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A post that IS about leaving

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


From my last Environmental Science class with 3rd grade, students presented posters they had made about native species of Chile.

Here is 4th grade, separated into “damas” and “varones“, as suggested by their teacher.  For our last Environmental Science class, we shared our favorite activities from the year.  Then, over a snack of peanuts and raisins (very well received!), students volunteered questions that they were left with — after I gave my beloved speech about how the more you know, the more you know you don’t know, and the smarter you become, the better your questions.

One of the things my summers at Wediko left me with is a love of unruly boys.  My God some of these little gentlemen are annoying — but I mean look at them making bunny ears!  Adorable.

For my last English class with kinder and prekinder, I cued the group to each of 6 the songs we know; for example, to start the number song, all I have to do is show counting 1, 2, 3 on my fingers — and the little munchkins burst into song!  Then we had a last lesson of “Please” and “Thank you”, which became the key to receiving fruit — “Apple, peas!  Tank juu!”  Coincidentally, this English teacher has taught the words apple, banana, and orange, rather than soda, potato chips and toxic cookies, the normal foods that are fed to children in school.  The best part?  My little students squeeled in delight at the surprise snack.

Unfortunately only eleven of the nineteen kindergardeners came to school today (penultimate day of classes).  Last night I went to their “graduation” — each tot  climbed up the stairs to receive their diploma, then descended to be greeted by their parents, take a photo, and then hand off the diploma to the mother (so it has a chance of getting home in one piece).  Sixteen students were greeted by (what appeared to be) mother and father; two by two women (mother and aunt, though I secretly smiled in my head — Angelo has two mommies!  — a thought they would never occur to anyone here), and one girl by her mother and older sister.  It was beautiful to see two adults beaming for each child, so proud to see their little person that is now just a little bit bigger.

And finally, my beloved prekinder.  I am so proud of how much English they have learned with just one hour a week — I think the majority know colors, numbers and animals better than the first-graders I received in March.  Plus we covered fruits, family members, and a few other things.  And they don’t freak out that I speak exclusively in English — it’s normal and at this point in the year, it works.  We did do goodbyes and well-wishes in Spanish for our last class.

Overall, the imminence of my departure has been oddly liberating.  Recently, I care a lot less about what people think, and I lot more about just making myself happy.  For example, last Saturday I got invited to accompany a folkloric dance group to their show in one of the rural sectors.  I went along to see the dance and a part of Palena I’d never visited, fully aware that this would be a long day of waiting, doing nothing, and eating bread and lettuce while everyone else eats lamb.  I had a great time in large part because I spent all the waiting time with my favorite demographics: kids and the older women.

And by kids, in this case I mean Mario, in the photo above in bright red pants.  His mother is one of the dancers, and like all parenting I have seen in Palena, he was told no, don’t do that, don’t touch that, but there was no “yes” — there was no possibility for him to be succesful in this context!  What do you expect, he’s going to sit down and complain about his boss like the other adults?  This is a 4-year-old boy!  So, instead of worrying that people would think I was indulging him or that I am freakishly unable to socialize with people my own age, I just started playing with Mario.  It was less because I thought I should (though I did think someone should!) than because honestly, I’d rather play ping pong and sea-saw with a 4-year-old than complain about my boss with grown-ups.

Mario: Miss, catch me!

Me: I don’t see anyone here — oh wait, I caught him! [pick him up]

Mario: Noooooo!

Me: Let me just throw this sack of potatoes — 1, 2 — [swinging in the air with each number]

Mario: No, I’m Mario!

Me: Oh, you’re Mario?  Okay then, 1, 2 — [tossing him around again]

Mario: Noooooooo! [laughing]

Me: 3!  [dramatically, yet carefully, let him down]

Mario: Ah, caramba!  Miss, catch me again!

as I left, he shouted from the car window: “Goodbye [in English!] Miss!  I’m playing with you tomorrow.”



So what I am I doing with my time now that I am done teaching?  Today I made Christmas cookies to bring to share with neighbors tonight (after 8th grade graduation) — a retired couple and their visiting 20-something niece, all of whom I saw in Santiago in July and have become friends this spring.  I was unable to find molasses in Palena, so these are colored with chocolate powder, and spiced with fresh ginger (from Santiago), cinnamon and nutmeg, frosted with egg-white and sugar.  I never in my life thought I’d bake Christmas cookies in shorts (today is the hottest day yet!), and here in Palena, I never thought I’d “suffer” the heating properties of my stove, but so be it.  I’m trying to enjoy every drop of sunshine not out of fear of New England winter, but rather, out of joy for this Patagonian spring.  This is a summer I deserve.


7 Comments leave one →
  1. Jane woodman permalink
    Tuesday, December 6, 2011 7:49 pm

    Your pictures and words so clearly convey your dedication and affection. And the gingerbread cookies look so familiar! Just like home, so

  2. Jane woodman permalink
    Tuesday, December 6, 2011 7:50 pm

    Was supposed to be do as in a kiss and a hug! Not “so”

  3. Wednesday, December 7, 2011 10:34 am

    Jajajaa, thanks for the correction! Also I’d like to point out that those cookie shapes were hand-cut with a knife, since I have no cookie cutters. Artisanal.

  4. sally chapdelaine permalink
    Friday, December 9, 2011 1:53 pm

    What a loss for those children that have been given so much by their exceptional inspire on so many levels.It is also great to feel that sense of liberation that you describe! I have enjjoyed your blog.many thanks! Sally

  5. Friday, December 9, 2011 3:53 pm

    I’m so glad you’ve been following, Sally! Thanks to you.

  6. nick permalink
    Friday, December 9, 2011 9:25 pm

    Nice to hear from you and your work.You inspire more than just 6 year olds.
    Today I hung sheetrock.
    Nik….(Thanksgiving Nik)

  7. Friday, December 9, 2011 9:56 pm

    Sheetrock, now that’s something I have no idea about. It’s good to know you’re reading, Nik!

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