16-year-old Rosathe Loor ventured to America from Portoviejo, Ecuador, in 1991. Arriving in Seattle and living with her host family in Kirkland, WA, she was quickly immersed in a world much different from what she had known in Ecuador.
Besides the basic skills she had learned in school back home, she had no experience speaking English. Learning through her host family, a Spanish-English dictionary, and her experience at Redmond High School, she adapted to the language.
This was not without difficulty, of course.
I had the opportunity to interview her in a space not far from her original place of arrival. Showing me around Molbak’s Garden + Home in Woodinville, Washington, Loor (now Underwood) shared with me a funny story of adjusting to figurative statements in English on her first day of school in America.
I was placed in a -- I don’t remember, I think it was an ESL class. So the person that was teaching the ESL happened to speak Spanish fluently, so that was nice! And there were a lot of people from different countries that spoke Spanish in there too. I was here to assimilate the culture so everyone spoke in English and I spoke only Spanish. I made a lot of mistakes.
Do you want me to tell you one of the funniest things that happened the first day of school? So I was supposed to be picked up and so I’m waiting outside the school for my host father to pick me up and this random guy comes and says “who’s gonna pick you up?” and I didn’t understand what ‘pick up’ was so I thought he was gonna pick me up like lift me up. And I said “nobody’s picking me up!”
So after he heard that, he started laughing and he was like “oh, you think I’m going to pick you up, that’s not what I’m saying.”
But you know, now I’m gathering all these memories back and I’m thinking ‘oh gosh, that was so embarrassing.’ But in the moment I was pretty mad because I thought he wanted to pick me up.