It was a special day in Costa Rica on Wednesday, which always means that at 10 am we all head over to the salon for a special activo civico. Mario gets out his beloved microphone that buzzes and distorts the speakers' voices more than amplifies them, and we listen to memorized speeches said at warp speed by nervous 4th, 5th, and 6th graders
. But this time things were a little different. When I walked into the salon this Wednesday, hoping that maybe this time it would end earlier than usual so that I'd have time for lunch, I was greeted by a tapestry of colors. My students had shed their blue and white uniforms and donned traditional dress for a special dance performance. The girls wore multi-colored satin skirts, ruffled peasant blouses, and flowers in their hair. Mothers held babies in one arm and applied last minute touches to their daughters' make up with their free hand. The boys were all in white with red bandanas around their necks, beards painted on the faces of the younger ones. Everyone was running around excitedly or squirming in their chairs as those mothers finished with the make up took pictures. Once the performances began, the music was almost drowned out by the din of babies crying and children calling for Mami, Teacher, or Nina, but I was still very impressed by some of the talent. The girls swished their skirts while the boys did a funny little shuffle and twirled their bandanas in the air. Sometimes they went in circles, sometimes in lines, sometimes the boys and girls even danced with each other - something that NEVER would have happened in my elementary school. The kinder kids did a tricky little move where the boys ducked under the arms and between the skirts of the girls. Keisel lifted her skirt a little too high and got a giggle from the audience. Those in El Club de Baile Tipico did a dance about a girl who had a boyfriend, but when he galloped away on his mop - er, horse - she found a new boy with whom to dance
. Needless to say he was crushed. Our Activo Civico ended, as they always do, with the flag being taken down to the accompaniment of the national anthem...which all the children know by heart and have known since before kinder.
The bus seats are now long gone, I have a bright new blue door, most of my window panes are in place, and my walls are now yellow instead of gray. It's amazing but my room is actually starting to look like a real classroom. Each of my students even has their very own desk and chair. Of course, they aren't exactly the newest desks and chairs...in fact I think that I my classroom may be furnished with all the stuff that other people didn't want. But they do provide some of the entertainment that the constantly crashing down bus seats had before. For example, there's the "Anthony Chair" (so named for the bold lettered graffiti decorating the seat) that wiggles dangerously every time it's even touched, let alone sat upon. Though while this particular chair has amazingly held up, Fernanda wasn't so lucky with another one that completely collapsed under her one day during English Club. Then there are what I call 'the tiny chairs'. These were obviously meant to be used by kinder students, but of course, have found their way into my motley crew of "rescued" furniture. And in their defense, they are probably some of my best made chairs in my room
. Unfortunately though, my desks were not made for kinder and oftentimes my students find themselves sitting with their chins just inches above their desktops. However, as smart as they are, they've recently figured out that by sitting on their backpacks they kill two birds with one stone. They can sit high enough to see over their desks AND they save their backpacks from the always present dirt of my unfinished floor. Unfortunately this method does not save their stuff (or more precisely, MY stuff!) from the ashes floating in from above. You see, I don't quite have a ceiling yet and the ash from the wood burning stove in the kitchen continuously rains down on me throughout the day. My students are constantly telling me about smudges of dirt on my cheeks...well, at least they tell me. But the upside of there being practically no barrier between the kitchen and my room is that we get to be serenaded all day long. Isa the Cocinera has a great, loud voice and loves to sing along to the radio while she works. At times the hokie pokie and the latest reggaton song blend into a rather interesting medley. But the winds of change are blowing. I have some BIG classroom news! Thanks to all the people who so generously donated money to enable me to come to Costa Rica, resulting in an actual surplus of funds, I have been able to speed things up a bit. Yesterday I bought all the materials to put in a ceiling (no more rains of ash!!!) and install electricity (no more risking electrocution with sketchy extension cords dragged through rainy season puddles!!!!). Hopefully by the end of next week I will have both light and an almost entirely enclosed room! Wonders never cease to occur...
Thank you SO much to all the people who have helped me so much both financially and emotionally these past months. Your support means more than you can ever know!
Two days ago I walked out of my classroom at the end of the day and there were two horses grazing in the play ground. When I walked towards them, they nonchalantly walked out the gate and across the street to the soccer field where more appetizing grass was to be had. Now, what were horses doing in the playground you ask? And where on earth did they come from?! Well, this was answered within a few minutes when two of my fourth grade boys ran out of Mario's classroom and jumped on their now fully satisfied horses to ride home. When I was in elementary school there were the walkers and the bus riders. In La Estrella there are the walkers and the horse riders.