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Letter from Zapallal: June 2014


May started off dull and chilly and this was not helped by a general power-cut at 5.40 in the morning.

Mother’s Day here is the second Sunday of May (11th) so on 8th an army of municipal workers invaded the school, erecting a big stage, positioning hundreds of chairs, doing a big clean-up job outside the school, lining up hundreds of presents. All this was to treat the mums of the area. It was a bit more ‘spectacular’ than previous years but that could because we are in the season of elections. As always, the present mayor was mentioned several times.

The next day we had our celebrations. As it was the week of the quarterly exams, celebrations were held in the afternoon but prior to that there was a lunch for all the school personnel. This year there were no presents for the mums – no funds. The afternoon activities followed their usual course – songs, dances, poems, tributes. The 5th year boys escorted the mums to their places. Each class made up a big hamper and there was a draw for those. Again the 5th year boys were needed to carry them for the winners. It was a pleasant afternoon but quite chilly.

In complete contrast, the following week started with hot, sunny weather, perhaps fitting as it coincided with the beginning of our Lasallian Week – named after the Founder of the Brothers, St John Baptist De la Salle, patron of all educators. During the week there were competitions to produce the best posters, murals and songs on a Lasallian theme. The standard was pretty high but it was obvious from the repetition of certain designs that internet had been heavily used. I was asked to judge the 5th year songs. These could be original compositions or established songs with new words. A duet of girl and boy with guitar was very attractive. I also heard a 4th year class doing a type of rap song – small group of rappers with the whole class joining in. Although not my kind of music, it was very well done.

Thursday, 15th, was the official feast day of the Founder so in the morning the secondary pupils had a special service, completely organised by the pupils. There were hymns, prayers, reflections, a time to think of people we might have hurt, a hug of friendship. It really was a very prayerful and quite moving ceremony which the pupils appreciated, judging by their participation. A group of pupils had produced, with coloured earth and wood shavings, a large image of the Founder on the surface of the sports area. The Promoción were very pleased to have their photo taken around it. In the afternoon, the primary pupils had a procession with a statue of the Founder. Each form had produced a reflection and prayer and the forms took turns in carrying the statues. The little girls were particularly keen to do this. Again, the participation and behaviour of the pupils were excellent.

The various posters and murals – really 6’x 3’ panels – were displayed around the school and a right colourful display they made. I haven’t heard who won the singing competition but look forward to hearing it.

The past week saw the parents coming in, year by year, at lunchtime to receive the report forms of their children. I have had some pained looks from some of the pupils. One lad asked me why he had a low mark for English and when I asked him how many homeworks he’d missed his answer was, “Ah!” As I’ve mentioned before, these quarterly marks will be totalled up for the final mark at the end of the year and this will be the mark that goes on their official certificate. It takes some pupils till the final quarter to take this in.

Some of the readers are probably sponsors of pupils here. I must apologise for delays in children getting back to you, especially for parcels and letters at Christmas time. Lots of post came in after we had broken up. Not the fault of the senders as the postmarks showed but post is a bit erratic here. There is also an administrative hold-up. Every piece of post is officially stamped and noted at the central sorting office. Then it is delivered to the local post offices where again it is stamped and written up in a ledger. (This next point has got nothing to do with the recent delay but it gives an idea of the process. When I go to collect I have to sign my name, give the number of my residency document and the time of collection for every piece of mail I collect.) Your letters or cards have to be translated and this is the work of Leila, my assistant. This year she was called upon to work almost full time in the school office. When finally freed, she discovered that the library computer no longer worked. That after quite a while was remedied with a ‘new’ computer. Then to crown it all, the lease on the local post office was terminated and while they were setting up a new site no business could be done for several weeks. They are now back in business so I can start sending back pupils’ letters. Again, sorry.

I am writing this to the thump of many basketballs being bounced as teams are in training for the Lasallian Games that will take place in October with all our schools in Peru competing. Besides football, volleyball and basketball there are also competitions in art, song, oratory and possibly chess. They are usually called friendship games and live up to their name except when our school in Lima play their great rivals in Arequipa at basketball.

On a much humbler level, this coming week will see the start of our Olympiad when the various forms will compete with each other in the principal sports. With the World Cup upon us, each form has been designated a country and I suppose they will be dressing up in that country’s colours. More of that next time.

My apology above makes me realise how much we owe to the people who support us. It does make a big difference to the lives of our pupils. So thank you all very much. With more sponsors we could do so much more.

God bless.
Brother Mark

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