In the morning, I walk around the campus for a while before the social work bell rings. It is beautiful just now—the rainy season has begun, and everything is green and washed clean. I feel more and more aware that the experience of being here is finite, and being with students is something I won’t get to do again once I leave in December.
I am near the steps when I see C and her friends—her friends were mostly all in my class last year, and they are very comfortable talking to me. I sit down there, on the wall next to the steps, and they sit with me.
As we are talking, C takes a long, green twig and tears the bark away from it. After a minute, her friends leave and new students come. C realizes she is sitting in ants, and one of these students—mine from last year—tells me the word for ant in four different languages. Which means, of course, I won’t be able to remember them, because it is too much at once.
C stands then. Her eyes are a little bit wide. “I want to go, Ma’am.” So I nod, because she is asking me for permission. C has not studied something for her exam and she does not have what she needs to study. She needs to go find out who she can borrow it from.
C is exquisitely polite, and yet frightened of it, in a way I don’t really understand. “I will come back,” she says. Or I think that’s what she says. Anyway, the bell rings after a while, and she doesn’t. It is time for assembly.
The teacher leading assembly today is the oldest teacher on campus and he talks a lot and he is a teacher of the National Language. He talks very fast and I cannot usually understand anything he says. But I can tell he is scolding the students, that he is quite angry with them.
I have an idea what it was about, because yesterday he was proctoring the exam in the room next to mine and his shouting could be heard very clearly in my room. I couldn’t tell what he said, but I could tell someone was getting a good tongue lashing and probably the language was not entirely clean. I mean, the kid’s parents were probably being compared to feces and coming up short.
So the elderly teacher is scolding and I thought of the way he had been shouting yesterday, and how it made all of the students laugh in my room, and I suppose C is thinking something the same, although she hadn’t been in my room and hadn’t heard that particular scolding.
Anyway, her eye happen to catch mine, and I have to put my hand over my face to hold back the laughter. I suppose that happens five or six times. I recover and then find myself looking at her, and we would have to hold back laughter again. It is very much like being in elementary school and getting a fit of the giggles only that never happened to me in those days.
It is lovely. The laughter stays inside me a while after that. I can feel it even after assembly, and it is delicious.