"Las papas que pelan Paca y Pola las pone Pepe, poco a poco, en pilas."
Saying that Spanish tongue-twister about peeling potatoes got Mia Lucarelli out of Language Jail during Foreign Language Day at Owens Community College Friday. The Bowsher High School senior had been sentenced to two minutes in a cage for speaking in English.
"I got a mark of shame," she said, holding up her hand to display the red stamp that told of her "crime."
More than 200 area high school students turned out for the event in the Student Health and Activities Center on the Perrysburg Township campus.
Speaking only in Spanish, French, or German for five hours, they bought lottery tickets, learned dances and songs, and played games.
At the end of an obstacle course, Lewis Swanson, a junior at Maumee High School, tried to follow the directions of fellow French students as he tried to catch paper fish while blindfolded. He'd had to walk on balance beams and sweep a football into a cardboard box.
"They'd say some things sometimes, and I wouldn't understand," he said.
In the opposite corner of the gym, Andreina Morales counted "uno, dos, tres " as she led students through the steps to a sevillana, a type of flamenco dancing.
Though the steps were tricky - one girl said it was easier to forget the arms and just do the feet - the dancing had an advantage over the obstacle course.
"We're more following what she's doing," Nick Hountras said.
Sneh Biyani, like Nick a senior at Sylvania's Northview High School, agreed.
"I'm not really listening," she said.
Nearby, two teams of Spanish students competed to come up with holiday-related words beginning with each letter of the alphabet.
Anthony Wayne senior Kim Vogtsberger said coming up with the words wasn't difficult, but expressing them with other words was.
That feeling was echoed by German student Ashley Colbry of Anthony Wayne High School, who said they played a game in which the students were given a word and had to describe it.
Anyone caught speaking English during Language Day got sent to jail - La Bastille, Das Gefangnis, or La Carcel.
Teacher Maryline Del Bon Hartman, a native French speaker, was working as a gendarme at the French jail but said even she had spent time inside the wire walls for saying one word in English.
She said that in the first three hours of the event, six or seven people had been sent to the French jail, and one person went four times.
She said she thought the day of immersion in another language, with people from other schools, was good for the students.
"They may be more comfortable talking to people they don't really know," she said.