Making the Grade

Lily Ellenberg - Ecuador

March 27, 2012

My one week site visit to San Ramon De Kuyaloma got off to a slow start. The first day I sat in the office, chatted in broken Spanish to the director of the school, Fredy, and ate lunch at 10:45 am. Day two seemed it would be more of the same…until, Fredy led me to a classroom, introduced me, and left with no other instruction than, “teach.” The fifth grade teacher smiled broadly at me and sat down in her chair.


I’m drowning in faces, names, and laughter at jokes I don’t catch, in a language I don’t yet understand. I try and take deep breaths, stay calm, but the current is too strong. Water fills me nose and lungs, obscuring my calls for help. Some days I manage to peek my nose above the surface and take a breath, but just as quickly, the water crashes over me and once more I’m thrown into the frothing rapids. My knees bump against the rocks, my hands move frantically searching for something to hold on to.

Then, suddenly, the water warms and calms. From above hands plunge down and grab me. The faces and voices become clear as I’m pulled upward towards the rippling surface. My face breaks through, water drips down the bridge of my nose and into my eyes, but with a few blinks my vision clears and there on riverbank stand my students. I recognize each face. Know each personality.

Some days are hard and I still don’t understand all the jokes, but I’ve learned, if you sit back and go with the flow…things will turn out in the end.

Lily Ellenberg