My seventh and eighth graders are thrilled by the arrival of letters and pictures from students at Bourne Middle School. (Thanks Mom!) They crowd around the pictures examining them and finding the student whose letter they received. "They are allowed to wear any color to school?" Macarena asks incredulously. The boys are impressed by the American girls, singling out the ones they like and writing their names on their hands and notebooks. Oscar, who never writes so much as a word in English class, asks me how to write "You are very pretty." He tears out several pages of his notebook and asks to borrow my whiteout before his letter is acceptable for sending. Elvis, who has written "Tess" on his hand, carefully cuts the notebook spirals off of his letter before handing it in. Even George, who always greets me with an enthusiastic "HEL-LOOOO!" but rarely opens his textbook, stays ten minutes into recess to finish his letter.
The girls are equally excited about the boys, crowding in circles around the photographs. Every few minutes a high-pitched "woooooo!" erupts from the group. I catch Beatriz, the class president, snapping a photo of the photo with her cell phone.
While I watch Oscar fussing over his love letter, it dawns on me that I matter to these little people. I still remember Pasha, my Russian pen-pal from sixth grade whose bedroom had an area of 10 square feet. I wonder what these kids will remember when I leave. I have begun the unpleasant task of informing them that next week is my last week of classes, and I don´t know whether to be sad or pleased by the grief-stricken looks they give me. Although I try to explain that I am with a special program, I can´t help but feel they think I am willingly abandoning them.
So as November ticks by at a shockingly fast pace, I try to slow down and appreciate things: Yeimi´s spontaneous hugs in the hallway, George´s "HEL-LOOOO!", Oscar´s daily declarations of love, Jerson´s inability to stay still, Karen´s pigtails, Valentin´s smile... these kids, the future of Patagonia, my students... three hundred wild and crazy youngsters. They have given me as much as I have given them, if not more. Soon it will be summer and I will be just another gringo wandering Patagonia with oversized hiking boots and a wool hat. But for a few precious days, I am still Miss Sarah. I guess nothing lasts forever, even cold November rain.