I had big plans for productivity this weekend. Big plans. I swear I did. Like most good intentions, however, those big plans for productivity have devolved into various movie-watching (primarily ecstatic enjoyment of Juno, which I highly, HIGHLY recommend rushing out to see at your earliest possible convenience), cooking lots of things including, but not limited to, homemade applesauce, and delightful, nearly death-defying workouts on the stairmaster. Honestly, having the kind of weekend I have doesn’t feel quite as rewarding as the one I’d planned might have felt, but it’s still been pretty damn good. I did, at least, apply to teach at some private schools in the coming year. Score one for the good guys.
So here’s the haps. Happily, I am finished with first grade. I modify this announcement with the word “happily” mostly because I’ve been sick since beginning my stint as their teacher, and because wrangling first graders has been one of the most exhausting–I’m talking more exhausting than a 2k, people–endeavors of my 22 years. I enjoyed them: learning about them, studying their personalities and devising clever tactics to incite them into having some level of enthusiasm for English. I enjoyed teaching them and band-aiding them, offering them new vocabulary words such as “apricot” and “beluga” and hugging them when they fell on the playground. I was also absolutely thrilled when, about a week ago, they began as one body to speak in English, voluntarily and well. These things were great, but quite frankly, ’til Thursday, not really great enough to outweigh my jubilation at having finished with them. Thursday, however, made me realize how beautiful my time with them had been. Something magical happened on that last day, something that rekindled my belief belief in the goodness of children’s hearts and, in more general terms, the human soul. Here’s what I wrote in my Moleskine on the metro ride home directly after, because I’m now an addict to list making and recording warm, fuzzy memories (thanks, Greg).
Some days this job sucks. But some days, like today, it is truly magical. I thought I’d be met with total indifference when Eli and I announced to the class, busy with their pseudo-pointillism sea creature art projects, that this would be my last day. But no. There came instead scrams of “Caitlin! ¡No te vayas!” “¡No puedes ir!” and such. I nearly went down under a mobile hula skirt of keening, hugging, shouting and near tearful children. “¡Te echamos muchísimo de menos!” they assured me, grasping tightly, alternately grinning persuasively and pouting. As a going away present they gave me their art projects, starting of course with the ever-thoughtful little Miriam. I was her as a child–chubby, tuniced & legginged, quiet and smart–few friends, lots of people who wanted to copy off of me. As usual, Miriam’s lead was followed by all of the other children, and I’m going home with 2 kilos of oranges, a kilo of setas, a kilo of green apples and 22 sea creature art projects in my bag.
But then they massed, barricading the classroom door to prevent me from going. “Profe,” said Tere with a devilish, sharp-chinned grin,”ahora no te vas a salir!” I and Eli were forced to wheedle and push through children for a good five minutes before I could go, and then when I finally did, who but Christian, devilish little Christian, Christian who shit in the toilet, shoved in all of his colored pencils and flushed, who never does his homework, who steals shit constantly, who doesn’t want to learn, clamored out into the hallway, careening toward me, yelling “Profe! Profe!” In a truly cinematic show of intuition, I dropped to my knees and he catapulted into my arms, hugging me tightly around the neck. Eli, screaming for him to come back to the classroom, finally succeeded, but not before Georgina did the same as Christian. Just when Eli and I thought Christian and Geor had been successfully corralled and I assumed it safe to head down the stairs to the metro, Christian broke away from the classroom again, hugged me one more time and then hightailed it back to class. I’ve been smiling since roughly 3:45.
So kids are cute sometimes, little matter the mucous with which they come stocked.
I had a nice moment with my roommate, M, today. I forget sometimes that he is a musician, thus affected by music and lyrics. I also forgets sometimes that he understands some English. Since watching Juno I’ve been buzzing around the house singing “Anyone Else But You,” because a) it’s precious, and b) it reminds me of Greg a little (okay a lot). But anyway: while making apple curry chicken burgers I was singing it, despite the fact that singing a duet alone is kind of awkward. M said to me, “I like this song. The feeling is beautiful.” (yes–in English!) Surprised, I stopped stirring my pan of apples, onions brown sugar and curry, stared at him and blurted, “really!?”
“Yes!” he said. “Love someone for who they are. It’s beautiful, man.” He followed this with an emphatic nod and a huge smile, then began to hack ham off of the dwindling leg. M may be a stoner, and he may leave hamscraps all over the house, but you know what? Homeboy’s got his priorities in line. I guess it makes sense that my educated, successful, sexy and talented little roommate V is still with him. (:
Anyhow, Thursday was great. Though the sweet goodbye given to me by my first graders helped, it started earlier than that. I have a theory as to why, and I call him Harmless High Five Boy. I’ve known HHFB since October, when first he approached me one bleary metro ride morning, held up his palm, and commanded “choca!” (hit it). There is clearly some sort of mental impediment bogging down HHFB, but he has a heart of pure gold and there is a reason he has a superhero-like acronym in my mind: because in my mind, he is.
HHFB prowls up and down whatever line 9 metro car he’s on, approaching total strangers, holding up his hand, and very seriously instructing them to slap him five. I wish I knew what his criteria for high-five adminstrators might be, but I can’t possibly divine it. He chooses the old, the young, the pretty and the very ugly. He chooses the sleepy and the caffeinated, the distrustful and enthusiastic. He does not seem to discriminate, but I do notice he pointedly picks some and not others. He gets me about half the time. Our first high five, I have to shamefully admit, was one of which I partook with a good deal of distrust and suspicion; I waited for the AIDS infected needle to shoot out of his sleeve (so what if I’m an alarmist conspiracy-theorist!?) or the handful of boogers to be transferred to mine. Neither ever came; only a customary good morning high five reached me, from the hand of this glasses-wearing, backpacked Spanish wünderkind. I was bewildered and generally happily amused after he walked away. Now, whether or not he high-fives me in the morning, I always relish seeing the fear in people’s faces evolve into vague amusement, to confusion, then to eventual pleasure as he prompts them “choca!”, high fives them, then shuffles off to his next unwitting candidate. I can also honestly say that every morning that my day begins with a sighting of or a high five from HHFB is the harbinger of a good day.
Other (brief) things (because I desperately need to sleep):
I’m becoming a good (and inventive!) cook. Chocolate cookies tomorrow? Perhaps yes.
I totally blew my “4 sets of 10 real pushups end-of-January goal” out of the water today by pumping out 6 sets of 10. I’m an Amazon. Yes I am, and YES it feels damn good! More on how I’m a subtle gym-terrorist coming soon.
I’m leaving for London on Thursday night and will be there, visiting with Ms. Ali and enjoying a glorious introduction to both Notting Hill and Bath (Oh, Jane! I’m coming to see where you lived!), ’til Sunday morning.
Something wonderful that I can’t really reveal for witness protection reasons will come to pass on March 31st. If you’re curious, you can ask me, but I won’t post it publicly. 🙂 I’m too excited for it to be fair.
This is fucking brilliant.
Okay. More tomorrow. Too tired to function now. The sleepz! so I leave you with this: