Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Picture day

Another full day of classes today. As I walked to my first class I noticed the door was opened but the teacher wasn’t there yet. The bell rang and she hadn’t shown up yet. By now that doesn’t concern or surprise me. I got my things ready to begin teaching and she came in a few minutes later. As with my classes yesterday, I gave my sixth grade classes today a little piece of paper. On it I had them write any word in Spanish that they wanted to know in English. I had a hard time reading some and had to ask Alejandro, Cecilia's brother, for help.

Some of the words I got today from my sixth grade classes were “ardilla” (squirrel), “ciego” (blind), “cadena” (chain), and “ballena” (whale). Two kids in the same class wrote “zancudo” and “mosquito”, which both mean mosquito in English. One piece of paper read “mi cariño, mi tesoro, Sandra” (my darling, my treasure, Sandra). I will probably teach them how to say treasure but not darling. Another paper read “dame un beso en la boca mi amor” (Give me a kiss on the mouth my love). Needless to say, I will not be translating that one for the class. It’s not what I’d consider school appropriate.

In the afternoon when I went to teach my seventh grade class the teacher was not there early like she usually is. The bell rang and the kids filed into the classroom. I began my lesson thinking she’d show up shortly. But she never did show up. Not sure where she was or when she’ll be back. I just taught class as usual and when I left all the other kids did too; there’s no teacher so there is no point in staying. Again, this doesn’t concern or surprise me anymore. If she isn’t there tomorrow I’ll just teach and then kids can go home early again.

I also gave my seventh graders pieces of paper on which to write a word in Spanish that they wanted to know in English. Some of the words I got from them were “valiente” (courageous), “paisaje” (landscape), “aviadoro” (pilot), and “compromiso” (commitment). Surprisingly, this class didn’t write down any names or words about love. I was pretty impressed. I was expecting the seventh graders more so than the younger kids to ask me inappropriate words. Though one of the kids did ask to see my sunglasses when class was over, and after putting them on asked me “guapo, no?” (handsome, no?). I just gave him the look.

I figured out how many kids were in my two sixth grade and seventh grade classes today. There are 34 kids in my sixth grade class A between the ages of 11 and 16. My sixth grade class B has 40 kids between the ages of 11 to 16. My seventh grade class has 33 kids between the ages of 12 to 17. I added up the kids in each of my classes (3A, 4A, 5A, 5B, 6A, 6B, 7C) and realized that I was teaching 250 kids. Wow! That was more than I realized. Amazingly, I do recognize a lot of their faces when I see them in town or at church. I always try to say something in English to them. Just because you’re not in school doesn’t mean you stop practicing!

I brought my camera to school today to take some more pictures. I will not be doing this every day because I don’t want to distract them too much. But I had fun taking pictures of the kids. And the kids had a great time posing for them. It only takes a couple minutes of having my camera out before they all want their picture taken. Afterwards I show them the picture I took. Then they all laugh and prepare for another pose.

The play area next to the younger kid's classrooms

One of my third grade students

There's one of the classrooms where I teach

Running around in between classes

Goofing off

Physical play is very common

They've seen the camera and are prepared to pose

My third grade "escorts" to my next class. They are so helpful!

Bunny ears!

Now more kids have joined in

This kind of roughhousing is acceptable at school

The kids asked me to take a picture of the plants

I often see kids sprawled on the ground

Wonderful shot!

Older boys trying to work up the nerve to have their picture taken

The teacher in my fourth grade class, Milagro

The snack stand inside the school that is always open for the kids to buy food

Inside one of the classrooms

Some of my fourth graders

Map of the world painted on the wall

The center "atrium" area inside the school

Between class snacks

Big smiles!

The "stage" in the atrium area

Playing like this isn't malicious, it's the way kids have fun

A pickup game of fútbol with a plastic bottle

So many sweet faces

I had to include this pic for the crazy poses

Picture on the stage

After lunch I did some lesson planning for my classes tomorrow and then read for a while. I’m currently reading “The Massacre at El Mozote” by Mark Danner. It tells the story of the massacre that occurred in El Mozote in 1981 during the civil war in El Salvador. Included in the book is historical information about the civil war, events leading up to the massacre, the mentality and plans of the government soldiers, the day of the massacre, reports from El Salvador about the massacre, US involvement in the war, and unearthing the truth about what happened there.

It is not a long book or academically difficult to read, but it takes an emotional toll. Reading witness accounts, testimonies from former Salvadoran army officers, and stories of guerillas about people being tortured and slaughtered is not something I can handle in large doses.

Testimony from a “guide” of the Salvadoran army:
“It was so terrible that we had to jump over the dead so as not to step on them. There were dogs and cows and other animals, and people of all ages, from newborn to very old. I saw them shoot an old woman, and they had to hold her up to shot her. I was filled with pity. I wished we had gone out and fought guerillas, because to see all those dead children filled me with sadness.” (Danner, 1993, pg. 81).

That may seem extreme to include in a blog, but that is the cold, harsh reality of what was happening here less than 10 years ago (the Peace Accords were signed in 1992). There are other parts of the book that are much more graphic that I decided not to include here because it makes me feel physically sick and for some reason, it wouldn’t feel right sharing those stories here.

Reading this book reminds me of a psychology class I took as an undergrad called “Ethnopolitical Conflict and Peace”. We spent the entire semester discussing the intimate details of genocide, the psychosocial mentality behind that kind of terrorism, and read about eight books relating to the topic. By the end of the semester I was worn out. Reading about the atrocities is bad enough. I cannot imagine what it must be like to live one of those books.

When reading about the United States involvement in the war and how they basically funded what I consider terrorism I kept wanting to smack myself in the head with the book. As if somehow this would explain WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE!!! Even though I’ve heard much of the information before it still aggravates me every time I hear it. I feel great shame that my country would continue pouring money into a war and training soldiers even though they knew about the human rights violations by the Salvadoran government.

In reference to death squads and US knowledge:
“Some civilians were certainly involved, particularly on the funding end, but there can be no doubt that the ‘dirty war’ was basically organized and directed by Salvadoran Army officers—and no doubt, either, that the American Embassy was well aware of it. ‘There was no secret about who was doing the killing,’ Howard Lane, the public affairs officer in the Embassy from 1980 to 1982 told me in an interview. ‘I mean, you formed that view within forty-eight hours after arriving in the country and there was no secret at all about it—except maybe, in the White House.’ (Danner, 1993, pg. 27).

If you don’t believe this or think that the US couldn’t possibly have funded a war knowing that people were being tortured and killed, I will gladly point you in the direction of numerous documents supporting this truth.

This book is a must read for anyone interested in El Salvador. It provides great insight about the war and the current state of the country. To read about the El Mozote massacre that occurred in 1981 and my experiences visiting the site go to my blog from 2-15-10 entitled El Mozote & Perquin. It is a powerful story.

"Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal" ~Martin Luther King


Emily said...

My mother-in-law gave me a really good book for Christmas about the Rwandan genocide written by a woman who hid in a closet for 3 months with like 6 other women while her parents were killed ("killed" is a nice term based on what they did to them) as well as brothers and sister. The book has a lot of history, but basically it's about this woman's spiritual journey and how she gave to forgive everyone who killed... including those who killed her family. It's overwhelming, but a great read. I'll loan it to you if you want when you come back. The book you talked about made me think about it.

Matt said...

Really interesting stuff, although hard to read about. I'm glad you posted it as it is very important history and should not be forgotten.
On a lighter note, I love that the kids have a snack stand.