This school is called San Francisco and Santa Clara Colegio, and the tuition is $3 a month. Because the tuition is so affordable for people of little means (and the education excellent), the parents work together, almost as a co-operative, to keep the school going, working on the school grounds and in the large beautiful garden between the buildings and the walls that surround and protect the school.
I am going to teach for the second time in my life at a high school. I had just agreed to teach English classes the next year at this school, as well as take on a catechesis class. In fact, I am at this time teaching two interim English classes in the summer session. At the time of the ceremony, when I thought of myself as a mere onlooker, I suddenly found myself being introduced to the crowd of parents, relatives, and friends in the auditorium as the new English instructor. Not in the least a known quantity, I was the subject of applause in a room full of people whom I did not know. I had not done anything worthy yet; I had merely agreed to try to do something worthy. So I was surprised by the show of appreciation, or rather, the welcoming applause of the people whose children I was teach.
In addition to introducing me to the shopping venues of Cochabamba, Lizbeth has been an active participant in the campus ministry film series Filmania, which Joel and I have helped to promote. The campus ministry of San Simon University, called pastoral juvenil, sponsored two film series last semester, in which we screened films and led discussions about the moral, social, and political dilemmas that emerged in the films. Lizbeth has been an avid discussant, bringing her friends and high school teachers to the film series. When we showed the classic film To Kill a Mockingbird, definitely a relevant film for us in Bolivia because of its theme of racism, Lizbeth almost finished the book in English before attending the screening. Sorry to say, the film ruined the book for her because she did not expect Tom Robinson to die at the end of the narrative.
Lizbeth was also the only Bolivian to attend our all-Franciscan Thanksgiving dinner. She takes care of our pets when we are on vacation and drinks hot chocolate in our house when it is cold and rainy outside. She introduced us to her older brother Nelson who is mastering Japanese, German, and English in his work as a travel agent in Uyuni (he is an economist by education and trade, and continues to look for work relevant to his degree). The four of us watched Happy Feet at our house one Friday night. Her parents have offered us hospitality on many Saturday afternoons (almuerzo [lunch]), as well as providing the twelve plates of food on Good Friday (a Cochabamba tradition in which families eat 12 plates of food on the afternoon of Good Friday, a plate for each disciple. While most Catholics are fasting, Cochabambinos are struggling to force down another plate of food. It should be noted that the plates do not contain meat.). We had Christmas breakfast with them as well, a meal of many varieties of sweet breads, one of which was very much like the beignets served at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans.
One last celebration in December: my birthday dinner. The Franciscans--the missioners and Padre Iggie--came, as well as Lizbeth and her parents (the Belizes). Fellow missioner Nora made my cake, and I received a number of thoughtful gifts.