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First Round of Goodbyes

Monday, November 28, 2011

Today was my last day in the rural schools.  Each Monday afternoon, after gobbling down my big Chilean lunch, Cristian (Chilean English teacher) and I hop in a van for a 20 minute ride to El Malito, for an hour and a half of English with the eight children (1st through 5th grade) there.  Next we drive 20 minutes back to Palena and 20 minutes in the opposite direction to Valle California, a school of 14 students (1st through 6th) where all but one board, Monday through Friday.

I felt (guiltily) elated for it to be my last day of the long, bumpy rides and sometimes roudy classrooms.  When we arrived in El Malito to the same disorder as usual, it was hard to feel poignant about leaving.  But as we made Christmas cards with the kid0s, the class was eerily quiet, and I touched each students’ shoulders as I looked to see their designs of shiny paper and glitter glue.  “Teacher, red, three?”  Benja was on fire, proudly flaunting his English to ask for more red stars.  Pedro threw a fit and I felt like I was back at Wediko, coaxing a student off a rock — in the case, out from under a table.

When we went outside for photos and cookies, we explained that it was the last day of English for the year, and most certainly my last day.  Nancy, a quiet 6th grader, glued her arm around my shoulder but refused to get in the group shot.  In a moment of generosity, I gave the kids some animal drawings Luis in particular had begged me for each week, but today he shrugged them off indiferently.  Suddenly all the students dedicated the Christmas cards we had made to Cristian and I, and I asked them to put their names on them, too.

I was bending down for kisses as I balanced sloppy, sticky cards in one hand, when Benja came up to me: “Um, Pedro is crying.  For you.”  Sure enough, Pedro — the 3rd grader who arrived a month ago, and can scream, whine, and pout better than most toddlers — was sobbing.  Through his histerical sadness about me leaving he also said, “I lost four teachers this year,” confirming that his sadness wasn’t as much about me personally as about his circumstances and about him, personally.  And then Pedro collected himself for a parting wish: “Tía, que le vaya bien en Francia [Miss, may you be well in France].”  Cristian and I couldn’t resist laughing.  France?!  Where did he get this idea?

And as we got back in the van, a calmer Pedro ran to find me: “Tía, there’s one other thing.  If you meet a Jerome, I think he’s from there like you, I know him, ask him if he knows me.”



EL MALITO back: Pedro, me, Benja, Javier, Erwin; front: Luís, Anaís, Gonzalo, Cristian; missing: Nancy

After my traditional car nap, I woke up in Valle California to find only five of the twelve students present.  We did the same Christmas card activity, and also learned “We wish you a Merry Christmas.”  Eduardo, in 1st grade, went to ask Danitza, in 6th grade, for glue [In Spanish]:

Eduardo: Danitza, can I borrow your glue?

Danitza: What’s the magic word?

Eduardo: Gracias.

Danitza: But in English!

Eduardo: Um…

Karen: Please!

Eduardo: Please!

Later, Danitza was finished and eager to talk, so I asked her (in English),

me: What’s your favorite profession?

Danitza: Ah, president.

me: Karen?  What’s your favorite profession?

Karen: Doctor.

Eduardo: Yo, tía!

me: Eduardo?

Eduardo: Mechanic!

We made a circle, passed out cookies and explained the endings business, but this group, which I am probably more attached to then in El Malito, was not phased.  It was Cristian and I that wanted more photos and more hugs; they were happy to keep giving, but they weren’t driving it, as the children in El Malito had drawn out the goodbye as long as possible.  I gave each student a hug and also one or two extra, specifically assigned for absent students.

VALLE CALIFORNIA back: me, Sofia, Eduardo, Danitza, Karen front: Enrique, Cristian

Full group on Environmental Science fieldtrip to company property in October back: Sofia, Karen, me, Danitza, Nataly, Marcela, Francesca, Magdalena, Tía Celina (teacher & principal) front: Eduardo, Sebastian, Enrique, Arline still missing! Ronald, John

We wound up giving Enrique, Eduardo, Danitza and one of their mothers a ride back to Palena:

Eduardo: Where have you been?

Enrique: Palena, Chaitén, Esquel, Carrenlefú, Trevelín, Puerto Montt, and the other, ah, what is it again? [ all 3 hour radius from Palena except Puerto Montt]

Me: Esquel?

Enrique: No, I already said that.

Cristian: Futaleufú?

Enrique: That was it!  Futaleufú!  [1.5 hours away, next place same of comparable size to Palena].

Danitza: Tía, how many countries have you been to?

Me: Countries? [Are you really asking me this awkward question?]

Danitza: Yes!

Me: Chile, Argentina [counting slow], Mexico, Canada, United States —

Eduardo: You know the United States!  That’s your family.

Me: That’s right [Thank god I’ve been interrupted so I don’t have to go on or lie].

Eduardo: That’s where they speak English.

Enrique: How many worlds have you been to?

Me: Worlds?

Eduardo: Yeah, like 5, 6, 7 or 8?

Me: 5 and a half.

Enrique: So almost six and a half?

Me: Yup.  I’m going for six and a half next year.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. David Russell permalink
    Tuesday, November 29, 2011 12:27 pm

    I look forward to getting some time later to read this closely. Ah, the first round of goodbyes!

  2. David Russell permalink
    Tuesday, November 29, 2011 7:14 pm

    I bet Enrique didn’t realize he was offering you what you could use as an evocative ending for this piece!

  3. Tuesday, November 29, 2011 8:26 pm

    I think the France line is better, personally. But mostly I just like the way kids make me laugh!

  4. Jane Woodman permalink
    Tuesday, November 29, 2011 9:28 pm

    Good bye is happening. I see the pictures and am amazed (again) at the beauty of the land as well. Valle California, on those wooden steps, overlooking the river with the mountains beyond. You are in an amazing place (still…)

  5. Tuesday, November 29, 2011 9:47 pm

    It’s true! I am still occasionally stunned by the beauty.

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