My shells have certainly been changing these past weeks. With my other half, Izzy, shipped off to London to process her visa, my mattress has been on the move: Bombita – La Hoya – Cabarete (one night and one night only) – and Santo Domingo…
Every morning either Tiff or Nico has been dropping me off at Escuela Copa Bombita in time to observe the array of blue t-shirted chicos arriving at school – always an eventful affair. The kinder kids waddle in heading to a classroom of choice, usually with a Disney backpack stuffed full of whatever they found on the way, always without a clue about what’s going on. On one occasion I stumbled (literally) over a pack of kinders hiding behind the Artistica door… shoeless. The older kids (ages 6-12) are more efficient with their means of transport to school; mostly arrive via motoconcho. I think the most memorable moment was when two of my grade 1 class arrived in a wheelbarrow.
At 8:15am school begins.
At 8:19am (being optimistic) the kids have formed a fila and walked to the Artistica room.
At 8:27am (again being optimistic) the riots and the background noise is at just the right level for my voice to be heard if I shout, and I can start quizzing the kids on the classroom rules.
At 8:32am I am ready to begin, unless the boy who’s pencil was stolen realises and jumps onto the back of the culprit starting yet another riot.
Well, am I being too harsh on the kids? In the remaining 28 minutes of the lesson progress is actually made. The most rewarding moment of my entire teaching career (all 71 days of it) was when I asked my 3rd grade if they knew who ‘Peso-Doble’ in the ‘Cocodrilo-Enorme’ was, and they shouted back ‘Claro! El hipapotamo!’
When the Bombita day is over and I have been given enough rice and beans to feed the entire school for my lunch (apparently I need to fatten up), I would make my way back to La Hoya to help Eve and Alice with their lessons. At the start of each of their classes I needed to introduce myself…
“hola, me llamo Sacha, vivo en Escocia”
…to which the normal response is: “ah… si! Americana”
In my most recent English class Alice had the kids all colouring in the flags of English speaking countries. I was strolling around the room telling the kids ‘bonita’, ‘muy bien’, ‘perfecto’ as all teachers do, when I saw that one of the chicas clearly had no clue what she was doing. So, in my best attempt at speaking Spanish I told her that each of the flags represented countries, that all these countries spoke English, and that she had to colour the flags like the example on the board. To which she replied, ‘no, you’re wrong, there is only one flag in the world – Dominican’.
The contrasts in this country never fail to impress. Bombita village hidden amongst sugar cane fields, where we hope to have electricity for more than 5 hours a day, and a decent nights sleep without the earless Donkey crying at 4am. La Hoya village, slightly better-off than Bombita but with their school under reconstruction so lessons all being held in churches and outside. Then there is the busy, sweltering hot Barahona. Every time we drive through the city I have to sit in the back of the truck, while we swerve through the traffic and honking horns, and say silently to the God of death ‘not today’. Between Barahona and Santo Domingo there are miles and miles of rolling mountains, covered in thick layers of rainforest-green plants and palms. Now here I am, with yet a different shell, in Santo Domingo for the weekend sipping at my Lady Grey tea in a rustic Parisian cafe in a completely different world.