Letter from Zapallal: July 2013
I’m writing this Sunday morning, with the sun shining brightly and with warmth.
Why I mention this is because for the last week we have had some of the worst June weather I have seen in my time here. It has been chilly with a damp that goes through you, the prevailing dust and sand were turned into an unpleasant slurry. The people refer to the rain but it’s not rain as I know it, it is so very fine that you can’t see it but it quickly wets everything. I don’t know if there is any connection with the weather but recently we have had two long and pretty strong earth tremors. One of them certainly gave my room a great shaking.
None of the houses here are equipped for cold weather, there are no fires and no sort of central heating, it must be very unpleasant in some of our houses with plastic sheeting roofs, flimsy walls and ill-fitting doors, it makes it quite a long process to get washing dried. We must see what the next month brings but usually July and August are among the worst months.
My 5th years did their project of going shopping – in English. The idea was to get them speaking in a context they know, even though they will probably never go shopping in English, the end of the library was turned into boutiques, supermarkets, restaurants, a bar and shops of different kinds. Their imagination and creativity came in to full play, though their English was often suspect.
Our under 12s/13s are taking part in the Copa Endesa, a competition, the brainchild of Real Madrid, sponsored and financed by the club and a major electricity company. It is aimed at schools in poor areas and Fe y Alegría schools are much involved. I believe the winning team is treated to a trip to Madrid.
Our 4th years are involved in Junior Achievement, which is a project by the Universidad Ignacio Loyola to encourage young entrepreneurs. They have to form companies, set up a board of directors, produce a business plan, keep very exact financial records and minutes and do some customer research. Presentation of the products is a key point and in August there is the big get-together of all the schools involved, allowing them to sell their wares and the judges to make their decisions. One of our two companies this year is producing marshmallows dipped in chocolate with some decoration, they are presented on a type of skewer in a very attractive cellophane wrapper. The other is producing muffins of different kinds, again very pleasantly presented in individual plastic containers, I have tried the marshmallows and they were quite tasty. I yet have to give my opinion on the muffins, which is surprising because the older pupils know I’m a soft touch when it comes to buying things to support projects!
All our 4th and 5th years took part in the zone demonstration against drug abuse. The afternoon and evening before, the library was a hive of incredible activity as groups produced posters, banners and other visual aids, including a gigantic marijuana ‘joint’. The next day, damp and chilly, they congregated with other schools of the area for the long walk round the neighbourhood which ended at the local town square. Various notables from education, the municipality, the police and other bodies were there in force. Our music group provided a welcome interlude. There was a whole lot of criteria for the judges to judge on and in the end we came second. First place went, deservedly, to the local school. A highlight, literally, was when a large hot air balloon (4x4x4)made by one of our groups floated over the assembly. I’m not sure if the notable speaking was too pleased with the general distraction. One hopes that with all the effort and, the frequent vociferous denunciations of drugs during the march, all these youngsters will lead a healthy responsible life.Another thing that is attracting a lot of attention generally is the question of bullying. I must say that I am not aware of it as a big problem in the school but if only one child is being bullied then it is a big problem for that child and so for the school and of course, social networks now offer more subtle and damaging forms of hurting.
A first year class put on a very good school assembly on bullying and it captured the attention of all. At the moment there is quite a bit of activity as year groups prepare traditional dances for the celebration of Day of the Teacher on Friday – the actual day is 6th but more of that next time.
This cold weather is quite an ordeal for many of our poor families so thank you to those who by their financial aid allow us to give some help, even if it is only a daily hot meal.
Enjoy your summer.
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