Today was the first day of school in El Salvador. Juan and María left a little before 7:00 for the Instituto Nacional de El Refugio, INER. It’s a 10th – 11th grade school a few blocks from the house. Margarita and I walked Luís and Adriana to Centro Escolar Francisco Gavidia in the town center. It was somewhat of a strange experience for me.
We mingled among the hundreds of students, parents, teachers, and ancillary school employes and found no teacher in or near Luís´3rd grade classroom. We moved to Adriana’s 1st grade classroom and found a teacher after my own heart. She gave our daughter a warm hug and answered some of Margarita’s questions. Meanwhile, Adri found a table with old classmates and sat…for a moment. She wanted to sit at a desk next to the teacher. It being vacant, she claimed it.
We walked into the large covered courtyard where children were forming lines for the teachers. En route, I was given several hugs and many greetings by former students of mine. That was the first strange feeling. My kids weren’t at Colegio Lydia Valiente. No one was at Colegio Lydia Valiente. It no longer exists. Destroyed, in my opinion, by its founder, nurturer, and short-sighted director, our former pastor Hermana Elida.
But life goes on. It goes with much difficulty in our country. Our kids found their lines. I think Margarita appointed a boy in Luís’ line to watch out for him. He was a head taller than his classmates. Adriana had friends around her. Still, she came out of the line to stand with her mother.
One little boy started bawling. His teacher hugged him and another came over to help soothe him. I thought of our former students who came out of a small school of 50 kids and now had at least 500 around them from kindergarten to 9th grade. Again, I had to tell myself that that’s how it is.
With the kids lined up by grade like soldiers for a good 15 minutes before the director began his welcoming speech, I started feeling sorry for the kids, especially the smaller ones. He introduced the teachers and other staff. He welcomed us parents and new students. He spoke of the uniforms and the schedule. He informed each class what room it would occupy and gave directions to find it. After another 20 minutes no one was listening to him judging by the more-than-a-murmer coming from the children.
After another man gave an unintelligible speech, the director dismissed the children to their classrooms. Adriana had been suffering from diarrhea so we told the teacher, who marked it in her record book, and we walked toward home.
As we passed the street to the church I could see the door in the gate was open. But all I could hear was silence. No laughter, no shouting, no welcoming speeches, no introduction of teachers to parents. There were no late students in the street with their CLV uniforms. There would be no hugs and no English classes. The volunteer teacher who came here to impart some language, some much-needed wisdom, and a lot of love was unemployed.
It wasn’t even a full half-day for Luís. I had to take Duke to the vet for his final shot. He had his first experience walking through the crowded market street having to dodge slow-moving cars and motorcycles. I had to stop at the Venta de Medicina Popular to pick up some Pepto Bismol and some pills called Alka-D for Adriana. Coming home on the microbus, we were two blocks from the house when I saw Margarita and Adri on the street. Duke and I got off to find out where they were going. To get Luís, I was told. I knew Duke needed water so I walked home.
When they returned with our son, he was beaming. He loves his teacher. It seems she’s a snuggler too. Salvadoran teachers are affectionate. It’s not a perversion here to love your students and they you. So I was happy for both kids. I don’t know how well they teach yet.
Shortly afterwards the big kids came home. From then on it was just yak yak yak with gossip and “news” about people. I don’t get into that.
This evening, Margarita asked me for $2 to get Adriana’s school skirt from the seamstress’. They walked to Colonia El Ángel in the dark. I told them to be careful. So she left her wedding ring on my desk. There are maras here who will cut your finger off to get a gold ring.
I persuaded Margarita to not let the television determine the kids’ bedtime. So, around 8:45 they departed. Tomorrow’s another day, God willing. Or as we say here, “¡Primero Dios!“