Thursday, September 8, 2011

La Escuela

Today we went up to the school (escuela) to meet our co-teachers. Each of us will work with one teacher during training, to give a minimum of three classes.
The school is on a hill across from the large catholic church; I think it’s the highest point in town and you can see the volcano by Lake Apoyo from the school yard. We have to walk about a couple steeply inclined hills to get to the school gate, and then up a set of stone steps. The school is surrounded by an iron bar fence (the bars end in spikes) and ringing that fence are stone steps, I think they act as bleachers for events in front of the school.
Like most schools here, is one story, with concrete walls and a zinc metal roof. It has no A/C or running water but it does have electricity (usually) and what I’ve come to think of as “Nica windows”- long thin slots of glass that open and close on the same hinge. The fading paint is a bright blue and white- again, like many schools here.  The layout is more or less like a strip mall in a square shape, with rows of classrooms facing an open courtyard area. There is also a large open area with just a concrete floor and a really high metal roof. It reminds me of a hangar bay or oversize outdoor carport, but I think it’s their auditorium. Beside that is a decent size open field for the kids to play in- on one side of the field is the iron bar fence following a steep drop of those stone bleachers to the street. On the other side is a fairly steep hillside that goes down to a river (a ravine?). We’re planning on making the school gardens on the ravine side of the field. The challenge will be making it close enough to the tree line that the kids (and men) playing soccer don’t destroy and yet not so far in that we risk tumbling to our deaths (kidding). A little south of the planned garden site, closer to the classrooms, the hillside is a large burnt pile – that’s where the school burns its trash.
So we walked up to the school right after lunch and met the directora (principle) and waited in her office for the afternoon teachers to join us. All the kids came spilling out of the classes, I guess for recess, and four Nicaragua teachers came in to sit facing us, four nervous volunteers. We all introduced ourselves; there were two young teachers, one middle-aged and one older woman. We were asked to select grades at random (3rd-5th) and I picked one of the fifth. I got the oldest teacher – yaay! I’m all for experience. And she has a really kind face.  She smiled and kissed my cheek, a great start. The other volunteers’ teachers didn’t seem as affectionate, but it could be because they were younger and more nervous. So we decide on a schedule; our first day of observation and our class schedule after that. My classes will be Thursdays at 2pm, which gives us time each week to plan the class and practice it with each other in our little class of volunteers.
In the afternoon, Luisa’s four grandsons were in the house and I got stuck impromptu babysitting. They’re good kids, full of energy, ages ranging from 5 -13. They got a little rough with each other and man, is it hard to discipline in another language. So as a distraction from playing “who can beat who up better?”, I asked them to sing the Nicaraguan national anthem (nigno nacional).  What a pleasant surprise! They all promptly shot to their feet, stood at attention and belted out the Spanish song at the top of their lungs.
Then they asked me to sing the American national anthem. Ah, here was my chance to do that cultural exchange Peace Corps encourages!  So of course, I totally blanked out and with them all watching expectantly… I sang the first patriotic song that came into my head. America the Beautiful. Eh, close enough- they all listened raptly and clapped enthusiastically at the end.  Almost right after, I remembered the actually anthem (Oh, say can you see?) but the moment had passed.
Sorry, forefathers. And also, to my first grade teacher.

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