The Children of Los Quenes
Last week I had a new challenge with the quilt.
The children and teachers in this tiny Chilean village of Los Quenes speak no English and I speak about 3 words of Spanish. But I brought lots of props...and my nephew and husband who do speak Spanish.
I'm not used to such shy children. I might have one or 2, but not a whole group of quiet kids. This little school is not used to visitors from outside their isolated village.
Even if I spoke fluent Spanish this would have been a challenge for me. I suddenly felt very silly as I grinned, "Hola! Hello!" The youngest at age 2, was probably too young to even understand that we spoke different languages.
Keeping a Safe Distance
The kids watched me wake "Pickles" the puppet from his sleeping bag. Usually I can get at least a few kids to help "sing him awake" with me.
But the kids kept their distance. Possibly they just didn't understand, but maybe my overdone facial expressions were a little intimidating.
The Wooden Guy
The dancing wooden man finally broke the ice. First the kids made him dance by tapping the paddle.
After a while some even got up and danced and jumped with him.
But the colorful scarves were the big hit. These thrift shop scarves even got the "big boys" off the wooden chairs and onto the quilt. They loved tossing and catching them and one boy could even juggle a bit.
Note the little boy in the upper left of the photo. He didn't need his own scarf because he had his own "binky towel". He's smiling here, but evidently he got nervous when the scarves were put away. He hid his green towel, afraid I would take it.
We played and laughed and I cheered the kids on.
I grew more comfortable communicating with my face and silly gestures. I felt like I hardly needed words.
The Kids Speak Up
But as the kids became more comfortable, they began to speak more to me.
I suddenly heard lots of little voices telling me to watch and asking me questions I didn't understand.
A Little Help!
Luckily I had some help from the back of the room. Andy and Don were able to jump in with some interpreting when I needed it. They also were rewarded with cold glasses of raspberry juice, made by the class as a thank you!
I so wish I had a picture of the little boy who carried the tiny tray holding the 3 full glasses as he stepped carefully towards us grinning, "Gracias!" The teacher told us the children had picked the raspberries that morning. Big brownie points to the sweet teacher who trusted the little boy to deliver our special treat.
A Show for Us!
A couple of the children wanted to put on a puppet show for us.
We 3 sat on the tiny wooden chairs and sipped our juice while they performed. Two little girls sang a song for us and we clapped along and applauded with enthusiasm at the end.
Time to Go
But soon it was time to say good bye. The kids came up and offered me hugs and asked when we would be coming back.
The little boys went up to Don and Andy and offered proper handshakes...some with the right hand and some with the left.
Ciao, Little School!
The kids followed us out into the yard and waved through the gate.
We could hear them shouting "Ciao!!" as we headed down the dirt road.
What I learned: I learned that my lack of Spanish skills is an even bigger setback when communicating with kids. They don't really understand that I have no idea what they're saying. However, there is something oddly refreshing about absorbing facial expressions, sounds and movement of children when you aren't distracted by their words. It's amazing how much you do pick up. And luckily the kids gradually adapted to my limitations. It was a fun challenge...but it really makes me want to learn Spanish!
For 20+ years children have called it the Magic Quilt. They've danced and pretended all over these colorful squares. I've dragged it to schools, shelters and studios where children have climbed on top to hear Magic Quilt Stories and to act them out.