Monday, September 28, 2009

A Not Altogether Peaceful Peace Week

A Not Altogether Peaceful Peace Week

Last week at school was Peace Week. Our director started it out with a school-wide hug. There was supposed to be a moment of silence to listen to Juanes whose song has the chorus, “It’s time to change,” but there was NO silence, which disappointed me. Throughout the week that song, and “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson were played at recess.

Juanes had put on a huge peace concert in Cuba the day before. I had just read about this on the BBC news website that morning. Think of him as Colombia’s answer to Bono and you get the idea.

A highlight of the week for me was making a connection with a student. US history can be boring, especially if you are a 6th grade Colombian boy. I had a student sincerely tell me that the subject I was teaching was really interesting, and a few of his classmates agreed. Miracles never cease.

In week 6 of school I finally got the rest of what I should have gotten before school started: an assessment tool, so now I can actually test my students on what I’ve been teaching them, and the standards that we are supposed to plan our lessons by. These lesson plans, by the way, were due 3 weeks ago. Ha ha ha!

After school monotony, exhaustion, and boredom are fairly typical occurences. I decided to take a walk to, you guessed it, the mall for lack of any other social outlet. I thought I’d go to the bookstore and get a Spanish language-learning book. There weren’t any, though there were plenty of books to learn English. There were also English language novels that cost about $25, so it’s unlikely that I’ll be buying any of those. I wanted to buy a case for my computer but it was $50, um maybe not, at least not on this salary. I talked to no one but the shopkeepers and returned home with a bottle of agua con gas. I downloaded and listened to a This American Life episode called “The Kindness of Strangers”, quite purposefully chosen. Listening to it made me feel a bit more like my normal self.

Needless to say I am hoping the social life picks up a bit. I feel very isolated here. If not for my US neighbor Kären, I’d be even more solitary. I’m not terribly lonely, but I do feel alone and I’m finding it a lot harder to meet people than I imagined it would be. I had to laugh when I heard “So Lonely” by the Police in Taganga. It’s always been one of my favorite songs, but it felt rather poignant at that moment. I know making friends takes a while so I am being patient. This is nothing like traveling. When you travel, you meet new people all the time. I think traveling on most weekends might be a good option.

Friday at school things started out rather positively. My class was working on a peace poem and I thought, maybe, just maybe things were getting better. I had a good first class, but during it se fue la luz, this means not only did the light go off, but the power as well. It was 93 degrees and we all began to roast. The water pumps are electrically operated, so the water goes too. This means no flushing toilets or washing hands. It was a mess that progressively turned into more and more chaos. I can equate this to when there are snow days at school in Oregon: the students go a little bit nuts, but somehow when our trusty head secretary would come on the PA system, and we all knew what to do. Needless to say here in Colombia we do not have a PA system, we do not have phones in our classrooms, we do not even have clocks. Students spread the word that we’d be having a 12:30 dismissal. The power went off at 9. Chaos and extreme heat are not a good mixture. I found out later that this power outage was in the entire city.

I was frustrated with how crazy the students were getting, but I responded calm calm calm calm calmly, until I lost my patience in the last 5 minutes of school. I’m sure it was the mounting frustrations I’ve had with the general lack of order in school since the beginning of the year, and probably my being overheated, but it still is not an excuse. We will have a community circle on Monday and I’ll need to mend things. I am not proud of my behavior, but I think the last straw came and most definitely broke my back. The irony of it being Peace Week is not lost on me.

On Friday evening I went with Kären to another of the Miche Rock Festivals. I really had no desire to go to a rock concert of bands I didn’t know, but I was hoping to maybe connect with some other Colombian teachers who were supposedly going to be there. The best part for me was on the way to catch the bus we had to get change. We stopped and got change by buying a beer from one of the many open-air bars. We then were invited to share a table and drink with some locals, which was nice.

Miche was not too loud, but the line to get in took over an hour. At least it was free. I was just as glad to be outside in the line because we missed some of the growly-type metal bands. Upon entering, we got to hear our favorite band from the time before – the reggae band, whose name I still don't know. We were both exhausted and left after hearing only that one band. We did not end up seeing the other teachers there, and it was crowded. My eyes were bleary and I was happy to go home and get to bed. Leaving when we did ended up being excellent timing on our part. Apparently a riot broke out with the band that came on right after we left. I recalled their name from the last concert ( Circulo Vicioso) and remembered that when they played the mosh pit was a bit crazy. I knew I absolutely did not need to hear them again. Sometimes a little sensitivity and intuition are good things.

Although I most definitely don’t love it here, I’m here now. It’s not going to change, so I think I need to change. Hmm...perhaps I should listen to the song by Juanes, or maybe marvelous Michael Jackson, may he rest in peace

Loka Samastaa Sukino Bhavantu (a little Sanskrit chant of peace for you all)

1 comment:

  1. Sorry to hear about the so-far unsatisfying social life. Pero no te apures, mijita. I can't image that that sequia will last given all your Binyon charms I so fondly remember. One thing is that America Latina is very, very family-oriented, and if you can get in with a family or two somehow, you will meet people and be invited back to other events. Plus, you'll be seen as an insider rather than an outsider, and will have a better chance to see what the real Colombia is like. So much gravitates around family for latinos.

    On another note, I totally feel for you regarding the lack of water thing. I used to hate that when living in Brazil. I remember when I was living in Sao Paulo and that happened, I would get back in my car and go shower at the gym. Oh, the fond memories. :)

    Un fuerte abrazo,

    Ron (Elvis)