Cambia lo superficial
Cambia todo lo profundo
Cambia el modo de pensar
Cambia todo in este mundo
Cambia el clima con los anos
Cambia el pastor su rebanos
Y como todo cambia
Que mi cambie no es extrano
So sung my daughters and their school on the stage in San Cristobal a few weeks back, making even their hard-eyed mother weep just the tiniest bit. It’s Mercedes Sosa, for those who don’t know (I didn’t) and could be translated a bit like this. “The superficial changes/Likewise the profound/The way we think changes/Everything in this world changes. The climate changes with the years/the shepherd changes his flock/ And since everything changes/It’s not strange that I have changed too.
A fitting sign off from San Cristobal, where we’ve spent a predictably large amount of time saying goodbye. It’s always like this when you stay somewhere – you have ages stretching in front of you and then, suddenly, it’s all gone. This surprises everyone, not just us. Paul’s Mum, Madeleine, arrived for a very welcome visit in our last week – taking our mind off the bittersweet of goodbyes, but also reminding us that is really is time to go.
What to reflect on? Staying six months in San Cristobal was the right decision in so many ways. We’re so grateful for the break it gave us from on-the-road living. The girls feel so at home here. It’s changed them, I hope for the better. Some things I have noticed – and family at home may notice too.
- Their tastebuds are more Mexican
Tamarind sweeties, lime and salt and tacos: these were not favoured snacks at home, but are now firm favourites. Daisy and Clover love a glass of Jamaica (hibiscus tea served cold) and a maize tortilla (extra points if it’s blue). I don’t think I’ll ever like maize that much – perhaps you need to get to it early. Hope they can remember how to use a knife and fork?
- They speak Spanish to each other
I often listen to my girls talking together – it’s a polyglot mix at the moment. In a way it feels like we’re ripping them away at just the wrong moment when it comes to their language learning. We’re determined they won’t lose it though – expect to see a lot of Spanish in the Bigmore household going forward.
It’s been a joy to see them able to go off with a group of Mexican children at various parties and playdates, and to watch them being able to join in – even if what they are saying is less than perfect. As I say to the girls, the joy of speaking a foreign language is all about the communication, not the tenses and reflexives. I can see the delight in their eyes everytime they are understood. Priceless.
- They’ve got more confident
Mexican children are expected to greet even unknown adults politely (as long as they are known to the parents of course!), with a kiss on the cheek and a firm handshake. The girls haven’t always managed this, but they are getting better about not hanging back when an adult speaks to them. It’s good practice I think. They’ll also go off to the loo together in a restaurant, ask for the soup of the day or any other questions they have.
Some of this is just growing up in general, but life on the road has allowed us to give them more opportunities.
They’ve also not been able to compare themselves directly with classmates – as their achievements have been so different because of the language. For two summerborn girls who are used to being some of the smallest, least confident and sometimes slowest to understand in their year groups, that can be a huge boost.
The Semillas de Luz school was not fond of ability-based tables – so the girls have only had to consider their personal improvement and achievements. I think that’s as it should be. Though I need to stop treating Clover like an eight year old – the tendency to just expect the same of both of my daughters is magnified when they’re taught together and spend so much time together. I probably baby Daisy too.
- They’ve got taller
Can’t really blame that on the tacos, but they seem huge. We’ve replaced a lot of clothes. They’ve still got too many – but we’ve squashed them into the bags.
- They are self-sufficient
Perhaps Daisy and Clover are now a little too close. It’s going to be hard for them to go into separate classes after all of that time together. Clover without Daisy (on a rare day that Daisy had off school sick) was a little sad, but soon got over it. Daisy was just suspicious that Clover might be doing something really fun. But they are really good at playing together and not getting bored, with really very few resources (though we are grateful for the tablets).
- They are somewhat too unsophisticated for their UK classmates
Probably my fault. I know nothing about Taylor Swift and all that, and Daisy has been with the younger children rather than the older ones, and still loves her dolls and teddies.
I hope their friends won’t find their lack of knowledge of sports teams and pop music too offputting. Perhaps someone could put me together a playlist? Or an acceptable clothing list – I’m taking it a Che Guevera t-shirt and a hippy scarf isn’t de rigeur amongst the children of South East London – perhaps I’ll be grateful for school uniform.
What happens next? Two weeks out of a Spanish-speaking environment as we tackle Brazil pre-Olympics, followed by a dip back in as we journey through Peru and Bolivia, finishing up with Ecuador and the Galapagos. Really exciting, but marks the ending of our adventure. Two months to go. Speeding up so fast.