{16.6.14} First Day of School!

Back in the saddle again, I suppose! We rolled in to the San Ignacio friend’s school with Hermano Freddy at about 9am to meet quickly with one of the english teachers and then observe her classes of 9th and 7th graders. She is super open to feedback, and seems to honestly be searching for ways to help the kids learn. The english teaching here as far as we’ve seen is pretty uninspired, mostly written work and exercises done together in class, with far too little speaking and listening. The 9th graders were pretty scattered and pretty scared about making mistakes. We got a little more of a toehold with the 7th graders, and I let myself get a little goofy with teaching them pronunciation of irregular past tense verbs, which I think helped. Never thought I’d like middle schoolers so much… 🙂 I think this is going to be fun, if a bit difficult. I got the ol’ teaching rush standing in front of the kids and emphatically telling them not to say “estopped” but “stopped” as they laughed at me and did their best to say it right. 
Besides acting a bit goofy, I am quite the odd duck here (and you thought I was weird in the US…). I am tall (especially in a room full of 7-year-olds and their petite teacher), so much so that the usual comments I get are multiplied seemingly exponentially. I have short hair, whereas all the girls and women here have flowing locks halfway down their backs. I wear glasses. I am very white. I was neither dressed in a school uniform nor wearing hot pink nor wearing mary janes nor wearing high heels. And then we’re back to me being tall again. I now know my height in metric units for being asked so much: 182.8 centimeters. Oh, and my dad’s too: 203 cm. I’ve seen many a look of incredulity today over those two facts! 
The view out the window of Juan Miguel’s house
Some random thoughts:
  • here, I have yet to meet someone who is striving continually for human perfection. it is such a refreshing change from Wellesley! there is only a constant striving for good faith in God, not what we might call a beautiful house (here they’re brightly painted, but often tiny and quite old) or a perfect job (teachers spend time with each other on breaks or flipping through magazines, not stressing about class prep). nobody seems too worried about what people will think of their house, although I guess clothes are something else.
  • the descanso is an integral part of every day… in fact, many parts. after Michael and Isabel worked themselves to exhaustion last year, they realized the amount of energy we spend just keeping up with the language and interact with new people all day, so we go to school at 9am, have a good 1 to 2 hours for lunch and then leave around 5. the kids have 2 recesses in the morning and 2 in the afternoon (although almost no one is there the entire time)
  • the kids are really physically affectionate with their teachers, hugging them and patting them on the shoulders and generally interacting with them like friends. kids were always coming and going in Juan Miguel’s office (director of the school) while we were there, asking him to try the pupusas they had made in home economics, or just to say hi. when it started raining right before classes got out for lunch, one boy ferried his teachers to safety in his umbrella, bringing them down the stairs one by one with an arm around their shoulders. Juan Miguel’s house is just a couple of doors down from the school, and students and teachers kept popping in for things all during lunch. 
  • probably my favorite selfie of all time
  • the environment is a bit chaotic, with tiny classrooms and open doors and walls and stone or tile everything so sound bounces and travels, but it is an intensely friendly and loving chaos. everyone knows each other, and the kindergarten teacher calls her students “mi amor”. at a little past 5 I couldn’t take the kindergarten kids anymore, simply because they were too friendly and yours truly too tired to deal with a half dozen 7-year-olds clamoring at my elbows. 

I am realizing that some of these observations are tending a bit towards hyperbole (saying that everyone is this way when they really all aren’t). But there are definite trends I have seen, whether or not they are true elsewhere. 
green roofs are so in
This morning, Laura and I had a really nice conversation with Lucy of Lucy’s Pupuseria (and our hostess, of course). Over a lovely breakfast of toast, eggs and beans, we talked about what brought us to Quakerism. Lucy sees Friends

in contrast with Pentacostles. She likes Quaker process (or its analogue here). The way that they pay their pastor with a salary agreed upon by the executive board, not just from collection, which means that they have money for other things, too. Quakers don’t speak in tongues, and there is silent time in the services to pray on your own without having to listen to many other people speak. These are things we have in common, I think. Quakerism has taught me not just to appreciate silence, but to hold onto it and seek it out in my life. One of the things I loved about getting involved in the high school program was learning about Quaker decision making process in business meeting.

don’t let anyone tell you that coloring is easy,
especially if your neighbor steals your crayon

dusk falls over the pueblo
Like Laura, I, too, have found the welcome here incredibly heartwarming. Last night, the Junta Directiva of the school spent about 10 minutes talking about how glad they were to have us. In all three churches yesterday, the people welcomed us with jazz hands and many “amen”s. The kindergarteners did an impromptu song for us upon entering their classroom in the afternoon.  Kids went out of their way to say hi today as we wandered around a bit lost but smiling. 
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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Yeah, everyone's pretty great. I gotchu on the hug! 🙂

    Like

  2. Kat says:

    Shucks, it sounds so sweet! I wanna come and do it too!

    Like

  3. mh says:

    Lovely story! Please give a hug to my cunyada Lucy for me!

    Like

  4. Soren Hauge says:

    That's a heartwarming post, too. Hug a kindergartner for me too. And tell them I'm 205 (not 203) cm tall 🙂

    Like

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