Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Going to school in El Salvador

Wednesday, 4-6-11

We had formación (a civic exercise) this morning which confused me because we usually only have it on Mondays and Thursdays. I had already started teaching my first class when it started. I asked the teacher if the kids needed to go listen and she said no. So I did my best to keep teaching as the rest of the school gathered right outside the room in the central cement courtyard that they use for these kinds of assemblies.

They started out by playing the Salvadoran National Anthem as usual. Then someone was speaking over a microphone. It’s not easy to teach over that kind of noise but that wasn’t their fault. There are windows for ventilation in the rooms close to the ceiling so I was also concerned that I was speaking too loudly at certain points when it was quieter outside the room and that everyone would hear me. Then I was worried that the kids were talking too loudly during the quiet parts. I think I felt this way because I thought we needed to be at the assembly. It was like being back in high school skipping out on an assembly and trying not to get caught.

First period is usually over around 8:15. By 8:30 the bell still hadn’t rang, probably because the director and all the other teachers were at formación. Remember, the bell is rung manually. I decided to quit teaching at that point because the kids were getting restless. We’d had class for an hour and they’re used to only 45 minutes. These kids need their break time or they’ll be bouncing off the walls. I did my best to keep them somewhat quiet during the end of formación.

Eventually it ended and all the kids were free to go running around. I wondered what the rest of the day’s schedule was going to be like. Would they stick to the normal schedule or would the bell ring at random times throughout the day trying to give an equal amount of time to the rest of the classes? I soon found out that it was the latter. I just went with the flow. What seems to be the daily, changing class times keeps me on my toes.

During one of my classes the director stopped in to say that the whole school is going to a special mass tomorrow. Thursday marks 30 days of the death of a former teacher and director of the school where I teach. I took me a second to understand what he was talking about because I’ve never celebrated the 30-day memorial mass after someone has died. For one, I’m not Catholic and two, I’m not Latino. I asked the director if it was alright if I went and he enthusiastically said yes. I’m eager to see what the mass is like. I’m not sure this would happen at a public school in the US (the school where I teach here is a public school). You can’t really require kids in the States to attend a religious service in memory of a former teacher.

But I do find this very interesting. Afterwards I was talking to one of teachers about it and she explained that here, after someone who is Catholic dies, the body remains in the home until the next day when there is a special mass and then the funeral. There is mass every day the following nine days and also after 30 or 40 days. I took several death and dying classes in college and I remember learning about the after death rituals of different religions. Actually, one of the reasons that I really wanted to stay in El Salvador until November was because I wanted to be a part of the Day of the Dead celebration. It’s a celebration I’ve always wanted to experience and now I have my chance.

Like yesterday, and I suppose like every day, this afternoon was productive but I didn’t get done everything that I wanted. I always have a to-do list with things I want to get done concerning school, the house, my blog, photos, emails, etc. It’s good to have an idea of what kinds of things I need to get done so long as I’m not rigidly stuck a schedule or deeply upset that I haven’t made time to organize my room; I’m such an organization freak. The more important things are taking precedence, as they should.

A bit of good news: I finally got my letters mailed today at the post office. Yay! I’d gone two days ago but it had closed by 4:30pm and yesterday when I went (twice) there was a hand written sign on the door saying they’d be back later. The post office just closes down if someone needs to run out and do something. That’s life. The guy at the post office today was a different one than I’d met before. That kind of surprised me because it’s a really small post office and I don’t think a whole lot of mail goes through there. I chatted with him a bit as he was writing out my receipt. I like talking to new people.

It’s been really hot here lately and the papers have been talking about the warm weather. It’s the dry season, summer, here right now so it gets very toasty in the afternoon. I guess the high a couples days ago in San Miguel was supposed to be around 40 degrees (104 degrees Fahrenheit). Yikes! Glad we’re higher up in the mountains. It doesn’t get that hot here. Around 5:00pm it started pouring down rain which is rare in the dry season. Cecilia and I made a mad dash outside and started collecting laundry off the lines. Some of my recently washed clothes were still on the line but they were already wet so I figured I’d just leave them there.

Tonight I spent time helping Alejandro with copying and printing things he needs for school (2-year university). We are fortunate enough to have computer at the house and a printer that he can use. I wonder about the other kids in his classes and how they get things done. Not everyone has easy access to a computer and the internet. Many kids have to spend their time and money at an internet café to get their school work done. The average cost here in Berlín is 80¢ per hour. To many people that’s a lot of money. Almost every night for the past week I’ve seen Alejandro working on the computer for several hours at a time to get school work done. If you’re in an internet café that adds up fast.

During the week he lives here at the Pastoral House but on the weekends he goes home to the caserío of Alejandría (a caserío is a part of a canton). As I’ve mentioned before, you have to be seriously dedicated to school to endure what these kids go through just to go to class in hopes of earning a degree that will help them get a better job. Tomorrow Alejandro leaves earlier than usual on the 5am bus for Usulután. He’ll wake up a little after 4am and take a cold dump shower to start off the morning. Then he catches the three buses he needs over the next 1 hour and 45 minutes to get to class. To learn more about what that trip is like for him read my blog from Saturday called “Adventures on the bus.” I am humbled.

“Only as high as I reach can I grow, only as far as I seek can I go, only as deep as I look can I see, only as much as I dream can I be.” ~Karen Ravn

1 comment:

Matt said...

What an crazy day at school. It will be inetersting to hear about the funeral. Glad you were able to finally make it to the post office.