Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanks and Giving

While Coyhaique storefronts dutifully roll out their Christmas displays, the temperature reaches heights I previously thought were impossible at the end of the world. The intensity of the sun seems to radiate back up from the ground, and the plaza is full of Coyhaiquenos licking their melting ice cream cones and splashing in the central fountain. Reggaeton beats boom from a stage in the center of the plaza, while I sit on the grass leafing through a copy of The Motorcycle Diaries. Che begins, "In nine months of a man´s life he can think of a lot of things, from the loftiest meditations on philosophy to the most desperate longing for a bowl of soup..." I decide that today´s heat makes it a day for lofty meditations, as my preoccupations with firewood, hot water, and long underwear seem a distant memory. How profoundly the weather can affect a person´s mind!

And so it is that I begin Thanksgiving Day in Patagonia. The kitchen sure doesn´t smell like turkey, and there isn´t a can of pumpkin to be found in the grocery store. You could almost say that in this distant universe Thanksgiving doesn´t exist. Almost.

I may not be sitting around the dinner table with my family or gorging myself on Aunt Doris´s chocolate cool-whip pie, but the heart of the matter - giving thanks - doesn´t have to involve pilgrims or football games or even the US of A. As I carry onward through my final days at Escuela Victor Domingo Silva, my students shower me with their own version of Thanksgiving. Karen in Sixto C is the first to pass me a note written with sparkly green pen on notebook paper and folded into a tiny square. "La quiero!" is scrawled across the outside of the letter. Inside, she declares that she will miss my smile. As the week continues, I am inundated with small tokens of appreciation from my students. Evelyn offers a yarn bracelet that spells out "Miss." Yeimi writes me a note that declares she loves me like a mother. Felipe makes a card that spells out "Que la vaya bien!" in yarn lettering. Nelson and Bruno´s joint card declares that they learned a lot in English class but that they especially enjoyed singing Yellow Submarine. Every day I return home with chocolate bars and candles, all carefully wrapped in holiday paper and offered proudly by small hands.

As a final hurrah, I throw pizza and ice cream parties for the most outstanding students in English class. We crowd into my classroom one last time, listening to Guns ´N´Roses and chomping on ice cream bars in the afternoon heat. Jerson Blanco, who was consistently unable to stay in his seat for longer than 15 seconds, was invited to the party in recognition of his efforts to improve. He proudly presents his invite at the door and immediately sets to work writing a note on the whiteboard:

"To a very special person; although I was unruly in your classes, I love you very much and I was saddened to hear you are leaving. I wish you well in your life."

And so I head out into the sun, carrying empty pizza boxes, and thinking about the future. Myself, Jerson, Yeimi, Karen...I wonder what will become of us all. I can say with certainty that in years to come I will tell the story of that Thanksgiving in Patagonia. I will talk about the heat, the ice cream, and how I remember my students´ faces. But most importantly, I will say it was the year I learned that "giving" is more important than "thanks."

1 comment:

Dad said...


We love you so much ...thanks for "giving".