Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday, Monday

The day got off to an interesting start. I went into the bathroom since we had running water today for a hot shower. I flicked the lights on but nothing happened. The bulb must have burned out. Then I turned on the shower and waited for a few seconds for it to warm up but nothing happened. So I took a cold shower. After that I went back into my room to get ready for the day. But my clock had died. So I went to check the clock on my computer when I realized the internet wasn’t working in my room again. Great. These are not good omens. This is not how I wanted the day to start.

It was then Kathy came into my room to tell me the electricity in the house was out. Ahhh, now it all made sense. There were no bad omens, just no electricity. That I could live with. One would think I could have put one, two, three, and four together to figure out the electricity was off. But in my defense, light bulbs do burn out, the showers have been cold in the past, the internet does not always work in my room, and clocks can stop working. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Thankfully, the oven in the house runs off of a propane tank so we were able to have eggs and plantains for breakfast. I ingeniously thought that we could heat up water on the stove for coffee and tea (that makes up for my earlier lapse, right?)

I left for school around 8:10 since my next class didn’t start until 8:25. About halfway through my first class with the third graders the lights came back on. I didn’t really think about the power being out when I got to school because there is so much natural light inside. You don’t necessarily need the lights on all the time. I wish schools in the US had more windows and natural light. I think it’s healthier for our bodies. It helps keeps us in sync with the natural cycle of our environment.

The kid’s craving and enthusiasm to learn English never ceases to surprise me. They want to know how to say everything in English. As soon as the lights when back on in the classroom they all wanted to know how to say “light” in English. They also like me to write the date in English before each class. Or they’ll see something in the room and ask me how to say it in English. It is wonderful to be surrounded by people who want to learn.

I wish more people in the US had such a passionate desire to learn Spanish. I’m not saying there aren’t people in the US who want to learn Spanish, but on average I do believe there are more Spanish-only speakers in El Salvador who want to learn English than there are English-only speakers in the US who want to learn Spanish. Even the teachers here want to learn and often write down what I’m talking about in class.

Since we were reviewing social phrases and greetings today in my classes I learned the ages of the kids a little better. My third grade class has mostly 8 & 9 year olds with maybe a few 10 year olds. My fourth grade class is mostly 9 & 10 year olds with a few 11 year olds. The kids in my both my fifth grade classes range from 10-15 years old. My two sixth grade classes range from 11-16 years old. Not sure of the ages in my seventh grade classes yet.

The fifth graders today were hysterical. The first class came to me again asking how to pronounce their names in English. One little boy told me his name was Miguel and asked how to say that in English. I told him it was Michael, to which he responded, “Michael Jackson” and proceeded to do the moon walk. The other fifth grade class kept shouting for me to give more and more examples of what I was teaching them and then laughed after I’d given it.

For each class I’ve been trying to use examples to demonstrate how to use what they were learning. For learning, “Pleased to meet you” I went around and shook hands with the kids. They repeated it after me. For “What is your name” I randomly asked kids what their name was and had them respond in English. To learn “Excuse me” I went around pretending to bump into people, then saying excuse me afterward. To learn “I don’t understand” I went around speaking English very quickly. They looked at me smiling and said I don’t understand. It was a lot of fun! Hopefully learning English in different ways will help the kids remember it better.

Later today I had the opportunity to see the canton of San Lorenzo to pick up some books from Otilia’s house. I’d never seen San Lorenzo before so I was glad I had the chance to tag along. I think sometimes when I’m down here with a delegation I forget about where the team members live. I’m used to seeing them in the Pastoral House (Casa), which is a pretty nice place. It has electricity, running water, tiled floors, plenty of space, an oven that runs on propane, pure water, windows and doors that can be closed tight, and much more. The canton “houses” are not as nice as the Pastoral house. The floors are dirt, there usually isn’t running water, not always electricity, and the animals live near the house and are often inside. Washing themselves and their clothes may be done in a river nearby or a “river” that is actually a big pila (cement basin) in which runoff water is collected. This is also a source of drinking and cooking water for families.

All the members of the Pastoral Team, with the exception of Aminta, live in the cantons. Blanca, Balmore, Idalia, Cecelia, and Jesús live in Alejandría, which is a part of the canton of San Francisco. It is about 2 miles away and takes around 35 minutes to walk. Miguel lives in the canton San Francisco, which is also about 2 miles away and takes 45 minutes to walk. Otilia lives in the canton of San Lorenzo. This canton is about 2 miles away and is a 45 minute walk. Aminta lives in the urban center of Berlín about 15 minutes from the Pastoral House. When Blanca or Aminta or Idalia arrive at the house in the morning, they’ve already walked quite a ways. They clean the floors, make breakfast, and start laundry often before I roll out of bed in the morning.

A few days ago Cecelia invited me to walk with her to her house sometime. We’ve tentatively planned on this Saturday to walk with her to Alejandría. I am looking forward to the experience; to be able to see what the walk is like for her. There is a saying, “Don’t judge a man until you’re walked a mile in his shoes”. I think I disagree with this statement, because I will walk a mile in Cecelia’s shoes on Saturday but that will only begin to touch the surface of what her day to day life is like.

I came to understand a lot about El Salvador as a member of Westminster Presbyterian Church. Going down to El Salvador with a delegation taught me more. When I joined Compañeros I learned about a whole other side of the partnership. Being down here to teach in the school and live at the house has shown me another dimension of life here. I am extremely blessed to have the opportunity to experience and understand a little better the triumphs and struggles of the people here.

Thoughts come clearly while one walks. ~Thomas Mann

A giant avocado that fell from the tree in the yard last night

One of the best meals here- an egg fried inside a tortilla. Avocado and cheese on the side.


Matt said...

It is great that you are having so much fun with the kids and that they are getting so excited.

Anonymous said...

The kids sound like a lot of fun. Your Y experience is paying off! Thinking about you...Martha

Anonymous said...

I laughed reading about how you were teaching the kids English. What a delightful group you have. You seem so relaxed to be with them and to engage them in creative ways. I'm happy for you. Kevin