The Carnage of Carnival

There is alaways something going on at the school that I am volunteering at. Today I asked a girl in the class if she had the worksheet on farm animals I gave out last class and she replied that she was from a whole other grade. Since I am not volunteering for that long, I haven´t really learned most of the kids names and they apparently always interchange classes. It is impossible to know from looking at a kid what grade they are in. For example, in first grade there is one kid who is really big and is almost as tall as me but other kids in the same grade barely come up to my waist. Indeed, the guy in first grade is bigger than some of the first graders. Sometimes when I teach the real teachers are in the class and help me control the kids, sometimes they are taking notes from the board to learn English as well, and other times they are completely MIA. My favourite is the teacher of third grade always brings her toddler to school.

Between the other volunteers and I, we teach 5 classes. They teach 1,2, and 3 and I teach 4 and 6. 5th grade is currently being punished for bad behaviour with no English classes for a month. However everyday one or both of our classes are cancelled. The third grade for example, is never around because either the teacher (or her toddler) is sick or the kids just don´t show up. This was more or like the school I volunteered in India except for in India sometimes the teachers wouldn´t show up and Jen and I would have to teach kids math (what a disaster!) and other subjects. The other volunteers get annoyed but I feel like irregularity is normal.

On tuesday I woke up feeling pretty bad. My body ached and I had an interminable headache that ibuprofen would not cure. So, obviously, I was in perfect condition to celebrate what they call ¨carnival¨ at the schoool. I don´t really understand that much of what was going on but this is what I got from observation and a few questions. The girls from each grade compete to collect egg shells and whoever gets the most is called the queen of the carnival or at least queen of her grade. This was all decided beforehand because on Tuesday all the queens showed up in dresses and make-up. All the eggs that they had collected had been dyed and there was coloured paper sprinkles in them as well as corn flower. The teachers have a huge box of the eggs and the kids buy them for cheap. Some kids also bring bags of coloured paper sprinkles and (my least favourite) bags of corn flour. What results is a crazy war of smashing eggs on eachothers heads. It is like Holi in India except it is only for children (thank godness) and in my opinion it is waay more violent. It doesn´t take much to break a mostly empty egg on someone´s head, however the  reality of the situation was a bunch of kids hitting eachother unnecessarily on the head with only an eggshell as a buffer. Maybe this is just how it seemed to me because I had a horrible headache but honestly it was scary!

I bought some eggs as a means of defense. However, unfortunately for me I learnt that sometimes (or maybe always?) an action that one percieves as self defense can percieved by others as an act of aggression. Or in other words, now that I had eggs I was in the war too. Indeed, I began to be attacked on all fronts but especially, of course, on my poor head. I noo choice but to in turn use my eggs (carefully) ont the heads of the children, and also Jorge and the other volunteers. I was particularly disconcerted at Jorge´s lack of expression as he said, ¨los sientos,¨ reached into a bag and inundated my face and hair with corn flour. I had enough flour in my hair to make the tortillas for lunch.

At one point I noticed that one of really clever but small kids from 1st grade was chasing around a taller kid and crying that he had stolen his egg. The taller kid grinned mischeviously and then smashed the egg on the smaller kids face. It was so cruel and pathetic. To help out the underdog I went and bought some more eggs and gave one to the smaller kid. He greedily took it and immediately demanded another. Suddenly, I had at least 20 kids including the small kid from 1st grade attacking me, and asking, no demanding eggs as well. I tried to run away but they formed a tightly knit cloud of entitled grabbing hands. I feared for my life. I had no choice but to egg my way out of the situation and show the kids that I was no softie to be messed with.

If you have never smashed an egg on someones head I recommend that you try it because it is immensely gratifying. But it gets old really fast especially for the head smashee, and especially if you have a headache. I tried to escape but I was merely a sitting duck waiting to be victimized. There is nothing like the expression on a child´s face when they want to smash an egg on your head. I tried standing against a wall, but unfortunately for me, the wall turned out to be a window. Those little devils. I findally sat on a bench, exhausted and body aching, with Mira, Kati, and Jorge. Most of the kids were gone or cleaning up the grand mess and I was at last safe. Or at least I thought I was because a that moment Mira (another volunteer) smashed an egg on my head. Well I think that karma got the best of her afterwards because way later after she had gone in the ocean to clean herself off she got an egg an the head from some kids on the beach. Muahaha.

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