

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