I sat down across from my roommates listening to the cacophony of the mess hall. I couldn’t help but admire the symphony of a new language flowing all around me. Before me was a try of brown looking porridge. I didn’t dare say aloud what it actually looked like. As if Maria could read my expression, she smiled my way. “Champurrado” she explained, gesturing to my bowl, “Chocolate rice porridge”. <Chocolate… for breakfast?> I thought and felt my stomach recoil. Politely I played with the edges of my sleeves until the bell sounded for everyone to begin heading towards first period. “Where are you headed?” Maria asked, sliding up next to me as I threw my untouched breakfast into the trash. “Anthropology. You?” I said quietly. “Ako din! (me too)” she chirped and bounced a few feet ahead of me down the hall. <I’m assuming that’s a good thing?> I thought and followed after her.
Filing into the classroom I made my usual bees line for a side table. I prefer the side, not the front or back. There’s less chance of being called upon from the side. Maria sat down next to me and instantly slid down in her chair pulling out her cell phone. Glancing over I saw her texting away rapidly. <Filipinos sure do enjoy texting> I thought and made a mental note to get a new SIM card once classes were done for the day. A Caucasian older gentleman toddled in and moved to the lectern. My head tilted as I studied him with utter fascination. Like me, he was already dreading the morning heat as he wiped his brow and thinning hair with a handkerchief. <What on earth is he doing here in Manila?> I wondered. As if reading my mind, he glanced in my direction and winked. My eyes widened and I looked from side to side. Had he been winking at…. Me? Just as soon as the encounter had happened, it was gone again. My brow furrowed as I pushed the thought from my mind. <That only happens in porn!> I chided myself, <get a grip, Sara!>.
For over an hour I sat there, listening to him speak in English about ancient civilizations and lecture from his podium. He had written his name on the board, and I scribbled it down in my notebook, lest I forget it. I’m horrible with remembering details, especially when my anxiety flares up. Glancing back up again I noticed the front row of girls, all wearing their uniform in similar fashion. Their tiny, petite bodies sat in the chairs; legs crossed at the knee. No doubt they rolled up the waistline of their skirts because the hem did not come anywhere near the ankle! Peering my head over at one girl who was leaning forward slightly every time the Professor passed, I noticed she had undone the top two buttons of her blouse to just expose the line of collarbone and chest. <You’ve GOT to be kidding me…> I thought smirking, <This happens here too?!>. I had thought that only in America did girls try and “cheat” their way to an easy A in class by flashing the professor a bit of skin.
However, much to my surprise, the Professor kept his eyes on the back and sides of the classroom as if completely unfazed by the line of thin, lean hussies that sat before him like an all-you-can-eat buffet. Instead, he kept glancing over every so often my way. I smiled politely, genuinely enjoying learning about civilizations of the past when the bell finally sounded to leave. “Be sure to read chapter 1 for a quiz on Friday!” he called over the clamor of students leaving the hall. “Uh—Miss Lane!” he motioned at me and made a “come hither” with two fingers. My eyes widened as I glanced at Maria who was already leaving. <Have I done something wrong?> I wondered and squeezed between students weaving towards his desk. As the last few peers left the hall, he finally looked up at me. It was then that I noticed that he wasn’t as old as he seemed. Salt and pepper dotted his mustache and hair, and he had kind eyes that creased at the edges. “Have you thought about what major you wish to declare?” he asked warmly. In truth, I had but knew that I would no doubt be receiving backlash from my family for the path I wanted to pursue: nursing.
“Kind of…” I admitted, and I saw him pause, studying me intently. Silence echoed for a moment as he waited for me to continue. “I… think I’d like to be a nurse” I admitted. “A fine major” he said quickly, “Perhaps you can minor in anthropology? I head the department”. I blinked in surprise looking at him. The corners of my lips began to lift. <The professor sees something special…. In me?> I wondered, taken aback. He stood from his desk and rounded to the front before leaning against it. Folding his arms and crossing his legs at the ankle, his dress shoes just touched between my legs as I sat in a desk before him. “You should think about it” he smiled, “I can tell you have talent, Miss Lane”. Blushing lightly, I smiled and nodded my head. “Yes, Sir” I mumbled shyly and got up to leave. I didn’t know if I would need extra tuition money to cover such classes, but if the professor saw something in me, well, I’d try to find a way to make it happen! “Come by my office sometime soon and we can discuss it” he said casually and moved to prepare for his next class. Bowing my head to him, I smiled to myself and hurried off to the next class….