Letter from Zapallal - October 2012
This month has been marked by strikes by teachers and doctors. I’m not sure what the situation is of the latter group, though I did see one result. Leila, who helps me in the library, has to take her young son regularly to hospital. So the doctor gave her a discount on the cost of the many consultations. She was phoned up by the accountants to say that as the strike was affecting the income she would have to pay back the discounts! The teachers’ strike is called indefinite but it seems to be patchy as some of our teachers are away for a couple of days and then it’s back to normal. Secondary classes here have been hardly affected but the primary teachers have been solid in their support for the strike. I’m not sure if the various parties involved in the dispute are even talking.
I mentioned the last time the various maths exams. We held our second one and we had twelve candidates for the national finals but somewhere down the way the rules were changed resulting in none of our pupils advancing to the finals. No one is quite sure what actually happened. Hints of jiggery-pokery?
On the 8th I had the happiness of seeing one of my former pupils make her first profession as a Lasallian Sister. It was a joyful occasion for family, community and friends. Another Sister, very involved in the ceremony, is also a former pupil.
The happiness of this day highlighted the sadness of another ceremony. The coffin of one of our 2nd year primary pupils was brought to the school on the way to the cemetery. We had a very simple service and the family was very grateful. It must be incredibly heart-breaking to lose a child, especially when she is the only child. It is the custom here to hold the funeral the day after the death but the family could not do this. Alejandrina had had leukaemia and the treatment had completely impoverished the family so they could not afford a coffin or a burial plot. A collection was held in the school, various loans taken out and so the funeral could take place. But this was not the end of the grief for the parents. Their financial situation permitted only the purchase of the plot. In the cemetery there is an area for literally do-it-yourself burials and so family and friends dug the grave and completed all the other parts of the burial. It was all particularly sad for me as the mother and her two brothers and two sisters are my former pupils. Prayers would be appreciated for the family.
On 27th we celebrated the Day of Youth, coinciding with the beginning of spring here. There was a lot of enthusiasm and competitiveness as all the games and activities were based on Houses. There were several almost parlour games writ big, prepared dances, impromptu groups for dancing, unscrambling letters to produced required words. The last activity was a bailetón. Each House had to produce three couples, spread across the age ranges. Then a whole selection of music was played and they had to dance accordingly. Eliminations took place until there was only one couple from each House. Then another selection of music and the final winners were a 3rd year girl and 4th year boy. They deserved it by their energy and originality. The whole thing was a gruelling test of stamina as it took about half an hour. The finalists just flopped to the ground when it finished. On Saturdays the sporting competitions take place, all producing points for the ultimate House champions.
October is a special month here as it is dedicated to Señor de los Milagros, Our Lord of Miracles. The simple faith and devotion of the people are very impressive. I hope that there will be many miracles in all our lives.
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