Today was my 27th birthday and it was quite a day. I had a lot of fun at school this morning. One of my students was waiting at the gate for me and walked me in. He told me, “Felicidades” (congratulations) and gave me a hug. Then he gave me some pan ducle. How sweet! The director and a few other teachers greeted me as well and wished me a happy birthday. The word must have traveled fast that today was my birthday. I only told my two classes yesterday and the teacher of the 4th grade class.
I walked to my 3rd grade section A class. I told them that today was a special day because it was my birthday. They all applauded and sang Happy Birthday to me. We learned some fun birthday words like I did with my classes yesterday and then we played Lotería. This class wasn’t quite as crazy as my classes yesterday. We had a lot of fun and we played until everyone had filled up every space on their card. After each kid filled up their card they yelled, “Lotería” or “Sí.” Then I went and handed out candy to them. I wanted to make sure everyone won and got some candy.
In my 3rd grade section B class we learned the special birthday words and played Lotería as well. On my way out of the class all the kids gave a hugs. I love getting hugs from my kids. In between classes two different kids came up and gave me presents. One gave me a blue necklace with matching earrings. It’s beautiful and I even have a dress it would go well with. Another boy handed me a mug with candy it in wrapped in cellophane. Sticking out were a couple fake flowers. The mug has the Mario Brothers on it from Nintendo. I think it’s adorable. It means so much to me that they gave me those gifts. I will treasure them always!
I got quite a few surprises in my 4th grade class. The teacher, Melba, brought me some pink roses. They smell wonderful and they are beautiful! At the beginning of class they had me sit on a chair at the front of the room. The kids who had birthdays in March all presented me with a present in a Happy Birthday bag. They sang me several lines of Happy Birthday in Spanish, including a line about wanting cake. Then they sang me Happy Birthday in English. Next they tried to guess how old I was. Someone yelled out 100 and then I heard the number 8000. No. Someone finally said 27. That’s right! Then the teacher had them all applaud and I got lots of hugs from each student.
When they returned to their seats I asked if I should open the gift. “Sí” they all shouted. So I opened the bag. Inside was a pink photo album. Melba remembered that I like the color pink. On the front of the album were the words, “To My Deer Friend.” Yes, that was actually printed on the album. A lot of times clothing or other items have English written on it. Most people don’t know what it means but they like the English. In this case I think Melba knew the word “friend” and picked it out for me. Sometimes things are misspelled in English (just like I often misspell or mispronounce Spanish). But that makes it even more special for me.
The next thing I pulled out of the bag was two necklaces with matching earrings. Jewelry is always a good gift. I’m definitely going to wear them to class sometime. There was still more in the bag. There was a bottle of perfume that smelled like flowers. I sprayed a little on my wrists. Then everyone shouted to spray it on my neck. I did and then said, “Oooooo!” They all started laughing. The last thing I pulled out were three little washcloths that had flower patterns sewn onto them. I said thank you and told them that I loved all the gifts.
After all that I played a game of Lotería with the kids. As always, I made sure I read through all the cards so everyone could win and get candy. Then the bell rang and I went to my 5th grade section A class. But the door was closed and a student told me that the teacher wasn’t there today. So I went to my 5th grade section B class and asked if I could teach. Not a problem. The kids were just getting their food for the day. The teacher gave me some bread with beans when the kids got theirs. It was tasty and very thoughtful of her. We had fun learning the birthday words and playing Lotería. Each class is different and I enjoy them all.
At 11:00am the bell rang and all the students were dismissed from school 1 hour early. It was time for the teacher’s English class. But before that the director of the school had me go to the 4th grade classroom. I walked down the hall and when I went inside I saw they’d put several tables together with a tablecloth over them all. On the board they’d written “Feliz Cumpleaños Alisha Lundberg. Le desea, el personal docente y administrativo del Centro Escolar Dóctor Alonso Reyes Guerra. 25 Marzo 2011.” Basically, “Happy Birthday Alisha Lundberg. The teachers, administration, and myself of the School Doctor Alonso Reyes Guerra wish you this. March 25, 2011.”
I was really excited. This was so special for me! I had a seat at the table and the teachers came up to give me hugs while Melba took our picture. Then we were all served pupusas and horchata. They even had some special music playing. I enjoyed being able to spend time with the teachers and it made my birthday even more special. What a fun party they had planned! We sat, ate, and chatted for about a half hour. I learned a new word: tiernita. Tiernita means young or tender and is often applied to age. Good to know that I’m still young.
After we’d finished we went to the meeting room they have at the school for their very first English lesson. I was nervous because I had no idea what to expect. It felt weird that I, being younger than everyone else, was going to be teaching them, the more experienced and older teachers. I started by introducing myself because there are a few teachers in the class whose classrooms I don’t teach in. I asked them what they wanted to learn but they kind of wanted to learn everything. I showed them a book that one of the translators had given me about English curriculum in El Salvador. The book has English requisites for 7th, 8th, and 9th grades, which is what they teach at the boy’s school. I said I could start there and they all agreed.
Just like with the kids, I started by writing the date on the board. They copied it down in their notebooks and we practiced pronunciation. The director told me they needed things repeated a lot because pronunciation was so difficult. Then we worked on the alphabet and pronunciation. I told them that pronunciation in English is difficult because there are 26 letters in the alphabet and those letters make about 44 different sounds. We practiced that a couple times. Then I taught them the words: alphabet, letter, spelling, grammar, and word. Those are words I use frequently during class. I taught them the words in English, pronunciation, and in Spanish. We also learned the words “English” and “Spanish” since I use those words a lot as well. The “sh” sound at the end of those words are hard for Spanish speakers because that sound doesn’t exist in Spanish. The “th” sound is also difficult because that sound doesn’t exist either.
They practiced writing out their names and learning how to spell them out loud. Then I quizzed them using my alphabet flashcards. Knowing the letters is something English students in 7th – 9th grade are supposed to know. I’m guessing we’ll be using the flashcard during the next class as well. A little after noon the class ended. Over all, I think it was a good class and that I’ll enjoy working with the adults. The director gave me a ride home after school and Melba lent me her camera that she’d used to take pictures so I could put them on my computer. How thoughtful!
Playing soccer at school
Roses from one of the teachers
The kids of my 4th grade class
They're so much bigger than last year
But just as silly
I have a picture from last year of him
sticking his head into a picture
Making a scarf
My birthday bag
Melba and me
Singing and hugs
Opening my gift
Message on the board from the teachers
With one of the teachers I worked with last year
With the school social worker
She'll be in my teacher's English class
The director of the school
With Irma who teachers 6th grade
With Milagro who teaches 2nd grade
With Carmen who teaches 1st grade
She works with the director of the school
and is also in my teacher's English class
Pupusas & horchata
The director is such a nice person!
My English class with the teachers
Roses from Melba
Birthday gifts from my 4th grade class
My awesome mug with candies
A necklace and earrings from one of my students
Happy Birthday napkin from my mom that I used today
When I got home Cecilia and Kathy were still gone. They went to Corozal today to deliver fertilizer. I wasn’t terribly hungry for lunch but had some meat, salad, rice, and a tortilla. I also had the delicious juice that I had yesterday. Today it was made with pineapple, marañones, and strawberries. The strawberries here are really small and I don’t see them that often. After lunch Matt and my in-laws called me on Skype. We chatted for almost an hour. I gave them a video tour of the Pastoral House and showed them Chelita. It was great to be able to talk to them. My in-laws sent me a card that arrived last week so I opened it today. Inside the card was a little prayer about living slowly. I’m going to put it on my wall.
Kathy and Cecilia made it home around 3pm. Shortly after that we started helping Aminta, Margarita, and Mauricio put rice into bags for more food packets for the canton of Colón. Then we started to assemble to packets. In each black bag we put 4 lbs of rice, 4 lbs of sugar, 2 lbs of salt, 2 bags of lye for corn, 2 cans of anchovies in tomato sauce, 4 soup package mixes, 4 bags of ramen noodles, 2 bags of spaghetti, 16 individual instant coffee bags, 1 towel, 8 small bags of bleach, and a package of cookies. It took a long time because we had to do about 120 bags. Our hands were pretty dirty by the time we’d finished around 6pm.
The rest of the night was pretty relaxed. Kathy brought me down a birthday present. There was a little stuffed chicken inside that you can wind up and it walks. It’s to remind me of when Chelita was a baby. There was also a stained glass window hanging with a cross in the middle. It was handmade by Betty Dyer’s brother. I also got two little wooden turtles that are pencil holders. She got the chicken and turtles at a couple of the artisan stores at the festival. I started a little turtle collection here and now have a family of 5.
My parents called me on Skype later that night from Washington D.C. They’re on vacation for about a week to celebrate my dad’s birthday which is on the 28th of March. It was fun to talk to them for a while and tell them about my day. I showed them the gifts I got from the teacher and kids at school and also my gifts from Kathy. I also talked to Matt once more before I went to bed. I was feeling a little sad because I wasn’t able to spend today with my family. This is the first birthday I’ve ever spent away from family. But I’m glad I have my friends here. They’ve become like family to me.
The room was full of food
The rice bagging begins
Everyone helped out
That's a lot of rice
Sardines in tomato sauce
Ramen noodles & spaghetti
Some of the things for each packet
Bag it up
It was a long process
Some of the finished bags
We had a lot of bags
Chelita is getting bigger!!
Stained glass cross from Kathy
My new turtles
My turtle family