Letter from Zapallal: November 2011
The big event of the month was obviously the 20th anniversary. There had been plenty of preparations including painting large areas of the school exterior. Hosts of parents cleaned and tidied up the school and all was ready on 16th for the first part of the celebrations, the Festival of Dances. There were four categories by age groups with interludes. The judges were from the National School of Folk Dancing which has the status of a university. The first part was the pasacalle, the procession of all the dancers through the local streets. Then all returned to the coliseo which was bedecked with the banners of all the promociones and a huge one dominating the stage area.
All the Years performed a whole variety of dances and the standard was very high. The winners of the first category were Inicial, the youngest pupils. This wasn’t a sympathy vote as they danced very well and deserved their win. In the second category 4th year primary won. 2nd year secondary won the next category and 4th year won the last category. I didn’t agree with this last decision as I thought 5th year were better but apparently their dance was not from the part of the country covered by the category and so the judges gave the decision to 4th year. They had previously disqualified a year group for not having the correct number of dancers. So if you bring in experts you have to be prepared for expert judgments. The interludes were the marinera and a dance by mothers of the school. The marinera is a very elegant dance and was performed by a former pupil (and a former national champion) and partner.
The Festival was brought to an end with a dance by the administrative staff. There was a musical interlude performed by the school music group and then la verbena started. This is the party after the main event. Loads of former pupils were there and there was dancing to a band. The former pupils also performed two beautiful folk dances. There was a firework display. Officially the celebrations were meant to go on until the early hours of the morning but, quite rare for here, it faded out just after midnight. But a good time was had by all.
Monday was a free day. Tuesday was what is called here the central day. It started with a very prayerful mass, the celebrant being the general coordinator of Fe y Alegría in Peru. Then there were some dances, followed by presentations. The highlight was the presence of Brother Paul who had founded the school in 1991. Other founding members received presentations and then representatives of the Region and District made presentations to the school. Afterwards there were loads of photos. Then there was lunch for the invited guests and staff. Everyone seemed very pleased with how the morning had gone.
I slipped up as I forgot to replace the memory card in the camera after downloading the photos for the mass and presentations. My misfortune was compounded by discovering that during the mass, persons unknown had got into the volunteers’ area where I live and had stolen the gas cylinder from the kitchen by making a hole in the wall – a type of hardboard. In keeping with the adage of bad luck striking three times, I found on going to the local town to develop the photos that I had taken the wrong USB, so I had to make another journey. I think it’s time to retire.
A few days later there was a big exhibition of the work in the technical areas of the schools of the region. Our exhibits were praised but the big surprise was the winners for the cooking/pastry workshops. It was a bit of tomato, with some potato and a type of cream. Even I could have made it, so that puts it very low in the culinary stakes and its presentation was messy. Our pupils were a bit disappointed as they had produced some lovely muffins and pasties, beautifully packed and presented. It was hard to know what criteria the judges had used. The pupils in this particular workshop produce some really high quality work in difficult conditions. The room is small for the numbers and they lack quite a bit of equipment, especially mixers. They have only a small hand-held one which is not sufficiently powerful for the work and so it is very slow. The result is that although their workshop is meant to finish at 6.30 it often goes on to past eight o’clock, making it a long day from 7.45 in the morning. But they keep cheerful, being used to adversity.
Part of our school assemblies are now either embarrassing or amusing, according to your point of view. For me ridiculous is a better description. The Region of Callao has decreed that at assemblies, after the raising of the national flag and the singing of the national anthem, the anthem of Callao must be sung. It is an awful piece of music in itself and very difficult to sing. The only part the pupils seem to manage is “El Callao, el Callao” sung in a lugubrious monotone. Expressions range from cheerful delight to utter boredom.
The former pupils’ sporting competitions are going well with lots of surprising results, so there is no clear indication of a champion. The school football team won the regional championship.
We are now seeing a lot of sun with very warm afternoons, so spirits are higher. The 5th years are now very much aware that they have not much longer at school. Several will apply for scholarships for universities or higher institutes and if our usual record keeps up, we should get quite a few successful candidates but then they have the big problem of finding the money for fees, fares and materials so there is quite a drop-out. Others will be pinning their hopes on finding work either to help the family or to fund further education. They are a brave set of young people.
Today, 28th, is the big Lima feast of Señor de los Milagros, Our Lord of Miracles. There will be a massive procession in the centre of Lima, with thousands taking part. So I pray that there will be many miracles in all our lives.
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