Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Faces of Repelón: The Primary Teacher

I first met Sindy Ruiz was over a year ago. I remember sitting at the school that I am currently serving at and being approached by a timid, soft-spoken Colombian. She explained that she was taking English classes in Barranquilla and would like some extra help on the weekends to further strengthen her skills. Being new in town and looking to make connections and friends, I agreed to help her out. As we were working together, I mentioned that I had started a community class and invited her to join to just reinforce the English skills that she already had while possibly picking up a few new things as well. She eagerly agreed and has been a staple of my classes ever since.

Sindy was born in Repelón in 1984 and grew up with five half-sisters. Her father worked as a jeweler, specializing in the repairing of watches, while her mother stayed at home and helped take care of the house. Growing up in such a large family provided Sindy with numerous opportunities to create long lasting memories from her childhood. Some of her favorite childhood recollections center around a common occurence here in the pueblo: power outages. Every time that the power would go out, she and her cousins would get together on someone's front patio and tell jokes and other stories to each other.

When there was power, and her and her friends weren't melting under the relentless coastal heat, they would played various games in the street in front of her house, including "La yuca", "Auga de limón", and "Al congelao". In addition to these popular childhood games, Sindy was also a big fan of slugging homers and catching pop flies with her family. While in school, she was able to make lots of friendships and fondly remembers visiting the library in town to complete homework and do other activities. Interestingly enough, she did not have a great experience with her primary teacher, who she describes as being "rough" and "mean" to the kids.

This was actually one of the experiences that drove her to her current career: teaching primary students in a small town just outside of Repelón. Sindy started teaching following her completion of a teacher training program and has held that position for the past six years. It is a job that brings her great joy and happiness. While she is afforded lots of liberties in her job, it breaks her heart to see many parents not taking an active interest in the education of their children. To her, this is probably the hardest aspect of working in a small pueblo. She is very fond of her students and wouldn't want to do anything else. Despite the travel time and difficult teaching environment that she is subjected to, watching her student's faces light up when they figure out a new concept is more than worth it to her. 

According to Sindy, pueblo life has many advantages to that of the city. It is calmer, quieter, safer, and void of noisy traffic. However, the lack of a quality sewage system and paved roads causes issues, especially when it rains and everything is turned to a giant mud field. Some day (hopefully in the near future), she would love to be able to visit Paris. The images that she has seen and the things that she has heard regarding this magnificent city are nothing short of amazing and she would love to experience them for herself. In addition to Paris, a trip to the United States, a country that she sees as one with unlimited work opportunities, is also near the top of her list.

That chance meeting over a year ago has turned into a lasting friendship that has come to include tutor sessions, home cooked meals, and other experiences that I will not soon forget. Sindy's contributing spirit and positive attitude has not only enriched my community classes, but also my time here in Repelón as well.