I want to start this post by explaining the title, “Me Llamo Patricia.” In Spanish, this means “My name is Patricia,” and that is actually my name here! When I first arrived at the school, people had trouble pronouncing my name. In the Spanish language, the “h” is silent and the double-L makes a “y” sound, so I understand the confusion. While talking to the principal, Luz del Alba, I told her that she can call me by my middle name, Patricia, assuming it would be easier to pronounce. I didn’t think she would really call me Patricia, but somehow it stuck. The students call me “Profe Patricia” (pro-fay pa-tree-see-ya). In Spanish, “profesora” or “maestra” means teacher – although I’m not a teacher, I will admit that I felt pretty cool when the students started calling me that.
I have just completed my first month at my internship, and I cannot believe how the time is flying by. I have been working at Centro Santo Niño Jesus, the school in Lechería, and I also recently began teaching English to adolescents in the community through the Alerta Joven program. At the school, I work with students who have social, emotional, and/or academic difficulties. The majority of the students I work with are eight years old. However, these children have had to grow up much faster than a “typical” eight-year-old. Some of the issues they are frequently faced with include child abuse, hunger, and witnessing domestic violence. Their behaviors can be very challenging to manage at times, but the students’ level of strength and resiliency never fails to amaze me. This week, we have been working on emotion recognition and constructive ways to deal with emotions. I wanted to do this in a way that would be fun for the students, so I created “El Juego de Emociones.” It involves a spinner that has several different emotions (excited, angry, happy, confused, etc.) and when the spinner lands on one of the emotions, the student tells me a time they experienced the emotion, how they dealt with it, and how they can respond to these emotions in a positive way. Each time they take a turn, they earn one point, and when they earn five points, they receive una potalita (sticker). I didn’t expect this to be an exciting reward, but they love potalitas! Many of my students try to bargain with me to get two stickers for one point – they can be quite convincing.
Now that you have an idea of my role at the school, I will give you a little background about my life at home. I live in a town called Los Alcarrizos, which is about a 10-minute drive in a carro público from the school in Lechería. A carro público is somewhat like a taxi, but it picks up multiple people along the way. The taxi driver tries to pick up as many people as possible, so you end up being packed in like sardines within about five minutes. One day, I took a carro público from the school to my house in Los Alcarrizos with nine other people (not including the driver) in a car that is made to fit four passengers comfortably. I was sitting on another intern’s lap, elbow-to-elbow with a few teachers, and I was practically laying on top of the principal! This was just one of the many times during the day that I think to myself, “Well, this is new.”
In Los Alcarrizos, I live with two other interns. Kayla, 25, is also from Buffalo, and Ana Maria, 21, is from Columbia. I also live with five Catholic nuns! Mary Alice is from the U.S., Kathleen is from London, and Fatima, Ann, and Loretto are from Nigeria. The nuns range in age from mid-30s to 80s. People usually ask me, “What do the nuns wear around the house?” I will admit that I had the same question in mind before I arrived, as I imagined they would be wearing a habit at all times. It turns out that they wear T-shirts and pants or dresses like everyone else, even when they are out in the community. While I never would have predicted that I would be living with nuns, it has been a wonderful experience thus far.
I will be spending the upcoming weekend in Samaná with Kayla, Ana Maria, and Luz, the school principal. Samaná is about a three-hour drive in a guagua, a bus, from Los Alcarrizos, and it is known for having some of the most beautiful beaches in the country. After the eventful month I have had, I’m looking forward to a relaxing weekend. I’m sure I will have pictures to share with you all on my next blog post! ¡Hasta luego!