La Estrella Noticias

Trip Start Jan 10, 2007
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Friday, August 17, 2007

While it may seem like the world is falling apart sometimes, what with the floodings, draughts, earthquakes, and tsunamis shaking the world right now, La Estrella has somehow managed to be untouched by it all.  In my little corner of the world, surrounded by mountains and forest and morning fog, people talk about the weather, the latest horse purchase, and (of course) Teacher.  If there actually was a newspaper in La Estrella the headlines from this week would probably go something like this:  Teacher Cuts Hair on a Weekend Whim and Teacher FINALLY Finds a Novio.  But before the chisme leaps countries, let me explain.
 
First of all, I have cut my hair.  Short.  The shortest it's been since I don't even know when, maybe since I was twelve.  Since I have pretty much always had long hair, this does not mean that I've opted for that haircut that all the moms got when I was in high school.  It's at the base of the neck.  And while I did take off about half the length of my hair, and was given some surprise bangs to boot (thank you Mario!), this change would only have gotten me a few comments in the States before everyone moved on.  But I am not in the United States right now, I am in La Estrella, and for the past week my hair has been much discussed.  You see, hair is very important to the girls in my town, even more so than back home.  It's almost like beauty currency.  The longer, thicker, and shinier the hair, the more beautiful you are.  For example, Jazmin, my most popular 5th grade girl, has gorgeous hair all the way down to her butt.  And even though it always seems that someone is helping her to get it untangled from being caught on a chair or fence or something, her hair is one of the most beloved things in my little town.
 
My hair was also something of a wonder, it being long and lighter than most people's (not counting the redhead and a couple little blondes who happened upon some major recessive genes in their families).  But when I came into school the first day with my new due, there was a collective gasp.  I almost stopped the national anthem mid-note.  All that day I got the, "Teacher, you cut your hair."  Nothing else.  They were too in shock that someone under the age of 40 had cut her hair so short.  As in the States, it seems that all the women over forty here have that short "mom haircut".  The next day, however, the debate began.  I would catch people, not just my students, staring at me.  And not just in the normal way which I've actually grown accustomed to, but with more focused, more penetrating gazes.  Finally by Wednesday one of my fourth grade girls looked at me and pronounced, "Linda".  When one boy said that he likes girls with long hair, another boy said that no, not to worry, I was still "muņeca".  Gradually more and more of my students, as well as their older family members, started to compliment my hair.  By Wednesday it was universally decided that the cut was a good thing, even if I did lose some of my beauty currency.
 
Luckily, my hair approval went through by Wednesday, for this was also the night of the annual La Estrella Mother's Day Dance and Dinner.  Every year the school gives the parents a night out on the town without the kids, which is sadly a rarity, especially for the mothers.  A band plays music and a few select students serve hors'deavors and punch, which is followed by two liter bottles of soda for each table and dinner.  There are games which involve popping balloons, some of which are filled with flour, and galloping around on broomhandle horses.  There is dancing to salsa, meringue, and (unfortunately) to reggatone.  It's a big deal, and as is the case for most big events in La Estrella, very surreal and slightly awkward.
 
The kids had hung green hearts from the ceiling and pasted them on the floor, and they twinkled in the candle light of the table centerpieces.  Couples twirled and manuevered their way across the dance floor to a strange mix of music played by a band fronted by another teacher from a neighboring town.  Between passing out drinks and food, my job for the evening's festivities, I eagerly watched the fancy footwork of my students' parents.  But then something went terribly wrong and suddenly I was out on the dance floor.  With Mario.  My director.  Dancing the reggatone.  Now, let me pause here to describe reggatone a bit.  It is loud, featuring a lot of air horn blasts, a repetitive beat, and usually one sentence repeated over and over.  Playing this type of music at this event and expecting people to dance would be like playing 50 Cent at a school ice cream social in the States and encouraging Grandma to go to the candy shop.  And this is the music I found myself trying to dance to with my boss in front of all my students' parents.  Yeah, awkward. 
 
After a few minutes of obligatory, painful dancing, I motioned for us to head back to the refreshments area.  Mario looked as relieved as I felt.  But when I came back, I noticed that a crowd of guys had gathered outside of the sliding doors of the salon, watching me.  I tried to ignore them as they hissed and whistled, like a normally do, but tonight they would just not stop.  They whistled as I passed out plates heaping with rice beans, as I collected empty appetizer plates, as I cleaned up spilled soda, and even as I was trying to enjoy my own dinner.  Finally I turned to them and asked if they could speak.  I said that I've been in this town for almost seven months and none of them had ever talked to me, only whistled and hissed. I asked if they were afraid of me and suggested that if they really wanted to know me, they should come up an talk to me.  There was a stunned silence, a repreive from the catcalls, and then my friend, Luis Miguel, started to laugh hysterically and point at his friends.  He has a girlfriend and is in my night classes, so he talks to me and did not consider himself one of the guys I was chastising.
 
Later, after all the parents had left, the guys, my former catcallers, helped us clean up.  In the midst of stacking chairs and tables, one of them (pushed by Luis Miguel) actually came up to me and said hello.  I exclaimed that it was amazing, that he could talk.  He managed to squeak out a yes before I told him that it was about time he talked to me, that I only have four more months left here.  He said that we need to talk, but then just stood there staring at me.  Noticing that he was one of the few people taller than me in town and decently cute, I asked him his name.  He introduced himself as Kevin, but instead of asking me what my name was, he just stared.  Then walked away, much to the delight of a watching Luis Miguel.  I don't know if he already knew my name or if he was just scared.  But as we were readying to go home, I noticed Kevin loitering by the door.  I could tell that he wanted to walk me home, but Nago and Nena were also waiting to escort me back, so I smiled as I passed him in the doorway and wondered if I would soon be joining the ranks of WorldTeach volunteers with Tico Novios.
 
The next day the whole school was abuzz with the news of me and Kevin.  He sent a salude through one of my fourth graders who promptly asked if he was my novio.  I said no, but decided to ask Sandra for details about this guy.  But when it was time for our cafecito, I didn't even have to ask.  She immediately started teasing me about my new novio and how cute he was.  I, of course, turned bright red as I always do a such teasing, and then asked the scary question.  So, how old is Kevin ?  I took a sip of coffee to hide my interest, but almost spit it back out as she said she thought he was 15.  WHAT ?!  15 ?!  But, she said, he looks older (well, that's for damn sure !), and he's tall and cute.  He left the escuela about two years ago.  So maybe he's actually 16.  Um, yeah, still illegal where I come from.  I couldn't believe it !  I was flirting with a guy, a kid, who was actually the same age as one of my 6th graders !  Gross !  I mean, I was expecting 18 or 19, as anyone who is within four years of my age is married with kids, but 15 !!!!  God, I was about to become a regualar Mrs. Robinson !  Which, I was to find out, is not a bad thing in my town. 
 
According to all the most reliable sources, Teacher has finally found herself a novio, and everyone approves.  He is a good guy.  Cute.  Tall.  Still in colegio (this is seen as a plus and not a negative thing).  A good La Estrella gentleman...err, gentleboy.  And though I have not talked to Kevin again since the Mother's Day Dance, have actually only seen him from afar once, the "town newspaper" has determined that we are an item.  So now I have a teenage boyfriend to go with my teenage haircut.  These are the days of our lives...in La Estrella.
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Comments

dadofdivaboots
dadofdivaboots on

I almost cut my hair...
Lacey
You remember that silly David Crosby song from the 60's. Well I almost did for our month-long vacation here in Leadville. but instead I have just let grow even longer to cover up my bald spot. Well, you had the guts to do it and voila ... you are a celebrity with a new novio! Splendido!!!! what a great piece you have written once again
Love
Dad

twoslades
twoslades on

Small town life
Lacey - what a great piece you're a wonderful writer; I thoroughly enjoyed it, as I do all your posts. Your story reminds me of days long ago in small towns across America, where kids could still be shy and one short sentence shared between a boy and girl meant you were instantly a couple and the talk of the town. It's so charming - keep us posted!

cousin Laurie in Ojai

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