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Letter from Zapallal: January 2014

 

Dear Friends,

I’m writing this in England with the wind howling and the rain lashing down, all very different from the hot, sunny weather I left in Zapallal. I was not in school for the official closure of the school year on 27th or the Leaver’s fiesta on 28th but I have been assured that photos have been taken so I can give news of them when I get back.

Crows w/ Santa hats

December was quite a busy month, there were the usual entrance exams for universities and institutes, one lad got second place for the three scholarships offered by TECSUP, the leading institute for technology. Our pupils then took 4th to 11th places with very few marks separating them from the scholarship winners. I know we won three of the twenty university scholarships offered by one of the leading banks but I am not up to date with other results. One of the sad aspects of these scholarships is that although fees are covered, the expenses of travelling and materials can sometimes make it impossible to take up the offer.

The former pupils ended their football and volleyball championships on 7th. I was pleased to see, as padrino of the Promocion, that 2010 won the junior section of football and then the final with the senior winners. They were also second in the volleyball, although there didn’t seem to be so many spectators as in previous years but there were several who hadn’t been back for quite a few years, so that made up for it.

We had a slightly curtailed Festival of English and for some reason the end of the year seemed more crowded than usual. The 5th year rendered “Mary’s Boy Child” more or less all right but they got everyone joining in with “Feliz Navidad”.

Food Stall

By law all schools have to have at least two Days of Achievement a year to which parents are invited to see the work of the various forms and departments, the work on show was very impressive, especially in the primary classes. The products of the bakery department went very quickly Friday, however, was not a good day for lots of the parents to attend.

One of the customs here at Christmas time is for schools and the municipality to hold chocolatadas –hot chocolate, paneton (the equivalent of our Christmas cake) and usually a toy or other gift. The municipality used our sports coliseum several times for the children in the area. One time there were 5000 chairs. They also put on a big concert of some famous ‘star’. Things were much more lavish this year. If I were a cynic, I could connect it with the fact that coming up in 2014 are the elections of the mayors throughout the country. It is customary to have Christmas greetings painted, very artistically, on walls with the name of the mayor, this year there was a reminder that so far 63 major works have been accomplished thanks to – the mayor.

Students

The school year ended with exams and the pupils broke up on 20th. Staff continued working until 27th, though they did have 24th and 25th free. On 20th pupils from our four schools in Lima gathered to prepare for NANIPO – Christmas for the poor child. Previously this was on a Saturday morning when groups were arranged and toys and food were separated to be taken to the selected poor areas. This year, Friday evening and Saturday were given over to workshops, periods of prayer and silent times, so that the participants could work together as a whole and be more aware of what they were involved in.

On Sunday morning they went out to four very poor areas where they had games with the children and then had a chocolatada and distribution of presents. All were very pleased with how things went and were grateful for the opportunity to take part.

Musicians

On 23rd all the staff had a chocolatada. I wasn’t there for that as I was at the airport but when I got to passport control I was informed there was a problem with my residency permit and so I couldn’t fly. Thanks to the work and contacts of a secretary at our school in Lima and the kindness of one of the Brothers in driving me to the travel agency I was able to get everything sorted out for a flight on 26th. The bureaucratic hiccough could have been providential as I was due to land at Gatwick on Christmas Eve and I believe they had a lot of problems there.

I hope the various disruptions caused by the weather have now eased up for those affected.

Thank you to those who have supported us through the year. It does make a difference.

May I wish you and yours all blessings for a wonderful 2014.

God bless,
Brother Mark

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