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Letter from Zapallal: October 2013


Dear Friends,

I must first of all apologise for no letter at the beginning of the month. I wrote it, selected the photos and being sure that I had sent it off, I erased it. It only dawned on me later that I hadn’t sent it. As I say to my pupils here, it’s time to return to England for my mental health!

From a weather point of view, it has been rather strange – loco was a popular word, it was impossible to know how the day would turn out, normally having started with a damp, chilly mist. The last day of the month, when we had a celebration, people turned up dressed for winter and by 11.00am the sun was out and people started complaining about the heat, I had a lovely red face – the red was lovely, not the face.

My 5th year English students presented their demonstrations. They had to explain, in English, how to make something or how something worked. Food demonstrations were popular with loads of the pupils willing to be tasters afterwards. A couple of groups demonstrated hairstyling and make up, two groups presented musical instruments but it was really only an excuse to play and sing. (I didn’t like either of the songs). We had three magicians who gave away the secrets of their art. An imaginative demonstration was to make a large model of an electronic game, complete with buttons and as the process was explained a girl ‘inside’ the game performed the required responses.

The most popular demonstration was an explanation and exhibition of basic moves in basketball. One of the participants was Terry who has been offered a sports scholarship of excellence at Universidad de San Marcos, the oldest university in Peru. So it’s quite a feather in his cap but he is modest with it and spends Saturday mornings coaching primary pupils of all abilities.

Some of the primary pupils were treated to an afternoon of story-telling. Four ‘wandering’ bards regaled them with tales of olden times. It was part of an international festival of story-telling and was a great success.

I’m not sure if it exists in the UK but on the last Saturday of September they have here the Day of Shopping. All shops drop prices or make special offers. Obviously it is to encourage people to buy. Unaware of this important day, I was in a big shopping mall and didn’t really notice any increase of shoppers but I did get 25% off a candle for the chapel, so let’s have more Days of Shopping.

Recently we had the celebrations for the Day of Youth, coinciding with the start of spring. The celebrations were based on the Houses or Families, as they prefer here. There were sort of party games, then the sorting out of a pile of words to make a message. A singing competition was very popular, each Family had to have a representative from each of the five years. They were at a distance from the microphone and when one of them recognised the opening bars of a song he or she had to run to the mike and join in the song. The ‘mob’ was merciless in showing its disapproval if words or melody were botched. A couple tended to hog the mike so a quick amendment of rules made it a more open competition.

A bit of good fun was a game of hockey played with brooms and a football. There were plenty of laughs and some broken broom sticks. A group of 5th years put on the dance that they were offering in a competition in the region – but more of that next time. There was a also general knowledge quiz.

The last, and most tiring, event was a bailetón where couples had to dance to various changes of music and hence different styles of dance. There were some good performances but it went on a bit too long and even the young bodies started to flag but Youth had had its Day.

For some weeks now, the school, every evening and all weekends, has echoed to different types of music as year groups prepare for the dance competition which will be part of the school anniversary celebrations on 20th October. There are several professional tutors involved in the teaching and there is a lot of personal pride involved. The judges will be from the National Institute of Folk Dancing so everyone is trying for perfection as the rise in shouting and frustration shows. I’ll give more details next time, which I promise to send.

As always, but always sincere, thank you for your support and interest in our folk and work here. The place would be completely different without you.

God bless you and yours.

Brother Mark

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