Last Day At The Diria Institute
Our eyes were low as we slowly got on the bus at 7:45 am. We all knew it was the last time we would be driving to the school. Head pressed against the window, I waited to pull up to the school. Walking in for the last time was difficult. Everything looked the same, but it somehow did not feel the same. It felt like we were finally home, yet we only had one day to be there. I am going to tell you about my friend, Pedro. Pedro is an ex-graduate from the Diria Institute, and he paints the murals for the school. He is an extremely talented person. We all took some time to admire his skills at one point or another over the course for this week. This morning, he was painting a Study/Diria Institute companionship mural in one of the classrooms. After teaching one of my classes, a young girl approached me and said, “Alexandra?” I nodded my head, and she took my hand and led me to a classroom. Pedro was there, along with a few other painters. He smiled at me, and extended his hands out to me. In his hand was a rolled up piece of canvas, with another piece of paper rolled up inside. “Tienes,” he said as he gave me the painting. I thanked him (to the best of my abilities) in Spanish, and hurried off to my next class. I unrolled the canvas, and my jaw dropped. In my hands was a small painting of a butterfly, the most beautiful I had ever seen. The colours jumped off the canvas, layers of green orange and black. I then unrolled the second paper. A single rose, shaded to perfection. He signed the corner, and put the date. What impacted me most about this was the fact that he took the time out of his day to make these for me. We had barely spoken at all this week; we exchanged a few smiles here and there. Despite this, he went out of his way to paint and draw these incredible creations for me. Seeing something so beautiful took my breath away. I have a bracelet to give him later, and I hope this shows him my gratitude. Update: After lots of tears, I gave Pedro the bracelet. It made him really happy and that made me really happy. I will think of him every time I see the painting and I wish that he’d think of me every time he looked at the bracelet.
The sounds of tears fill the bus as I write these words. We’re driving away from Diria, away from the Institute, and away from our friends. The bonds of friendship we’ve made over the past five days surpass words, because most of us couldn’t even use language to make them.
After our final lunch in the oasis that is the Perez home, we drove to The Diria Institute for the last time. We all rushed into our beautiful traditional dresses and prepared for the final assembly. We sat in the seats of honour on the stage, and the students surrounded us in the agora. The director of the Institute made a speech, and Ms. Zannis announced we would be making several further contributions to the school with the funds we had left, including renovations to the holes in the ground they call “student bathrooms”. The students from Diria presented a traditional dance, and we presented the dances they had taught us. I happened to volunteer to be in the partner dance, and it was so much fun! My dance partner was so kind – he smiled at me the whole time, and made sure to guide me in the right direction.
During the assembly, I also had the privilege of singing in front of the whole school. I sang “Over The Rainbow” from the classic film “The Wizard of Oz”. I was so nervous, and my hand shook as I read the Spanish translation of the introduction I had written for the song (courtesy of Mrs Bousser – thank you). The song went very well, and I’m so glad the teachers on the trip decided to give me this honour.
Then, the Study girls performed our dance: the Whip/Nae Nae, with the students from the Institute who had learned it from us. The applause resounded through the entire agora…
We finished the assembly off by handing out ice cream to the entire school. Their smiles were as big as the watermelons they gave us yesterday as gifts.
It felt like we were taking pictures and signing autographs for hours. People grabbed my arms and smiled; saying, “Photo?” I wrote my name on so many notebooks. When I get home to my Study laptop, I know I will have many Facebook friend requests, and I plan on accepting them.
Now I’ll close this reflection the way I began it: with tears. Today we each exchanged gifts with our Nicaraguan buddies. At the beginning of the week it was difficult for me to communicate with my buddy, Conchita, but today we understood each other perfectly. We held on to each other until she was crying on my shoulder, and I was biting back my tears. I pointed at her and said, in broken Spanish: “Please, apply for the scholarship. You are so smart. You deserve it. Keep studying.” I’d never seen her so overwhelmed: as if she couldn’t believe someone really believed in her.
I’m so thankful to the teachers and Dr. Perez’s family for giving me the opportunity to come on this trip.