Saturday, December 12, 2009
This Friday signified the last day of my spanish school and the last day of volunteering at Los Patojos. I'll do a little recap of the experiences and my overall impressions from them.
Spanish School- COINED
From my first day until my last learning spanish was a struggle. I remember before i left and everyone told me within two weeks ill be fluent, how little they understand the complexities of the spanish language and the limited nature of my brain.
I was able to have some really great teachers at the spanish school. I loved the rapid fire intense energetic nature of my teacher Francisco and the long discussions on politics history and social issues where we both practiced our spanish and learned that we are not nearly doing enough to improve the world. The lessons with Diego where i had to use my spanish to say what i would do if i met Shakira and to discuss who i would rather date Jennifer Aniston or Angelina Jolie, as well as the discussions we had on syracuse basketball and district 13. Antonio and his perpetual and hysterical use of the word jesus and his love for rasheed wallace as well as his mild temper tantrums and the week where we drove him mildly insane with our lack of progress. These were probably my favorite teachers though down the stretch I became hated by one or two teachers because i was very much a wise ass and contradicted them constantly. Live and learn i guess.
On our final week i was given the opportunity to translate one of our final activities, the day of the devil and i was able to stagger through that exercise. On the last friday we gave speeches and mine was a top ten list of things from the school, which was kindly received with what i hope was authentic laughter. To finish the day i was given a giant number one medal for my perfect attendance and all of my hard work, i was genuinely touched by it and they really did not need to do that. I had been bugging them all week to put up a picture of me in the main corridor for other students to admire and aspire to, but the medal was much subtler and made more sense. Though that giant picture would look great.
Overall i think my spanish came along pretty nicely. I still mispronounce a ton of words and can easily get lost in the most basic of conversations and my favorite phrases are all gimicky or only said by idiots(toca madera, tengo frio, en tus zapatos) but hopefully what i have will be just the beginning.
My volunteer opportunity at Los Patojos ended with two pretty great days. Andy had been working with the kids on different team building challenges throughout the past month and I tagged along on many as well as teaching and playing basketball with the kids on fridays. On our second to last day andy set up an obstacle course with several different challenges for the kids from making a human knot to crossing an acid river and then crossing a mind field blind folded. My team won the race which should be no surprise, my team also won the dancing shapes competition.
After the competition I was pretty blown away when the kids gave a little speech thanking us and giving us some bracelets that they had made for us. They could not have been sweeter and some of the girls snuck off during their art time to make us cards. Im a big softee and had to hold back tears pretty bad especially with Sarai who was probably my favorite kid overall. She came across as abrasive at first but is really one of the sweetest most intelligent kids i have ever come across and she has a great sense of humor, of which i was frequently a target. She also embraced the pound and explode handshake which made my day everytime we did it. (goofy handshakes with the kids kind of became my thing)
The next day we played a game of capture the flag and then headed back to the center. I almost cried again when Mr. Cool Boris realized we weren't going to be at the school anymore and literally started to tear up a little himself. To put it bluntly Boris is the man and is lightyears cooler than i can ever hope to be so the fact that he was disappointed and upset that we were leaving was one of the biggest compliments i have ever received in my life.
When i first walked into the school i was shocked at the chaos, lunacy and seeming ineptness that seemed to be prevalent in the structure of the school but it is really the kids who make this program. They are your typical kids in so many ways, moody sarcastic teenagers who test your limits at every turn but over time we all grew to bond and it seemed to happen so much quicker with them than it should have.They were accepting of our limited spanish and worked on our pronunciation, they joked and teased, and in the end i couldnt have been happier to know them. I hope they all go on to be the things they are dreaming to be, the architects, writers, doctors and lawyers of a future guatemala.
I was also thankful to many of the teachers who embraced our presence and made things easy for us. Diego the persistent and die hard yankees fan who is far more mature than his 17 years and taught me alot about tolerance and what its like to be truly open mind(except about baseball) who claims to have been john wilkes booth in his past life and has a love for gabriel garcia marquez. I hope he goes forward to do a poetry slam, which we discussed at length and he spent hours looking at slam poems on youtube. Or Juan Pablo the passionate head of the school who is realistic about his extreme political views but is the lifeblood of the school. Linda who is the nurturing mother hen for the older group, whose subtle sense of humor always caught me off guard and murio one of the first adults with a rat tail that i found respect for.
It was definitely an interesting experience that i am grateful i got the opportunity to have.