Friday, March 20, 2015

Cultural Exchanges

One of the amazing things that comes out of traveling is the ability to experience and participate in new and exciting cultures. I have already had the privilege of celebrating one of Colombia’s biggest and most famous holidays, Caranval. After having a thoroughly enjoyable time soaking in the parades, music, and throngs of people, I decided that I wanted to return the favor with the next American holiday to my students and teachers at school. This holiday just happened to be St. Patrick’s Day.

This predominantly Irish/European/American holiday is not celebrated here in Colombia or most other Latin American countries. Goal 2 of the Peace Corps is all about sharing the American culture with the people of your host country. I saw St. Patrick’s Day as the perfect opportunity to help fulfill this goal. Even though I am no Irish, St. Paddy’s Day is always one of my favorite days every year. Being able to share this day with my students and teachers made it even more special this year.

My students here in Colombia wear uniforms to school every day. Sadly, they do not have any green in them, so after getting my counterpart on board with the idea, I had to make sure that it was okay with the coordinator that the students wore green and jeans on Tuesday. She was very much in favor of this idea and, to help spread the festive mood around the school, she helped me convince the other teachers to also wear green for the occasion.

My 9th, 10th, and 11th grade classes were the lucky recipients of this cultural lesson. When I informed them a couple of days before that they were going to be able to wear green to school, I was taken aback by the amount of questions they had regarding what type of clothing they were allowed to wear. Despite the fact that I kept telling them ANYTHING with green on it (a shirt with green writing/picture, green headband, green bracelet, etc.), the doubts and worries continued to flood in. I guess when your whole life is spent wearing the same uniform, the ability to choose your clothing sends waves of panic coursing through your body.

Overall, my students thoroughly enjoyed the day and learning at St. Paddy’s Day. They came to school all decked out in green shirts, pants, and bandanas. I was pleasantly surprised by my 9th graders with various green foods (pears, oranges – they are green here, not orange, candy, etc.). My 11th graders even went so far as to print out pictures that represented St. Paddy’s Day and post them around the classroom. A couple of the girls even made green Jell-O for the celebration!

My school also just recently started serving a small lunch to the students after school. Tuesday, the lunch was potato salad and a cracker. To my surprise, they had dyed the potato salad green and served the meal on green plates. Talk about getting into the holiday spirit! I was blown away by the amount of enthusiasm and effort that my school put into making this celebration a special one. One of the secretaries even made paper clovers. She thought that the 3-leaf ones were good luck and felt horrible when I told her that it was in fact the 4-leaf ones that were a sign of luck. She vowed to get it right next year!

Being able to share a portion of the American culture with my students and teachers here in Repel√≥n is one of the many highlights of my Peace Corps service so far. I can’t wait for the next big holiday to roll around! 

My 9th grade students showing their St. Paddy's Day spirit
My counterpart and I (she provided the hats!)
Showing off the gifts from my 9th grade students
Just hanging out in between classes
10th graders hard at work on their pot of gold maps
My 10th graders
The other teachers here at IE John F. Kennedy sporting their green
11th graders working hard in the computer lab
11th grade students - some of the best at the school!
Just chilling with my St. Patrick's themed potato salad!

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