Better Late Than Never… A Word To My Chilca Kiddos/ The Big One-Nine

To the dear kids from the Chilcatotora elementary school:

I’m going to try to put into words the warm fuzzy feeling I get whenever I think of y’all, which is at it’s simplest a deep gratitude and fondness.

I’ve never been in a classroom like yours before; twenty kids, spanning seven grades, with one teacher, most of you siblings or cousins, all of you neighbors.

My fifteen minutes/two hours at your school is almost always the high part of my week. Your energy, excitement when we see each other, and overall enthusiasm is infectious.

I’m sorry if I haven’t taught you as much English as I could have, or as well as it could be taught. I’m probably getting more out of this than you all; every time I leave your classroom I’m smiling and buzzing with energy.

That said, I imagine it’s exhausting to be around you hooligans all the time/actually be responsible for you. For this I have so much respect for your teacher. And also for commuting all the way from the city for over twenty years to teach at this school. For somehow teaching seven grades in one classroom. For giving me rides down the hill. For being one of the first people outside of my host family to welcome me and try talking to me in my first month.

And of course thank you for throwing me a birthday party. I was pretty down during the holidays, and I was worried my birthday would make me just as sad to not being celebrating with my family. But how could I have wanted to be anywhere else? The banana bread with candles in it as a birthday cake, the junk food pampamesa, the elaborate glittery card, the hugs; it was by far the strangest birthday I’ve had, and also one of my favorites.

Anyway, I guess all of this is a roundabout way of responding to those of you who told me that the little bracelets, beaded necklaces, and keychains you gave me are “recuerdos” so that I won’t forget you all. You have nothing to worry about; that’s just not possible.

I did do a little reflecting on my birthday. Another year. Everything that’s happened, the ways I’ve changed and grown and learned. But mostly I just felt grateful to have the community that I do, all the people who share their love and lives with me. And I’ll tell you a secret: when I blew out my candles I wished to keep finding loving and welcoming communities wherever I go. I think as long as my luck on that front continues everything else will be alright.