Saturday, 17 July 2010


At preschool I work with two boys, Antonio and Santos. Both have learning difficulties; Antonio also has a speech impediment, for which I am ludicrously underqualified to help with. Given that I rarely understand the spanish of the other children, my attempts to help him are an absolute fiasco. I wish I could get him to see a speech therapist. He´s quite a character - at some point i'll try to post a link to a video i took of him playing air guitar with a plantain leaf.

As for Santos, he can be chatty or standoffish, depending on the day. His teacher explained to me that his mother leaves for work at 5 am and doesn´t get home until 7 pm, so his main caretaker is a sister, sixteen years old and married with children. Also, she added, (not bothering to lower her voice, which is common among adult conversation in the classroom here and frankly makes me uncomfortable) the other mothers says she likes to have "mucho vino" at fiestas. All in all, it doesn´t sound like a great environment, so I try to be affectionate with him, though he doesn´t tend to take to it. I understand that not every kid can have a disposition like Olga, who ran two blocks after me one day because she´d forgotten to give me a goodbye kiss.

Anyway, on my third day Santos arrived with a wad of gum stuck in his hair. He kept his head permanently tilted as if someone was pulling it down, and whimpered. I asked if we could cut it out, the director said his mom would get mad. I asked if we could use some peanut butter and was told we´d have to go "all the way to the city for that." The next day he came to school with his head shaved, eager to tell me, as always, about what he´d seen on TV the night before. I worked with both him and Antonio on colors, which has been my project for the week. It´s feels futile that I looked up colorblindness online, having heard that it is common among boys, but the descriptions I found suggested that the mistakes colorblind children would make should have very specific patterns. This isn´t true for either of these boys, who after five days can still neither name any colors nor reliably match them.

On my final day of before preschool got out for summer, only Santos came to school. I was absolutely determined. I decided that the color palette had been a developmentally unreasonable goal and decided to focus the entire morning on green (verde). Towards the end of the period, he was still pointing to red and yellow when I asked him to find green. However, when I walked him back to his classroom, I halfheartedly asked ¨what color are the trees?¨´ I nearly fell over when he said "verde." On the other hand, it had only been five minutes since we reviewed. I probably won't see him again, since I never notice him out with the other kids in the central garden at dusk. So I guess I just have to hope he'll still remember tomorrow.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

La bandera

When I returned to preschool for my first day of volunteering, the children were practicing for something with which I was already familiar from my work in Queseria: La ceremonia de la bandera, or the flag ceremony. One of my first impressions of Mexico, partly in response to attending the Ceremonia de la bandera in Queseria, was that patriotism here is relatively cooler, if you will, than in the US. A love for Mexico among Mexicans seems to base its unconditionality on the understanding that governments are far too transient to create cultural identity. In other words, there doesn´t seem to be a link between the red white and green and a love for the Mexican federal government. This contrasts, to say the least, with the general American notion that American pride and the identity of the 18 to 24 liberal sector are completely mutually exclusive.

That glorious thursday morning when Mexico beat France in a world cup game, I tried to imagine my roommates and I at home with american flags painted on our cheeks. The idea was, of course, ludicrous. I don´t genuinely believe that the flag is exclusively for republicans, but I´m sure enough people do that I wouldn´t want to go around dressed in the stars and stripes. But for my friends in Mexico, patriotism is pride in a culture more generally, something older than politics and with no set definition or antagonism toward diversity. Now, I find myself wondering if maybe it´s this way everywhere but the United States. What would it be like if I could say I was proud to be American and not feel like I was claiming superiority or support for the less proud moments of my country´s foreign policy?

Tuesday, 6 July 2010


On Tuesday morning, I got up resolved to make the best of my one hour in the Special Ed program. I waited for the bus in the central jardin of Cofradia. Most villages here are built around one or several of these ¨´gardens,´´ which are more like plazas where you´ll find a gazebo and park benches as well as street vendors when it´s sunny. Fifteen minutes after the bus was due to come, I began to worry. In my experience so far, transportation had been one of the few things that didn´t seem to adhere to ¨´Mexican time.´´ After eighteen minutes, I decided to walk across the street to ask in one of the convenient stores. Just as I walked past the cases of limes to the front counter, I heard the bus barrel by behind me. I hope none of the villagers saw me running after it.
It was 9:08 A.M. and I was alone for the fifth consecutive day in a town with no fellow english speakers (or for that matter, friends of any sort), restaurants, or things to do beyond standing on the side of the cobbled streets with a hibiscus flavored popsicle, waiting for the occasional cowboy to come trotting by on horseback. Guilt was as much a plague as boredom; I´m well aware that the CPGC isn´t paying for me to lie in bed in the hacienda struggling through my spanish preposition flashcard set and eating mangoes.
I realized with some chagrin that I was going to have to be proactive. I walked until I found a school, ignored the ¨´no trespassing´sign, and approached some women standing in the schoolyard. Hi, I said. I´m a volunteer with project amigo and my job got canceled this week (i know, I know) and I was hoping I could do something - anything - to help here. I really like kids.¨´
She ushered me so quickly into the room nearby that I was certain I´d committed some kind of serious faux pas. I prepared my excuse about not having understood the no trespassing sign. But it turned out she was taking me to see the director of the preschool, who suggested I return in the morning to work with two boys who could use some extra tutoring. She explained that preschool only lasts for three hours, but that the nearby elementary school is in session all day. I washed some dishes for them before leaving, and met Jorge and Luis, my tutorees. You know you´ve been bored when washing dishes feels good.