Part 4: The Barrio
Maria warned us that the people of Calabacita would gawk at us. And they did gawk. The adults stopped whatever they were doing and stared. The older children gathered in groups and watched our every move. Young children followed us around, imitating our movements and mimicing our words. People peered over walls to see what we were doing. We were a novelty and an entertainment. And it was great! Everyone was friendly and smiling and they were interested in us and we were flattered and we loved every minute of it. It was worth the trip.
Maria and the other teachers who live out of town arrive each week on the Monday morning bus and leave on the Friday afternoon bus. While in Calabacita, they live in a boarding house owned and run by Agapita and her daughter Nena. Agapita provides rooms and meals for the teachers, and also provides a noon meal for many students who live too far away to go home for lunch. Some students walk through these mountains as much as 5-7 km (about 4 miles) each way to attend school.
The boarding house is like many Filipino homes. The exterior is unfinished concrete block and unpainted wood. Most homes have a kind of unfinished look to them. They do, however, often have many potted flowers to brighten up the place. And many of the homes in Calabacita have extensive gardens, which can be quite beautiful.
The inside of the boarding house was neatly swept. The concrete floors in the kitchen were waxed and polished to a dangerous shine (Jim slipped and nearly fell.) There were a number of interesting things hanging on the walls in the front rooms: a calendar, a tapestry of the last supper, another tapestry of dogs playing pool, and photos of children and other momentos. We have seen almost identical items displayed in other Filipino homes. The dogs playing pool seem to be particularly popular.
We had brought our lunch with us, and ate at the boarding house. The students who were there seemed quite shy. Maria said that they could understand us all right, but were embarrassed to speak to us in English. They thought their English wasn't good enough. After we ate our lunch, we set off alone to explore a bit of Calabacita. Of course, we had an escort of young children. During our walk, we saw the fields of rice surrounding the barrio, and the mill where the husks are removed and the rice is polished.
Today, the bus was a half hour late; it arrived well after 8:30 a.m. All of the commuting teachers were late for school. But it wasn't considered a problem, as there are a few teachers who live in Calabacita, and they take charge of the students until the out-of-town teachers arrive. After she changed into more formal clothes, Maria walked to the high school, where we will join her in part 5.
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