Sunday, March 15, 2009

in walked a buddhist, a evangelica, and a jehovah's witness...

i woke up this morning with those unmistakable signs of being sick. the stuffy nose, the sore throat, the head and body ache. then slowly, as i gained consciousness, i remembered the events of yesterday. oh yes. that's why, i thought, shuddering at the memories.

yesterday was our day long jump rope clinic at a college in another state. we go every year but this year we couldn't afford the bus to take us so we had to ask parents to caravan down there. this in itself was a task because so many parents didn't feel comfortable driving other children. others said they'd drive but on the actual day they dropped their child off and sped out of our parking lot, leaving us to find seats for the children we were counting on putting in their car. the head coach and i can't drive them ourselves because of a county policy, so we were also forced to drive with the parents. (this, looking back, was a huge mistake. the two of us should have drove by ourselves in a 'coaches car'. if only we had...)

we've finally gotten everyone into cars (and are already getting worried looks from the parents who didn't want to drive any child but their own) when the head coach popped her head out of the car window and flagged me down. "we've got a gps, but it's in spanish" she said. of course we needed to keep it in spanish for the driver herself, but it made it difficult to program if you spoke french and not spanish as your second language, and also made it so the coach couldn't tell where the gps was telling the lead car to go until we were already on the road. every car had directions printed out from mapquest, but of course, our families do not all speak english. the head coach and i laughed. caravaning with drivers who don't all speak the same language was going to be an adventure. ir! as the spanish-speaking gps announced. 'let's go!'

the car i was riding in was driven by the mother of one of my former students, a mother i love, but of course, like so many parents at my school, have never gotten to know well because of the language barrier. now, having me in her car for 2 hours, she was free to work on her questions in english in her mind before quizzing me on the rationals behind the american school systems. i was fascinated by the cultural questions she wanted to know. they'd pop out randomly, seemingly out of nowhere. she'd clearly been choosing her english and working on the perfect way to ask the question before she finally said it.
"why doesn't my child get a present at the end of the school year? in my country we always got a present at the end of the year"
"why doesn't anyone tell me my child's rank in her class? why can't i know?"
"when someone asks my child what country she's from, is she suppose to say america, or vietnam?"
"is private school better than public school? should i be paying money for my child, is that better?"

some of the questions came off as a parent with high expectations, but knowing that she just doesn't know- the schools in vietnam do things one way, she just wanted to know the differences. some of her questions were about the debates currently going on in our county- school starting times, grades, etc. things she's read in the paper but hasn't had anyone to ask about. i was glad i was able to clear things up for questions that were clearly echoing in her head, but it was feeling like a 2 hour parent/teacher conference after awhile.

we finally arrived and got everyone settled into the pace of the day. this is my moment to praise my itouch with kindle app... at moments i didn't need to be coaching i could pull out my touch and keep reading the new wally lamb book i'm immersed in. i love my itouch.

as exhausting as the day always is, it's great to spend time with children outside of the school setting, especially children you've taught. i love getting their insights into the world; their rational on why the world is the way it is. i learned more gossip about my teachers than i'd ever learn from fellow teachers. whew- i'm scared to hear what these kiddos share about me when i'm not around.

the kids took the time to ask questions bothering them about life- what is facebook and why do some people say it's bad, and some people say it's good?
why do i have to learn about my body in 5th grade? (eek to that one)
with others i got to be a part of impromptu book chats- discussing tales of a fourth grade nothing and whether or not super fudge is better, or if shiela the great is better than all of them.

the day dragged on but for the most part just in a monotonous way, nothing overly eventful.

then we piled into the cars to find our way back to school. the spanish speaking gps took us a completely different way than the way we'd come, and, since the head coach couldn't confirm that those directions would get us back to school we ended up pulling over and getting directions from a very nice woman who was adamant we should take the interstate back instead of the small roads we'd taken on the way there. so we did.

this too was a mistake, because, of course, we didn't account for saturday night traffic. we ended up an hour behind schedule, making it a long 13 hour day instead of just 12. it also didn't take into account parents who have not been driving in the US very long, who could not drive in their own countries, and did not feel comfortable driving on 495 but didn't say anything because they were too embarrassed. they hadn't wanted to drive other people's kids anyway, remember?

stuck in traffic on 495 the mother driving my car kept saying she was tired and couldn't keep her eyes open. we couldn't find gum or anything else for her to chew on, so she decided to crank the heat up as far as it would go in the car. although the girls and i rolled our windows down we still felt we were dying of the heat. the starting and stopping of the traffic didn't help, and all 4 of us were feeling car sick.

the overly giggly girls, hyped up on mcdonalds' ice cream, were holding a talent show in the back. i have no idea how the mother was falling asleep with the screaming coming from the back. i was actually very impressed with one little one's impression of me telling them to be quiet. really- she has acting talent i didn't know about. she was dead on.

as we drove past the mormon temple the giggles died down and the conversation turned to god. in the back seat we had a buddhist, a self-described evangelical from ethiopia, and a jehovah's witness. the girls began comparing stories about God (or gods i guess), sharing theories and debating the start of the world. i heard each of their theories on what being catholic means. i was utterly fascinated by their deep understanding of religion in their 3rd and 4th grade reasoning.

and then, as somehow the conversation turned toward monday's practice lockdown and the jehovah's witness shared how scared she was, her breathing turned shallow and she grasped her chest. i assumed she was having a panic attack because of the fears she'd just been sharing, and so when she said, 'i need a bag! do you have a bag!' i was worried, but thought maybe it was for breathing.

nope. the unmistakable odor of vomit filled the car. the car that was already 80 or 90 degrees, and weaving due to our tired driver. luckily most ended up in the bag, but some, sadly ended up in the little one's lap and on the car seat.

the other two girls began gagging, and even i had to roll down the window further to stick my head out as the smell made me begin to gag. i could envision us filling the car with vomit.

the driver was either oblivious to all this, or just chose to ignore it, even when i said, "she's been sick, we need to stop. she threw up. can we pull over?" nope. no response. we continued driving with the poor little one holding her bag of vomit, her lap also covered in what didn't make it into the bag. the two other girls put their head under their coats, which i would have yelled about if i hadn't wanted to do that myself from the combination of the smell and the heat. one kept apologizing to the puker. "i am so sorry! this is so rude of me, but i don't want to be sick too. oh, i'm so sorry! i shouldn't have gagged. please don't be mad at me!" came out in a long jumbled apology from underneath the pink coat.

finally we arrived back at school- the little girl still holding her bag of puke, looking more and more like she wanted to die. we spilled out of the car, the mother still not acknowledging the incident. the only time she did was after i tried to clean her car as much as possible but recommended that she use water on the spot once they were home. "oh don't worry, first daughter will do it" she said, as her child, my former student, winced. the poor mother clearly hadn't wanted to drive us anyway, hadn't wanted to get onto 495, and certainly hadn't wanted a girl she'd never met before to throw up in the back of her car.

thank goodness the day was over.
i drove the sick little girl home, the same little girl whose mother had meant to drive but couldn't because her two year old sister had thrown up that morning. the girl looked like she wanted to die, and i felt nothing i could say would take away what had happened.

and so we've survived another day-long jump rope event. i need a lot more sleep to make up for this one.


The Science Goddess said...


That is SOME story. I think you may well need the whole week to recover.

Tree said...

Could not read past "I need a bag." Grew up with a car-sensetive brother who was allergic to Statan Island.

Tree said...

Could not read after "I need a bag." Grew up with car-sensetive brother who was allergic to Staten Island.

Anonymous said...

Oh, wow. What a day.