The entire purpose of my three-month stay on the Galapagos is to assist with the teaching of the finer points of the mother tongue.
Simple enough, you would think, for someone who has spoken a form of English for years.
Except my new school, Pedro Pablo, had slightly different ideas.
Monika (another one) teaches the four-year-olds at the school.
She said she was in need of help so, for the next few weeks, Pippa and I are assisting with the school’s two youngest classes.
Now, these kids are seriously cute. But they can barely speak Spanish, so there is no point at all merrily chatting away to them in English.
I wish I could tell you they behaved immaculately and my naturally imposing, yet benevolently kind, authority shone through at every stage.
Now, every child is different – so perhaps some of them respected me.
I can easily remember Alejandra and Diego because they were smart, loud and boisterous and at the centre of everything.
Then there was a beautiful little boy, whose name I can’t pronounce, let anyone remember, who was so serious he could have been a 30-year-old accountant.
He had huge dark brown eyes and barely spoke a word all day.
Equally mute was a tiny little girl with a choir boy mop of dark brown hair and an expression of polite disinterest. She didn’t even join in the skipping.
I managed to persuade her to smile for the first time sometime around morning break.
I started to throw a ball to her and maniacally scream ‘Buena’ every time she caught it, which was nothing if not dignified – but it worked.
“She doesn’t have any friends yet,” Teacher Monika said wisely, when I asked why she hadn’t spoken.
“It’s only her second day.”
I know how she felt.
Still, by the time I gracefully bowed out of catch, another little girl had appeared to join her so perhaps her friendless state, at least, might be at an end.
Moments like that were the highlights in an otherwise trying and possibly quite useless first day at the school.
Monika doesn’t speak any English, which is good for my Spanish.
But it makes it a little difficult when it comes to grasping exactly what the children are allowed and not allowed to do.
There was a slightly dicey moment when the pupils were re-grouping after a break and Monika was in the yard rounding up the stragglers.
I was sitting with some children near a pile of jigsaws, when suddenly a tiny hand came from nowhere, grabbed one of the toys and emptied all of the pieces onto the floor.
“No,” I said, almost firmly.
It was like trying to stop a tidal wave.
The children (there’s 25 in total) descended in a feeding frenzy upon my total lack of authority and within minutes each had their own jigsaw, with pieces everywhere.
I looked up at the returning Monika, who shook her head and gave me a smile tinged with pity.
We did jigsaws for the next half an hour.
Now, I know I am a reasonably authorative person. I can be equally firm and persuasive about ensuring certain outcomes, when absolutely necessary.
Therefore, I’m blaming the language.
When I told the kids what to do in Spanish, they just looked at me. When I occasionally (frequently) lapsed into my stroppy and slightly haughty English, they hesitated – if just for a second.
Tonight, with Pippa and Joss’s help, I’m going to learn the following phrases:
“Come here now please,”
“Have you washed your hands?”
“Sit down please,”
“Gabriel, stop that, I said GABRIEL, ARGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.”
Give the teacher an apple.
And lace it with gin.