Wednesday, April 6, 2005

Dominican Republic Trip: Day 7

This day I went to the school and Rosie went to the clinic. Daniel, the English teacher, told me that he makes $40 a month. He and Tracy live with people in the community and don’t have to pay room and board, but there is very little money to be found for anything. I was so impressed at the sacrifice they both were making to come down here and serve.

I tutored some students in the morning and then at recess Tracy and Daniel had a meeting with some other teachers and the school administrators. Tracy had told me what time her next class started and where it was, so about that time I went over there and leaned against the wall waiting for Tracy to get there. It was a 5th grade class, so they were 10-year-olds. The kids’ regular teacher (for their other subjects) was there, and she invited me to come in and sit in the room, so I went. Then I waited. The kids chattered. The teacher shushed them. Tracy didn’t come. I assumed that she must be still in the meeting, and I thought, “Here is a whole class full of kids who don’t have anything to do. I might as well get up and talk to them.” I spoke to the teacher and she said that would be fine.

I got up and stood in front of the chalkboard. Instantly a hush fell over the room. “Ooo, the new American teacher is going to talk.” I picked up the only piece of chalk, a little thing shorter in length than it was in diameter, and drew a tree. “This is a tree,” I said. I drew a horse. “Ay, que lindo!” (Oh, how pretty!) came exclamations from the girls. (It was actually very bad.) “This is a horse.” I drew a road underneath the horse that led past the tree. “This is a road.” I wrote, “ROAD,” “HORSE,” and “TREE” next to their respective pictures. This became the foundation for a story that I made up as I went along, all about a man named John riding the horse, and how a snake came out of the tree and bit the man, making him fall off the horse. The horse ran away and the man said, “I want water.” There was a lake nearby and the man crawled there and drank. Then he was happy.

About this time, I dropped the chalk. As I picked it up, I noticed what a small crumb it had become. I thought, “Oh well, there’s no more. Here goes using up the chalk!”

I continued the story. The man went to look for his hat, which had fallen off when he fell off the horse. When he got to his hat, the snake was wrapped around it. The man ran away. Then the snake went down to the lake and wanted to eat a fish. The fish was too big.

Somewhere in the middle of this time, I dropped the chalk again. This time when I picked it up, it was no longer a crumb—it was a speck. I thought, “Well, when the chalk goes, I guess that’ll be the end of the story.” I was turning back to the board to continue when I heard, “Teacher…” I turned back to see the teacher motioning to a NORMAL piece of chalk on a desk to my left. “Ah! Muchas gracias!” I said. I ditched the speck and proceeded with my story.

All during the story I was drawing new pictures, writing vocabulary words on the board, reviewing meanings, and making them repeat things for pronunciation. “Que es esto?” “HORSE.” “Repita.” Horse. Que es esto? Hat. Repita. Hat. Que significa I want water? Quiero agua. Muy bien! Que es esto? Fish. Repita. Fish. Not ‘feesh’—fish. Repita. Fish. Fish.

When Tracy got there, I said in Spanish, “Now Tracy is here and she is going to teach you something else, so the story is over.” I picked up the eraser and started to erase the board. A collective, disappointed, “NO” escaped the class. “No?” I asked, unsure of what to do. But I had to hand the class back to Tracy, so I continued erasing. As the last lines were wiped away and I was leaving, the class burst into spontaneous applause and thanked me. I said “Adios!” and walked out, glowing with the enjoyment of what I had just done.

As always, lunch was around 3:00 after school was over. As always, it was delicious! Rosie and I have been doing the dishes after lunch and supper, so we did that, had our nap, and then took a walk to the grocery store.

There, one of those cultural things happened. Pastor José asked us if we liked Coca Cola. We were like, “Yeah, sure, we like anything.” Then, just as an addition to the conversation, despite Rosie’s protests, I mentioned, “I think I’ve only had Coca Cola one time.” Pastor José’s expression changed and he said, “Oh,” and began to put back the bottle. Trying to correct my mistake, I said, “But it’s not because we don’t like it—it’s just that we don’t drink much soda in general.” He said, “Oh,” again, and put back another bottle of different soda that was in the cart! When their backs were turned, Rosie gave me an exasperated look and said, “You shouldn’t have said anything! You should have just let them get what they wanted to get.” I have a wise sister.

I’ve been amazed at her perceptive skills often on this trip. Sometimes she will even figure out certain things in Spanish before me. Like the first day, we went over our first speed bump. I was sitting in the middle of the back seat, and Pastor José jested, “Rebekah, tú eres demasiado pesado.” I was thinking, “pesado…pesado…” when Rosie nudged me and said, “You weigh too much.” I burst out with a laugh. That was indeed what he said. Every so often she’ll do something similar, and I go, “How did she DO that?”

That night, while Rosie and I were practicing our song together for next Sunday, Tati came in and invited us to do it in the living room so that everybody could enjoy it. She was folding clothes in there and Eulalia, Eunice, and Pastor Jose came in, too. After our song, Eulalia got out a hymnal. To my delight, it was the same one that I have, so I ran and got mine out of my backpack. With Rosie’s accompaniment, we sang song after song, Eulalia picking most of them and somehow picking all my favorites! The first one we sang was How Great Thou Art, which was the first song I ever learned out of that book. We sang Holy, Holy, Holy, A Mighty Fortress is Our God, Great Is Thy Faithfulness, Revive Us Again, and many others. It was such sweet fellowship. Then Pastor José read Psalm 103, which fit wonderfully in the spirit of praise. We sang 2-3 more hymns, and then he prayed a beautiful prayer to close our time. It was the kind of evening you wish would go on and on and when it’s over you want to remember it for a long time. There’s something about singing with other people when everyone is putting their best into it and your hearts are united in one spirit.

Keep Reading: Dominican Republic Trip, Day 8
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