That first Qtip after coming back from a long week away, am I right? My leg kicked like a dog getting a belly rub.
I’m back from the four-day conference in Lima. My American curriculum international Christian school in Brazil belongs to an organization that supports South American international schools.
It was a looooong travel day to get there, full of adventure.When I checked in, the guy at the airline desk said “You’re the right ho.” “WHAT?!” I asked. Then I realized that he meant the right row, because the “r” is an “h” here in Rio. I walked laps in the airport and debated which food option would give me the least airborne stomach trouble. Settled on Arabian. Sorry, row 45.
There were delays. Long layovers. Lots of wondering if I’d made the right decision to go. At one point I was sitting on the floor of the Sao Paulo airport negotiating with a dying phone that refused to connect to wifi, drinking wine out of a plastic cup, lip syncing to Gloria Estefan from my ipod. I spent most of the plane time in turbulence over the Andes, which meant I was crying and bargaining with God until arrival in Lima around midnight on Tues/Wed.
Manuel, my cabbie, was pretty much proposing marriage about halfway through our ride, taking me the roundabout way to see the (romantico!) coast, and getting so forward I got a little creeped out. The problem is that when I’m tired, and feeling the need to practice my Spanish after two years in Brazil, I think I got a little too friendly. All of a sudden he’s calling me bonita, underestimating my age, cursing the Brazilian men who have found me lacking, and describing all the great qualities of Peruvians, particularly himself.
Luckily, we ended up at my hotel, I starfished on the bed, grateful to be on one big enough that all my limbs can be out so and not hit a wall, cracked open a Cusqueña and set the alarm for early.
We boarded buses at 6:50am each day to get to the HUGE school (former American embassy school). I felt awkward and lonely the first day – everyone else had a few people from their school. I think the ice was broken when the radio station started playing an hour of American music. At one point we were all bopping along to “this is the SOOOOOUNNNDDDD of my SOUL” and then “RosAANNa RosAAANNA.” We manuevered through the crazy stop-start traffic of Lima streets, with the vendors on the road selling anything from Inka soda to selfie sticks to a full on laminated poster of the periodic table of elements to the morning commuters.
Despite all my hopes and dreams, there were no cute guys in my all-day session Wednesday, and I lamented the lack of an appreciative audience for the outfit I’d chosen, wishing I’d hit the snooze button one more time. But the workshops overall were . . . well, I felt challenged, motivated, inspired. I felt inadequate, I despaired, I wanted to quit teaching. I was literally googling “tour guide in Guatemala” during a session break, just to see.
I made the mistake of choosing a stool instead of a chair with a back, and felt old. I had to eat lunch alone and it was embarrassing. It was funny, too, because as teachers, we’re always making our kids get up and do activities with partners and groups. But when we were the students and a presenter wanted those things of us, there was a collective sigh and groan. But once we got down to task, there was learning and fun. At one point I was performing slam poetry about a ladder and felt ridiculous, but my peers loved it.
It was so cool to see keynote speakers and be like “I’ve read your work, now I have roundtable discussions with you and shake your hand,” to sit with teachers applauding at IB jokes and making fun of faculty meetings and being scolded for sneaking food and drinks into class, just like our students.
I went to over 22 keynotes and workshops and cohort meetings in those four days, and learned almost too much. I’m nearly burnt out on education, leadership, change, sustainability, etc. There are a million buzzwords and ideas in my head.
One of our speakers is a school psychologist trained to respond to cases of sexual abuse, suicides, and school shootings in America, because it’s that big of a problem there, because we are so pig-headed about gun control. The South Americans and Europeans in the room were shocked that that had to be a thing.
I think it’s summed up best by a quote on of the speakers introduced:
the best part about teaching is that it matters.
the hardest part about teaching is that every moment matters, every day.
– todd whitaker
And I think we all want that, in whatever we do. We want to matter. We’re hardwired to matter. If this conference taught me or reminded me of anything, it was that it takes work to matter. It takes reflection, evaluation, innovation, support, drive, and energy to matter.
Our last night there, we finally dragged ourselves out of the hotel room to take a city bus tour. I’ve traveled quite a bit, so much so that I’ve developed this thumbs-down attitude to things like tour buses. But this bus was so fun! We saw incredible sights from a double-decker, we chatted with new friends, reveled in the chilly weather. I saw my first dog show ever. It was lovely.
Lima is very, very different from Brazil. It was exciting in a new way. We had no landmarks. I kept subconsciously trying to orient myself to the ocean that wasn’t there. As Candice and I headed to the airport in the wee hours of this morning to come back to Rio, we both confessed to wanting the open space and café e pão de quiejo as soon as possible. We were ready to come home.
Home is Brasil now. It’s the beach, walking slow, hugging (too) long, pots banging and fireworks and ‘tchau, beijos.’ As I write this, the people have decided to impeach our president. I need to turn in lesson plans I can’t find the will to write in the midst of all the conflicting views of education I heard this week. I’m texting my mom about camping this summer. I still have that tab open to “tour guide in Guatemala.”
Our last few moments in Peru were spent wrestling with an ATM machine that let you take “selfies” with llamas. Obviously, we had to stop. We had to take.
Finally, I sit at home in my living room, fan blasting in me face, swatting mozzies away, roommate’s donated wine in a mason jar, Christmas tree still up, fireworks outside announcing the impeachment verdict, wondering where you and me and everybody sits in it all.
At the end of it, whereever that is, i want you to know
if you haven’t heard it and you need to today
the best part about you is that you matter.