Hey there! I’m glad you’re back to hear more about Escuela Pedro Murillo Perez (EPM).
Meet Myleidy and her two friends Angie and Sachyel. These three sweet girls are students at EPM. I got to know them
during the time I spent at their school, and as I look back on it now, it’s truly one of my fondest memories from Costa Rica. Despite my uncertainties, our different languages weren’t nearly the barrier I thought they would be and I was able to interact with these girls and other students at the school. Things turned out better than I expected.
As I mentioned in Part 1, the environmental beautification project and the lectures on recycling/littering were only a portion of the story. We also spent a significant amount of time giving cultural presentations at the school. Our group was subdivided by country–Mexico, Brazil, and the United States–and each subgroup presented for about half an hour. It’s a difficult task to try and encompass the entirety of a country in one 30-minute presentation, but we did our best. Topics ranging from food, music, dance, language, landmarks, and everything in between were covered. The choice of what to include or not include was up to each subgroup.
Being the solo American, and given my poor Spanish speaking skills, I needed help with my presentation. Luckily, someone was able to translate for me. It did make me wonder though, if the students at the school would really find my presentation interesting. I was half right. Sometimes they did and sometimes they didn’t. I think several factors were at play. Still, there is one particular moment that sticks out in my mind.
One day after I finished my presentation, a friendly 9-year old girl came up to me to introduce herself. I was so surprised when she just casually said “Hello”! The girl I am speaking of is Myleidy. She said she enjoyed my presentation and she began to ask me questions, about myself and the United States, mostly in Spanish but sometimes in English and I tried to respond as best I could. I was, and still am, so impressed with her sheer bravery in being able to come up and talk to me despite our obvious communication issues. From there, our bond was formed. Every day she would find me, say hello, and stick around to chat for a little. I even got to know her two best friends, Angie and Sachyel. I’ll never forget Myleidy’s kindness. She made me feel so welcome and reassured me that my teaching efforts were not in vain.
The third and final component of our work at the school consisted of a lot of painting. We started with the cafeteria. It took us two full days to paint the inside and outside. We also did some painting on the ground in the large courtyard where all the students play during Recreo. It was nice to step back and see how great the courtyard looked when it was finished.
However, of all the painting we did, the mural was my absolute favorite. The idea started with Alejandro, a local artist and the person who had created all the other murals at the school. On a large blank stretch of wall next to the front office, a brown rectangle had been drawn with the inside painted white. What exactly was supposed to go in this space was a mystery. But then Alejandro came up with the perfect idea–a way to represent all of us and leave a memorable impression on the school. He drew a large map of Costa Rica in the center. Within the outline of the country, horizontal lines were drawn to create sections of blue, white, and red–essentially the Costa Rican flag in the shape of the country.
The six of us came together to complete the rest. We drew a map of the United States and of Mexico to the right and a map of Brazil to the left. The insides were painted with their respective flags. On our last day at EPM, we added the finishing touches. I pressed my painted hands next to the map of the U.S. and underneath my handprint I wrote my name and hometown (also, my current city–I had to include Miami). The other volunteers did the same for their countries. Lastly, we couldn’t leave without saying thanks. So we wrote “Thank you for everything” at the bottom of our mural in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.
And with that, I have pretty much summed up my experience at Escuela Pedro Murillo Perez. I hope you enjoyed Part 2. Up next, I’ll be giving my final thoughts on Costa Rica and my experience as a member of the My Cultural School Project.