. So I abandoned my little Guayaba tree in the sink and went to go stand in the road with my students, their mothers, and siblings. A bunch of kids had run to the pulperia for snacks, some were still in the school, some had run home for something, and Mario was already leading half of them up the road to who knows where. As I waited for the stranglers desperate to buy just one more piece of candy, visions of my childhood fieldtrips passed through my head. There was generally a mother for every four or five children, each holding the names of the children for whom they were responsible for the day. Before we went anywhere we had a buddy and did a head count, the teachers all a little frazzled because of this grave responsibility they had, all clutching clipboards, and praying that there would be no scraped knees or lost lunches. We would all have worksheets, pencils, paperbag lunches, and maybe even money for a soda in our backpacks. And of course, the matter of permission slips had been taken care of weeks before. Yes, the fieldtrips I had known back in the day were organized chaos, with more emphasis on the organized part. What I was confronted with on that Friday morning was organized chaos minus the organized part and the chaos part multiplied by ten. I had no idea which of my students had come out for our little hike and who had stayed home. Mario, who had been shouting and waving a stick in the air had already disappeared around a corner, I had no idea where Sandra was, Magaly was slowly making her way after Mario with most of the kinder kids in tow (one was with me, though I have no idea if Magaly knew this or not), and I was yelling at the four students still in the pulperia to "VENGA!!!
! NECESITAMOS SALIR!!!!! YA!!!!!" Once I had finally rounded up these last kids already sucking on sugarcoated lollipops, I noticed Maria Jose and Yulissa at the phones. There were a couple mothers still hanging around, so I figured the girls were safe with them and started on my way. We were a mottley crew headed up the road. The twins, Glen and Kendall, had my hands, Maria Fernanda had one hand grabbing onto my back pocket and one tightly clutching her older sisterīs hand, and Angelica was pausing every five minutes either to take off her red sunglasses or put them back on again. Some of the mothers were carrying babies that couldnīt have been more than 6 months old while others were struggling with more than one toddler already tired and hot after ten minutes. The older boys kept trying to take shortcuts over hills and through the trees and the older girls couldnīt get enough of the berries along the trail. Once we left the road, the path was steep and muddy, but I was told that it was good that it hadnīt rained very much the last few days, otherwise we would have been walking through a little river. Oh. Eventually we found ourselves in a little valley with a stream running along the bottom. Iīd seen it from above on other walks Iīd taken with Jessica and Nicole, but actually being in it was like being shut off from the rest of the world. We ended up having to cross the stream a couple times before we got to our first picnic spot. Mario would grab students and mothers alike by the hands and fling them across, hoping the momentum of the pull would allow them to make it across. Only one little girl ended up with feet in the water. The littlest ones were handed across or carried by older boys wearing boots, while the oldest ones either lept across or just got wet. After a quick snack we climbed up over a hill and down and then along the stream again, and over another hill. I was beginning to wonder where Mario was taking us, realizing by this point that we were not headed to the Frenchmenīs finca
. When I asked Sandra where we were going, she just shrugged and smiled, so far from the frazzled teachers of American elementary school fieldtrips that I was beginning to question my memory. And then come to think of it, you know, Iīm a teacher too. All this time, as clueless as I was about where we were going and what we were doing, as relaxed Iīd been the whole day, I felt more like a student than anything else. But maybe I should be doing headcounts and worrying...but then again, maybe not. By the time we got to our final picnic spot, there were more than a couple wet feet and Monse had actually lost her shoes in the mud. They were immediately found and put back on, but that did not stop the waterfall of tears that ensued because of dirty shoes. But it was still a fabulous day and I was loving the time outside of the classroom, watching the pick up soccer game and talking with the mothers. But then something changed. I donīt know how it started. Maybe because all the kids were muddy and a little wet anyway, maybe because there was a stream right there and everyone was a little hot, or maybe the rumors are true and Mario started it. I donīt know. All I know is that one minute the kids were wandering around, exploring the creek banks or playing soccer, and the next minute they were splashing, screaming, and chugging down what was left of their juice so they could use the bottles in one of the biggest waterfights I have ever seen. It was amazing! Some of my students were actually sitting in the stream and splashing the water up in the faces of less drenched friends
. And of course, they couldnīt resist soaking the three teachers standing and laughing up on the hill (Mario had disappeared up a tree...yes UP a tree. My boss had supposedly started a waterfight and then climbed up a tree to avoid getting wet!). Magaly, Sandra, and I saw them coming, and we braced ourselves. Johnny got me down the back, Angelita got Magaly down the front, and Sandra got it on her legs from a first grader who couldnīt reach any higher. I tried to resist my competitive, very much kid-like impulse to immediately run down the hill, grab a bottle from an unsuspecting student (itīd be easy to overpower a first grader!) and get revenge. And I did hold back...well, untill Angelita came back for a second attempt on my face. Then it was war. Gleefully forgetting my duties as Teacher, I raced down the hill, already targeting little Kathrine and her bottle. Within seconds I was drenched by the older kids who had seen my descent into the fray. But as Katherine raised her little bottle to get me, I turned it on her and then made my way to the waterbank to refill. She followed me, and I was going to give it back as soon as I got Emanuel who had splashed me right in the face, but Ivan grabbed it away before I knew what was happening. Luckily some of my students didnt just want to soak me while I was undefended (too easy) so I was provided with bottles and cups. We went on in full battle mode for maybe fifteen minutes, maybe longer, to be honest Iīm not quite sure. By the end we were all soaked, Sandra had mud all down her back, and Magalyīs mascara was streaming down her cheeks
. Only one kid had cried. He hadnīt wanted to get wet...but how was I supposed to know that? All in all, it was a very fun little outing. As herded all the students back up the hill, the rain clouds already beginning to form above us, I looked back to make sure we hadnīt left any kids behind. I didnīt see any spots of misplaced color on the green hills or in the river now brown with mud, so I figured we had everybody. But as I turned to follow the group, my leg suddenly disappeared under me as it was swallowed in a mudhole. I screamed and quickly pulled myself up again, my left leg covered in mud up to the knee. "Oh Teacher!" I guess you could say that our crew was a lot motlier coming back into town. Wet, tired, and covered in mud (I was not the only one to take a fall on the way back!) we arrived at school before the afternoon showers, though to be honest, even if we hadnīt, it wouldnīt have mattered much. We hadnīt planted any trees and I think that we were sort of lost for most of the day, there were scraps and Iīm sure a lunch or two was lost. I hope all the kids made it home safe and sound, but I really wouldnīt know until school on Monday. It couldnīt have been more different from the fieldtrips I had experienced in elementary school, but it was probably the funnest (yes I know itīs not a real word, but itīs the one that best describes this day) one Iīd ever been on. All and all, I think the day was a success!
Friday, in Costa Rica, was Tree Day. And to celebrate Tree Day the entire school was going to go plant trees on a finca owned by some French expats up in the mountains. This seemed very logical, considering that it was tree day and all. So we all showed up at school at the appointed hour, all excitedly wearing our play clothes, eager for a day spent outside before the afternoon rains once again pushed us inside. Everyone had a little bag with a a little tree inside, ready to do our tree planting duty on National Tree Day. So you can imagine my surprise when we were all told to place our cute little saplings in the big communal sink in the "hallway" and gather on the road. But...how can we plant trees when they are all in a sink? This seemed a logical question to me, but I was given a funny look, a little laugh, and was told not to worry about it. "Itīs better if we just leave them behind. Itīs a difficult hike." But...but...isnīt that the whole point of going on the hike in the first place? "Oh, weīll plant them Monday." Ok..