The Bucket List
Trip Start Sep 17, 2011
11Trip End Ongoing
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The Last "City Year" Day in School
This actually happened a while before I even decided to peace to Asia but was probably the most significant of the finales.
For two years, I served with CY ~10-11 hours a day, 4 days a week in a central area Junior High. Over that time, I'd grown hugely attached to the place, it's community, the teachers I worked under and the students I was trying to mentor. When you're in City Year, it's such an all-consuming, high stakes work environment as to occasionally feel like a "war." Your at war against poverty, against the education crisis, trying to make a difference but usually feeling bogged down in a quagmire. A day of service at that middle school could be routine or it could literally mean life and death for someone. You never knew. The team I was with poured our hearts into this work, as did the school staff. It went by in a whirlwind, then one day it was the middle of June and our time there was up.
Some ambient bittersweet Brian Eno was playing from my phone (minus headphones, per professional standards) as I patrolled my students' snack-time soccer game for the last time. I got called "chafa" (Mayan slang for "cheap") for the last time by a student who loved to call me that, why, dunno. Another dude called his friend a "dickface" for I don't know, looking at him the wrong way or something, and I reffed my last foul.
"Mister, he called me dickface! Penalty!"
That was another one. I called called "Mister", generic title for an authority figure among the LAUSD student body, for one of the last times.
It was all routine except it wasn't.
The bell rang. One 7th grader who I'd been working with since I first started at Unspecified JHS walked over and slipped me some skin.
"Seriously Mister, best City Year ever." Goodbye, though he didn't say it, and while I'm proud of my work, it would be immodest to agree I was the bestest ever.
I had an off-period (no class) soon after which I used to brew some (Taiwanese!) tea and unwind in our team office/bungalow. The door opened out onto the PE field where my 8th graders and their friends were running laps. Alone with my thoughts and my tea, I got that long awaited lump in my throat. After a minute that seemed like ten I heard some hushed voices and picked my chin up.
I looked back, a small crowd of looky-loos had amassed by the chain link fence and cracked open door.
"Mister Charlie's crying!" "Sshhh..." "STFU fo" "You okay Mister?"
"Yup!" came my lie.
I never actually cried til a few days later but I might as well have been.
"Hey Mister, now that you're leaving, you can tell us: how many times can you f*ck before a girl gets pregnant?" (honest question) I didn't even know how to respond to that one.
The day progressed, I shook hands with the staff who'd shared their classrooms and wisdom with me all this time, and forgot part of my soul behind as I walked out the door.
You know that weird "now what? I have nothing to do" feeling you get a day after finals end in college? That was this a hundred times over.
Because I mentioned it, though this blog won't focus on that experience, the lawyers made me write this:
* = The contents of this website do not reflect in any way the positions
of City Year or AmeriCorps. For official City Year policy see