Tuesday, May 28, 2013

One Last Fling

It’s getting to be that time!  The seniors graduated last Friday, the 8th graders will graduate this coming Friday, and I’ve been busy at school packing up the classroom.  But outside of school, my time in PR is coming to an end too, and last weekend was one of doing things “one last time.” 

Friday night after the graduation ceremony, we girls threw Sonja a little bachelorette party.  Nothing major or crazy—just a crown and a wand, a game of Cranium, and a night out on the town.  We had a great time.  And though it was not really Sonja’s “one last fling before the ring,” as we all know she and Robert have many, many great nights out ahead of them, it was probably my last night out in Guayama, and my last time at the places we stopped at. 

The bachelorette! 

Sunday, because we had a day off on Monday for Memorial Day, Kelsey and Kezia and I traveled north to spend one last night at Da House in Old San Juan.  We spent our morning in Condado, first at Kasalta for breakfast (which got its 15 minutes of fame when President Obama visited in 2011), and then at the beach.  The sun was out in full force, but there was a breeze to keep us cool (and blow lots of sand at us).  It was a prime day for dogs at the beach, and I had lots of fun watching dogs of all shapes and sizes bond with their loving owners and interact with each other.  It was a nice change from seeing only scraggly, stray dogs at the beach begging for handouts. 

By mid-afternoon, we’d had our fill of sunshine and went to the hotel to shower and then go out for dinner.  We went to J-Taste, our favorite Japanese restaurant, and for the first time ever, Kezia and I got hibachi.  It was a great show, and delicious food.  Definitely worth it. 

Assembling the onion "volcano"

I do believe he was throwing a bit of fire at me! 

We spent the rest of our night visiting Old San Juan’s many establishments.  I was struck by the difference between this last trip and our first there.  Though we definitely do not know Old San Juan inside and out yet, we know our way around much better now than we once did.  The first time we ever went, going out consisted of us walking around, peeking through doors and trying to decide what might be worth checking out.  On Sunday, we moved with purpose.  “Nono’s has pool tables.”  “There will probably be hip hop playing at Moreno.”  “Let’s go to the Nuyorican for salsa dancing.”  Though we weren’t sure everything would be open late on a Sunday, we found ourselves dancing (salsa, merengue, hip hop, even a little reggaeton) until 4am.    After a dip in the hot tub atop Da House, we fell into bed content and exhausted. 

There’s no doubt about it.  My last weekend on mainland Puerto Rico was a success, by all accounts.  

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Bare Walls

There is something inherently sad (in my opinion) about taking posters down off the walls.  This week marked the last days of class at school.  Students took their last final exams yesterday.  There will be two graduation ceremonies, and time in our classrooms to make ready for the summer, and then we’ll be done.  And we’ll go. 

I’m sitting in my classroom, staring at empty, bare walls.  The room looks shabbier without the student work and the posters and the quotes brightening up the space.  And emptier.  It feels empty in here, and I don’t like it.  After several long weeks of students bouncing off the walls (sometimes literally) and me leaving school exhausted after the effort of keeping them on task, today, I miss them already. 

I would like, right now, to hear shouts of “Valla pupii!” (whatever that means) and “u mad bro?” and “QuĂ© ready!”  I wouldn’t even mind supervising a rambunctious play fight or two.  I already miss their laughter, their energy, their enthusiasm for life. 

There was a time when I actually liked packing.  Packing used to signify I was going on a vacation, and I liked planning what I would need and making the most of the space in my suitcase.  Packing was easy and fun when I was a little kid.  It’s not so fun now.  Now, more often than not, packing signifies ending one chapter of life and moving on to another.  It involves deciding what is important enough to accompany me and what gets left behind or tossed in the trash.  Suddenly cleaning out my desk at school seems a decidedly unsavory task. 

Part of me wants to scream, “But I don’t want to go!”  I feel, these days, like I’m mentally scrabbling at the rocky soil of a cliff with my fingernails, striving for purchase, trying to stay where I am.  But I’m simply being lifted away, not able to hold on.  It’s time for this part of my life to be over, and my time in Puerto Rico and at my school is coming to an end.  I know, in the logical part of my brain, that I will probably find beauty, and fulfillment, and joy in my next location, and that two years from now, I’ll be reluctant to leave a different school and different students.  But unfortunately, that knowledge doesn’t make it much easier for me to get through the end of this year, right now.  



Sunday, May 19, 2013

To My Students

Your last official day of English class is this week.  I hope by the time you´re reading this, we haven’t seen each other for the last time, but for some of us, maybe we have.  For a lot of you, you’ll probably see me out running once or twice more.  Or maybe you’ll be at one of the graduation ceremonies coming up, and I’ll see you there.  I hope you haven’t already made me laugh for the last time. 

Thank you all, for making my time at your school exciting, entertaining, wonderful.  All of you were the reason I looked forward to coming to work every day.  And all of you are the reason I’m so sad to be leaving.

We shared countless games of silent ball.  You earned tons of tallies, and the phrase, “Callense!  It’s TOOTSA!” was common some days.  If you were in my homeroom, you humored me by speaking to me in Spanish in the morning and deciphering what I was trying to say when I responded in Spanish.  During class, you struggled (or maybe you didn’t) to stay quiet when someone else had the talking ball (The “Ball of Souls” (or Soles?) if you were in 7A).  7B laughed at my poochie face.  A section of 8A formed the “mustache agents” and led a sneaky surprise into my room almost every day. You got used to yelling “Hey what?!” every time you heard, “Heeeeey Class!”  We had some good times.

We read Anne Frank, researched the Holocaust and countries of the world.  You wrote great bibliographies (not to mention excellent research papers).  We all became a little obsessed with The Hunger Games, and you struggled not to give too many spoilers.  (Thank you, by the way, for having enough respect to not spoil Catching Fire too much for your classmates if you’ve read ahead).  You wrote poetry, short stories, an autobiography, and a lot of paragraphs.  We used AAAWWUBBISes and FANBOYS with ease, even though people from other classes might have thought we were speaking another language when we talked about them. 

Thanks for coming in with smiles on your faces.  Thanks for making long days seem short.  Thanks for giving me all you had; I tried to give you everything I had in return.  A lot of you wrote in my yearbook that you love me and you’ll miss me and that my class was one of your favorites.  Well, the feeling is definitely mutual.   You guys mean the world to me. 


If you’re a student reading this, leave me a comment below with a memory from the year.   

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

It was “Totes” a Good Time on Culebra

Our trip to Culebra last weekend was great because of the people who were there.  I look back on my pictures from the weekend (and I took a lot of them), and although there are some that really showcase how beautiful the beaches were, most of them are of people.  People laughing, talking, making funny faces.  My friends and I having a truly good time. 

We spent Friday, Saturday, and Sunday on the little island of Culebra because we had a 3 day weekend (so why not?).  Robert and Sonja flew over with the cooler, and the other four of us took the early ferry and met them by 11:00am on Friday.  We had one hotel room that slept six and one Jeep (which seated 5, but one person sat in the back on a beach chair).  Our days consisted of a grocery stop, the afternoon on a breathtaking beach, showers and relaxing at the hotel before dinner, dinner and drinks and laughter until nightfall.  Repeat. 

But of course there were stories.  Here are some of the highlights. 

On Friday morning at about 8:20am, we took our place in line to board the 9am ferry.  (We’d purchased tickets in advance). Then, we went in shifts to go the bathroom before boarding.  Kelsey and Jenni went first, and came back maybe 20 minutes later, coffee in hand.  “You probably think the coffee is what took so long, but really there was a huuuuge line for the bathroom,” Jenni explained.  Sure enough, when Scott and I took our turn, I found a line of perhaps 10 women outside of the bathroom.  Who knows how much longer the line was inside the door.  Scott went into the men’s room, and when he came out, I hadn’t moved an inch.  But luck was on my side!  A moment later, the woman behind me in line turned to me and said, “This is ridiculous.  Can we just use the men’s?”  I shrugged and told her I would if she would.  She took the lead, poking her head into the men’s room and communicating with one of the guys in there who told us how many people were currently inside (and I think afterwards guarded the door for us as we went in and used the one functional stall).  It wasn’t the most pleasant bathroom experience I’ve ever had, but it was WAY quicker than waiting in that crazy long line! 

Then there was the making of lunch on Saturday, which was a true adventure.   The girls had decided they wanted to grill pinchos and had purchased chicken and barbeque sauce that morning.  Well…we didn’t QUITE think through all of the logistics.  Things like napkins, plates (the things to keep raw chicken a bit sanitary and out of the sand…those would be good things).  We also didn’t really consider how long it takes raw chicken to cook (as opposed to heating up hot dogs, for example).  So, we assembled the pinchos on the skewers, and Sonja got the grill started, but in the end it fell to Robert to act as grill master and make sure the chicken turned out well.  In the process, our wooden skewers caught fire and burned.  Of course we didn’t have forks, or plates, so that made the prospect of eating the pinchos an interesting one.  Thankfully we had extra skewers and used them to pick up the chicken.  I found a board/leaf from a coconut tree to use as a tray, and we delivered the chicken from the grill to our circle.  It was a bit primitive, and we felt a little like we were at a tribal meeting on Survivor, but it worked.  And in my opinion, our pinchos were as delicious as any I have ever had at a roadside stand. 

Lunch.  Tribal style.

Zoni Beach.
"But how do the turtles know to lay their eggs in that square?"

Our evenings included impromptu dance parties, jelly bean fights, and lots and lots of laughing and relaxing.  When we went to Mamacita’s restaurant on Saturday night, the bartender let Sonja plug her ipod into the stereo system, so we jammed out to her music most of the evening.  The restaurant was right on the canal, so we sat on the end dangling our feet and watching the fish swim by as we waited for our food.  (Talk about casual dining…who needs to be seated at a table until the food comes?) 
Because Culebra is so small (and I'm sure because our group includes some very outgoing, friendly people), by the end of our second night, as we left for the hotel, we actually had to make the rounds and say good-bye to what seemed like a lot of people before leaving.  It was like we were regulars and already knew all the other patrons. 

Relaxing before our food came.

Jamming out.

Weekends like this past one sometimes leave me with this inexplicable feeling.  It’s happiness…but so much euphoric glee and appreciation for my life that I don’t feel quite able to contain it.  I fully understand why “tears of happiness” are possible.  That emotion needs to go SOMEWHERE—because if I just sit there grinning, I feel like I might burst. 

Flamenco Beach