Another long blogging break from the Shermanos! So sorry! You’re probably thinking “If you aren’t updating your loyal followers every week, what in the world are you doing??” Well, life just continues on as normal when you’re relatively stationary. I’m not sure you’d be so interested in my grocery shopping, puzzle configuring and endless Pilates, although there are always adventures in just about any outing.
The ShermaNiñas are having some good fun at school, however. So they’ve given me permission to tell a few of their stories. Here’s some stuff going down in Catholic school in Medellin.
Remember the Once Girls (Spanish for 11… OWN-SAY… which is their Senior year here) and their jackets? Turns out they have TWO jackets! One is a buso, which is the Spanish word for “hoodie” and the other one is a pretty black one called a chaqueta, which is worn on those days when they have extra Mass and have to wear their long-sleeved fancy blouses or when it’s the falda (skirt) uniform day. Now that I am aware of the chaqueta thing, I notice other girls around town wearing their school’s version of it. And I nod knowingly, feeling very integrated. The next best thing would be to have one of my very own but sometimes a dream is just a dream. Or it’s a plan, which your teen daughter will be forced to carry out when the actual ordering time comes along. Same same. How do you say “I need to order a chaqueta for my crazy mother, please” in Spanish?
Haley’s camera roll is flooded with pictures of chaquetas, from the endless WhatsApp conversations happening among her classmates, trying to decide on the design of their chaquetas. In addition, Haley noticed that all the designs include a “49” somewhere on the coat. Further investigation reveals that Haley’s class will be the 49th graduating class from her school. Got it. At one point the vote was for their chaqueta to say “You can’t rush something you want to last forever” – in English! Haley tried explaining that this phrase really didn’t mean anything, and it was way too long for a chaqueta. It fell on deaf ears at the time but after awhile her classmates moved on to a different design. Here is the current favorite.
Dancing. So much dancing.
I think twerking is the official dance of Colombia. There’s a LOT of twerking going on, including use of the wall as a foot platform and serious girl-on-girl grinding (for lack of a better term) in between classes. I’m not exactly sure I want Haley and Zoe learning this dance, although I did tell them that if they learned to dance in the Latin way, you never know when it might come in handy at a future office party. Dan gave me the big thumbs down on that suggestion.
Zumba lessons were going on in the gym the other day at lunch. The Colombian version of the PTA seemed to feel this would be a good use of time and a way to channel the girls’ dancing interests. Dan approves of Zumba. There is a lot less hip thrusting in Zumba.
Music is universal! After only a few weeks at school, Zoe begged to get an advance on her allowance to buy a portable speaker. At breaks (and sometimes in class) the kids all like to listen to music. Some of the other girls have speakers, but Zoe’s phone has the largest selection of music thanks to Spotify and a data plan for her cellular network. Zoe is now the permanent DJ for class. Good thing she knows all the 80’s music from all of our road trips. But too bad none of the rap music is rated PG. Spanish speakers seem to enjoy cursing in English. It doesn’t mean the same to them and they like the shocked looks from Haley and Zoe.
I went to school for a meeting and had a list of questions about excused absences, vacation schedules, etc. Turns out there’s an entire online portal with communication mechanisms designed for parents to get all the updates. Who knew??? I didn’t, that’s who. I logged on and had 24 unread messages! I dug into the messages and only had to use Google Translate a few times. Some things don’t change, even in another country: cell phones are not allowed in class, don’t forget to wear the long sleeve blouse on Friday for special Mass, check your kids for lice, and the parking lot traffic pattern for drop offs and pick ups has changed so heed the signs. It’s like we never left the USA! Oh, but everything is in Spanish, so there’s that. And that Mass thing? Notsomuch in ‘Merica.
Also similar to the USA, the school recently held parent-teacher conferences. We got our time slot and showed up. Just like in the USA, some of the girls’ work was showcased and we were able to see it and their classrooms. We met with their homeroom teachers, who both had great things to say about the girls. We discussed how they could be involved a little more in class but still not expected to do all the work. We also decided to switch to their own homeschool math books during math time, with some extra help from the math teacher if needed. The next day after school Haley told us that her math teacher likes to watch her do her algebra, much to Haley’s dismay.
The school is having elections for the persona of the school. They have had an assembly for nominations, then speeches and finally voting. Haley voted for the girl who promised toilet paper and feminine hygiene products in the bathroom. You’d think this would be a winning platform for an almost-all-girls school. Zoe likes the girl whose campaign logo is a unicorn doing the dab. Turns out Ana won, the girl whose campaign slogan was “everything for love, nothing for obligation”. Haley was unimpressed. However, Ana is not one for empty campaign promises. On the recent Dia de Los Niños (Day of the Children) Ana implemented a skating party for the younger students. She’s got her strong support among the younger demographic, that’s for sure. I’m assuming participation was not obligatory because it’s all for love, right Ana?
Despite being “audientes” – listeners – Zoe is still bringing home notes for me to sign saying that she did not complete her homework. She does try to do homework on most days. They have a schedule for which subjects have homework on which days and it tends to be a very small amount of work. In general, Haley is not doing homework although she proudly showed off her work in biology the other day, which she was able to do thanks to her marine biology class she took online last year. Gracias, Mary!
Just like in Panama, substitutes are not a thing here. When the teacher is absent, the class is left to just hang out. Or, once in awhile, they get a “babysitter” from the 10th or 11th grades. Zoe is always excited when Haley’s friend Manuela babysits the 6th graders.
The classes share a pet fish. He’s a purple beta fish named Goldie. It’s complicated. Right now he’s housed down in the preschool wing, along with a few other animals that manage to escape death at the hands of 5-year olds, somehow, someway.
I think both girls enjoy English class the most, as they finally get to show their classmates that they know something. And it comes easily to them.
So Many Dias
It seems like every week is a “dia de…”. There was day of the woman, day of the man, day of the child, day of the mother and day of the teacher. These days always bring all the academics to a full and complete stop and are accompanied by presentations, assemblies, games and shenanigans of all sorts. This is an almost-all-girls school. The boys have been slowly integrated and right now only go up to 4th grade. There are about 20 of them in the entire school, along with about 10 staff members who are men. So day of the man did not have the same pomp and circumstance that day of the woman did.
There was also a Dia de Idioma – day of language. This was a combination of school-wide talent show and open mic day. Zoe channeled her inner Demi Lovato and performed a song with some of her friends. Haley channeled her inner (and often hidden) supportive sister and clapped for her. It was during this time that the staff decided that morning prayers should be read in Spanish and English. Zoe assisted with that process and Haley was also offered a role but she declined then was later guilted into it by her entire class and English teacher. I guess “no” does not mean “no” when it comes to prayers.
My sister Margaret was here when we were invited to celebrate Dia de la Madre – Day of the Mother. And Haley and Zoe are even more lucky to have not one, not two but THREE madre-types. So they invited Jamie, Margaret and me to come to the special Eucharist celebration at school. It ended up being a relatively long Mass, and an excellent Colombian people-watching opportunity. The Colombians were quite intrigued by the Gringa Trio as well. We enjoyed the parts that we understood of the Mass and we were encouraged to sign a pledge promising not to hurt our children. Kind of hard to say no to that one.
I’ve decided that I am a huge fan of uniforms. It makes the morning so much smoother, with much less drama and angst. We have to keep up with the laundry to make sure they have their pieces ready, however. The schedule recently changed so Haley and Zoe both have PE twice a week on the same days, which makes them fully twinsies all week. This makes my job easier, along with the purchase of an extra set of PE clothes.
Every once in awhile the school will allow ropa de calle (street clothes) for all or part of the uniform. On this day a lot of thought goes into what one wears. Haley reports that there’s a lot of judging happening and she doesn’t think it’s good for the atmosphere or psyche of the girls.
Food is a big part of school. The girls take snacks but buy a lunch there, too. Zoe’s almost-daily lunch is a sanduche cuadrada, which is basically a sandwich, or she buys pizza when the sandwhich has sold out. Haley usually buys salchipapas, which are french fries with pieces of hot dog mixed in. It’s very Colombian to share the food you have or that you brought. One day Haley was eating banana bread and offered a piece to a friend, who politely declined and seemed to think it was a very strange combination. Someone finally tried it and declared it amazing. Haley is now selling banana muffins to her classmates and the cafeteria director. We were a little amazed that this was permitted, but turns out Haley’s favorite Nutella-filled wafers that she buys regularly are made by one of the 8th graders. This prompted a lesson on economics from Dan that went on way too long for Haley.
And Then The Vacations
What’s school without a vacation?? We had a week off in March, which turned into 11 days with weekends on either side, and at least one holiday a week since then. Right now we are on a 5-day break thanks to 1 day of hooky, a weekend and two holidays. June will be filled with 3 full weeks off. Even with all the breaks, the 8-hour days in full-time Spanish can be very tiring, so we keep the weekends light and free. Although both girls are doing homeschool outside of Catholic school, it’s minimal. As you can expect, their Spanish is very very good and they are pleased with the friendships and routine that school brings.