The room I entered was made of cement blocks and had been painted a bright minty green. The cement floors were bare and the walls had a few posters hanging crookedly, so randomly placed that I wondered what they might be hiding. Cracks in the walls? Bullet holes? Smashed spider or roach guts? I’d seen them all in other buildings we’d worked in. There was a desk for the teacher in one corner and from the door I could see a bottle of water and a roll of toilet paper in a small basket sitting on the desk. There were no book cases. The only book I saw was being held by the teacher, who was sitting at a low table which had been painted the same shade as the walls. The paint was worn in places, chipped spots showing that the table was wooden. There were six small brown chairs pulled up to the table and five of those were occupied by a ragtag assortment of brightly clothed children. “White lady, white lady, what do you see?” Six pairs of rich, chocolate brown eyes looking at me!” The teacher had been told that I was coming and she smiled as she jumped up and gave me her chair. I knew just enough Spanish to know she said “hello, you teach now” and she walked out of the room. The solemn group of children continued to stare and I smiled.
With my limited Spanish, I soon had the whole group laughing at my attempts to talk to them. We stumbled past our names and I became Biki, so christened by a three-year-old named Keila. We set about beading necklaces. During the course of the morning, we sang Jesus Loves Me in English and Spanglish. We discussed the weather, ladybugs, chickens, and snakes. We chatted about colors, numbers, and the days of the week. There was much more chattering on their part since my only contributions to the conversation were one word prompts chosen from my very small vocabulary.
Our first activity was to make necklaces. I’d never seen children work so diligently at stringing beads. Keila was concentrating so hard that I was sure she’d be done long before the others. Her focus was more than a few steps beyond normal for a child as young as she was. When I stopped by her chair to check on her progress, I saw that she only had three beads on the string and that the other twenty beads had dropped into her lap. I pulled my chair up beside her and then guided the string through the hole of each bead as she held them pinched between her thumb and forefinger. I was probably too enthusiastic as I cheered her on because each time we successfully slid a bead down the string, she yelled “si!” and clapped her hands, dropping the string and several beads in the process.