Saturday, 20 February 2016

Adios, you cheeky chicos

Apparently Costa Rica, and specifically San Jose, gets pretty hairy at night, with drugs, violent robberies and sex crimes topping the list of hazards after dark. We wouldn't know about that since we're safely tucked into our beds at Nancy and Pablo's house by 9 o'clock every night, totally shattered from the day's events.

One of the girls at Andy's project tells him about a spray that would-be attackers blast in your face which renders the unsuspecting victim instantly unconscious. I wonder if Pablo's been surreptitiously pumping this through the air vents in our living area to silence our incoherent Spanglobabble, as we seem unable to stay awake from the minute we walk through the door and sit down in the evenings. 

The new dawn heralds the final challenging day at the childcare community project, and it is with some trepidation that Mum and I approach our building, as today's the day we'll be running our own class with my group of lively 2yr olds. Eep!

I step over the threshold and already it's chaos: Juan Pablo and Kendra have dropped bombs into their clean pants and their trousers are swinging heavily with the stinky evidence, another two kids are bickering and a fifth is feeding the contexts of the sandpit to Lola the dachshund. Mia is crying for her mummy in the corner and Sara has scribbled red crayon all over the door and it's only 8.10am. Help!

9am ticks round, time for De Mama and I to conduct our lesson. Some of the Maximo Nivel staff are American, and sickly-sweet to the point of nausea; as classically cynical Brits, their saccharin style is just a tad too Disney for my taste. They wouldn't understand sarcasm or wry humour if it slapped them round the face with a wet kipper.

Yesterday, one of these Maximo dudes who looks like he's straight from the cast of High School Musical asks (whilst smiling broadly through his perfect white teeth) for our honest feedback on the project, and when I say that I'd like to feel like I'm leaving a lasting impression on the kids, books us in to run the class the following day. Me and my big mouth.

Hence we're now in sole charge of a group of unruly toddlers, who we have managed to sit in a circle and are looking up at us expectantly. I'm terrified. This may as well be a high-powered corporate conference rather than a bunch of little kids, such is my level of anxiety. I try not to show it, as I know small children can smell fear and thrive on it. I was a kid once too, I know how these mind games work. 

Next follows the most excruciating hour of the trip so far : Mum and I are totally unprepared having fallen victim to Pablo's imaginary sleeping gas last night and being unconscious by 9 when we should have been planning our lesson. Imagine a couple of blonde gonks jumping about trying to over-enunciate English nursery rhymes and scribbling amateurish drawings in a vain attempt to explain what said nursery rhyme is about, and you get the cringe-worthy picture. It's like a particularly pointless game of charades, and Mum and I try not to make eye contact for fear of either cracking up or bursting into tears, such is the eye-wateringly high level of embarrassment, particularly as the Spanish teachers are in room watching intently. 

Bless Mia, Kendra and Maria, who really get into the zone and are making shapes on the dance mat as I sing "Old Macdonald Has a Farm" at the top of my lungs whilst frantically scrawling pictures of sheep, giraffes - I'm basically tailoring the song to which animals I may or may not be able to draw to try and help them understand what the hell we're wailing on about. 

Full credit to the adults in the room who manage to somehow keep a straight face. A third of the kids love it, some are staring open-mouthed in bewilderment and others are just plain daydreaming, wishing they were anywhere else but trapped in this small classroom with these two catawauling aliens. As I mentioned before, time spent looking after kids seemed to stand still, and after what feels like a lifetime I casually glance at my watch to find that it's only 9.15am. 

I implore the Costa Ricans to help me with my desperate looks, but they simply smile and clap along as De Mama and I limp along for the rest of the period. I make a mental note to stab the smug Yank in the eye with my biro when I pass by to fill in the debrief feedback form at Maximo later. 

When the shift is finally over, I bid a tearful farewell to Lola and skip past the kids and out into the sunshine. Seriously though, the children have been so sweet to work with and I really will miss them. I know you shouldn't have favourites, but Sara and Maria will stick in my memory as they were such feisty little ladies, full of energy and with such hilarious facial expressions. My favourite times were spent with the pair of them laughing loudly at my Spanish accent, correcting my pronunciation and showing me how I should be saying 'y' when it's written double l. 

Andy comes to meet us from his project, which was the opposite of ours - he's spent the day with his older children, who chatted away with him in English and hung on his every word. There wasn't a pooey bum or tantrum in sight and he got to celebrate one of the girl's birthdays - he even comes back with his own party bag bursting with sweets. Annoyingly easy by comparison! 

We all head back to Maximo, complete our feedback paperwork and have a quick drink and pizza to celebrate the end of our working week. It's been an exhausting, humbling, frustrating (due to the language barrier) and character-building experience and one that we'll always remember fondly and be pleased to have participated in. 

Leo our taxi driver picks us up in the evening and drops us home for our final dinner and sleep before we depart for Tortuguero National Park at 7am in the morning. Time for our jungle adventure - we cannot wait to don our hiking gear and head deep into the Zippy and Bungle.....

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