“I think teaching is maybe the only profession in which we get to say ‘Happy New Year’ twice a year,” my assistant principal told us last week at our first middle school staff meeting of the upcoming school year.
She’s so right. I’d been thinking exactly along those same lines for the past few days since coming back. My mind has been a whirl of plans and goals for the new school year. How can I make my classroom run more smoothly and more effectively? How can I start a routine to be even more active and healthy? Which places will we travel to this year? It’s a new year, and we’re starting fresh.
But at the same time, not really. It’s my second year here, and my friends and I are so excited to already know so much. There’s none of the stress of last year wondering where to buy curtains and how to get there and how to spend our weekends and who can help us get our internet turned on. We, the brave 2nd years, are the people who can answer all of those questions now.
So it’s not just me, but it’s all of my friends who are here and excited about the new year. It’s going to be a great one. For a lot of my closest friends, this is their last year in the country and we’re determined to make it great. A few weeks ago at dinner, five of us went around the table listing our goals for the year. Improving our Spanish is a big one, as is making an effort to get out of the city more often and do more traveling. We have renewed drives to stay fit and get in shape for even more races and events, and a strong desire to meet new people and broaden our social circles. It’s the support and accountability, more than anything, that assures me we’ll meet our goals.
The social dynamic here (and I think in any international school) is so different from being in the States, or from what I experience when I go home for the summer. At home, I stay with my family, and if I spend a day sitting on the couch and exchanging few words with my retired father, that’s perfectly okay. I might see one or two friends one day and another group the next day, and that’s good. In Guatemala, our families are not here. So co-workers here are friends, family, and support. There’s always something going on and someone to see. We lean on each other, help each other. My friends in Guatemala are quick to do favors, because we’ve all been there. If your car is broken down, or you haven’t purchased one yet, someone with a car will happily pick you up…because we’ve all been there. If you need to go to the doctor, there’s always someone with a great recommendation of who to see or how to make the insurance work or who you need to talk to to get things done. My friends and I make each other dinner, push each other to be fit, study together, work together, help each other. Simply put, we are, out of necessity, more invested in our friendships and making them solid here. While we’re in Guatemala, we try harder to take care of each other than all but the best of friends elsewhere might. It’s a really, really special community that I’m a part of. I’m lucky.
And I’m glad to be back and starting this New Year.