Monday, July 30, 2007

I was sent out of the class for the first hour of school on Friday. I'm pretty sure that my teacher was convinced that I had no idea what was happening, so I played dumb and helped out with art class while the kids made cards for me. Flowers and hearts and houses were drawn, names were scribbled, cards were folded and completed, and then it was recreo. We alternated between playing on the swingset and playing a full class version of tiburon. I'm always the tiburon, and so I'm always doing all of the chasing and tiring out before them (what else is new). Whenever I play just with Xochil, one very charismatic and adorable, but wild preschooler, she calls for a break once she gets tired under the pretense of explaining a new set of very complicated rules. With the class, it was just a free for all of running around the school yard and snapping my jaw like a hungry shark. Not the most rigorous day in preschool. I ate my last delicious serving of rice and beans made out back behind the school, and then pulled out my camera and tried to take as many cheesy photos with the kids as I could. Then came the formal goodbye.

Whenever a volunteer leaves La Prusia, the school puts on a despedida. The whole affair involves hanging around for an hour while the students that have actually come to school that Friday afternoon assemble in a classroom, a couple of teachers saying a few words, three or fou raggaeton numbers in honor of the volunteer, and then a big line of cards and hugs as the students head out the door. I'd seen them before, knew exactly what to expect, and when the time came it felt like I was watching somebody else's despedida rather than my own. I don't feel like I was there long enough, gave enough, or really knew enough of the students to merit an all school affair. But that's how they do it at La Prusia, so I just stood there in the front of the room with Ervin Alberto, one of my preschoolers who I actually spent my entire first day reading with, at my feet clutching a tupperware full of rice and beans to take back home, smiled and hoped that they wouldn't try to get me to dance.

But they did. Of course. Like I said, that's how they do it at La Prusia. One out of a group of fifth grade girls dancing put on a pair of sunglasses, and started mouthing the words to a Daddy Yankee song. Egged on into the middle of the room, I stalled for about a minute, danced for a couple of seconds, and then was saved by the end of the song.

Most of preschool had already gone home. It was about four thirty by the time that we got started and there had been a futbol game for the past two hours. I don't think that goodbyes mean so much when you're that little, and getting to have a good last hug definitely means more to me than it does to them. So many volunteers come and go, they've done it too many time already. Georgina, Xochil, and Alberto were still there, though, and the preschool teacher tried to coax Georgina and Xochil into singing a song for me. They were too shy, and so they stood there looking wide eyed, awkward, and adorable while the rest of the school sang 'Elefante' as they mouthed the words, staring their toes and the ceiling. Of all of the preschoolers, Georgina reminds me most of myself when I was little, so it has been fun to work with her. As they left, she and Xochil both got all shy with me again, like they realized that I was leaving and that soon they wouldn't know me anymore. I was afraid that I would cry at some point, but I only started to tear up when one teacher asked me to say a few words. I knew I wouldn't get out of there without looking at least a little glossy eyed.

Christy, another volunteer who has been living here for a year, walked home with me. I wanted to walk instead of the bus for that last time, and it was good to be able to see a few kids in their houses, say goodbye again, and soak up my last hour or so of this time that I've been able to spend in La Prusia.

1 comment:

alan said...

Hey Liora - your comments about the despedidas were interesting. It's very refreshing to catch a note of sincerity instead of the usual "It was so hard to leave those kids who've become the most important thing in my life in these few short weeks..." blablabla.
I'd wish you luck for the future but I don't think you need it... not with all that "trail mix" inside you!