Thursday, October 14, 2010

snapshots September/October

Here are just a few quick snapshots of what’s been going on over the last month or so…

I spent a few days teaching one of the classes at my dance academy as the “guest united states folkloric dance instructor.” In other words…I choreographed and taught some swing (primarily east coast and charlston, as Sing Sing is too fast for lindy) that Luis worked in to one of their dances. It was such a blast! He students had honestly never seen anything like it and it was amazing to realize how much our culture influences the way we move and keep rhythm and interpret music. They really went for it though and they look great. Students from other classes crowded around the door trying to see what was going on and I had a lot of fun sharing a little piece of my culture with them.

Three of the girls, a young teenager and another pair of elementary age sisters learned this week that their fathers had passed away, one a year ago and the other three years ago. Although they obviously haven’t been in contact with their fathers for quite some time, it’s still devastating to lose the only family member you have left. It’s particularly infuriating for me that no one took the time to inform the hogar so these girls could learn why it had been so long since hearing from their dads. It will now be possible for a family to adopt the young sisters and we’re praying someone comes along and invites them in to their family.
I have discovered an incredibly effective reward for the girls I work with. If they work well all week, on Saturday afternoon they get to make play dough. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it earlier when we started doing Saturday rewards. I’ll post a few pictures soon of some of our reward days, making play dough, playing soccer in the park, hiking to the church in the next town over. The girls are always so excited and proud of themselves for earning their reward that week.

Yesterday I was working with one of my first graders, who started out the year throwing hour long tantrums until she fell asleep on the floor if she so much as saw you coming near her with a book or a pencil in your hand. Yesterday she was working calmly, grinning as she finished reading each sentence in her work book. After we read together we practiced spelling by having her draw a picture of a little girl, then picking parts of her face and body to label. She finished each one on her own, clapping her hands to separate the syllables and spelling each sound out one by one. When she finished the last word on the board and I told her she had spelt that one correctly too, she grabbed my hand, started jumping up and down, and shouted, “Amber! Amber! I did it! Do you see? I know how to spell, I can spell!” I was so overwhelmed by how happy and proud she was, and by how far she had come in so many ways over this school year. In that moment it felt so clear to me why I’m here in Bolivia, both for them and for myself.

The president, in a moment of vengeful anger, kneed another Bolivian politician in the groin during a “friendly” soccer game. Youtube it, it’s brutal. I have so very much to say about Bolivian politics, but will save it for today.
I am still amused by how casually people talk about weight, appearance, and race. Two examples:
At dance yesterday, we started working on an African-inspired piece. My teacher just kept yelling “blacker! Blacker! Come on, you need to be blacker than Michael Jackson!”

Yesterday the sisters were talking about checking their pulse. A few couldn’t find there’s on their wrist, so I was showing one of the aspirants how to check her pulse on her neck. “I still can’t find it!” she was complaining, when one of the older sisters said, in an even and almost distracted voice, “Oh Nilda, you’re very fat.” causing everyone in the room, including Nilda, to laugh hysterically.

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