I remember this moment as if it were yesterday. All the students in the guitar class were set up in a circle with their guitars waiting for instructions from the teacher. The teacher explained what to do, but he then looked at me out of habit to re-explain in Spanish. I looked around at the students to get a sense of who exactly did not understand so I could speak towards them more.
As I finished translating the instructions, the students just looked at me with blank stares. They asked me, “Whaaat…?” I started to revise my translation when, all of a sudden, one of the students does it instead. I thought to myself, “Well THAT would have been an easy way to put it…wow why didn’t you think of that?” This was the “Oh no” moment that made the rest of my time at the LAYC confusing and worrysome instead of fun and interactive. This was the moment I questioned my role at the LAYC. Why was I there as a translator if another student could just do it? This was also the moment that I felt like they began to think of me as irrelevant and think, “Why is this gringa here if she can barely even get this message across?”
Of course they never said any of this to me, but I just felt those vibes in the room. It was after that moment that I really began to isolate myself rather than participate more. It would seem logical to participate more so I could “redeem myself” or something, but I was just so nervous of messing up more that I started speaking only when necessary. Every Friday when going to the LAYC, I would just get a spark of nervousness through my body. I was never excited to go there, always preoccupied with the possibility of messing up and being judged.
Needless to say, my expectations of what my volunteering experience would be like did not get reached by the actual experience. Nevertheless, I learned in hindsight that I need to not get as pent up anymore. Obviously people mess up, so I should not let my mistakes affect when I do or don’t participate. I tried to tell myself that this semester, but I guess it just did not really get through to my own head.