Third grade science, first floor, 9:45 AM. Naturally, class doesn't begin until almost ten minutes later.
Carlos approaches me, a proud smile on his face and a dead but preserved scorpion entombed in a plastic container. He doesn't even say a word; the prize possession in his hands says it all. "Wow!" I exclaim. "Is this yours?" Of course it is, silly. He didn't just discover a nicely labeled scorpion on the way to school.
"Tidy up your desks, children," María pleads. "We must begin science!" No one is eager to begin, and children lag. English books are still open, students miraculously completing an assignment without being asked, while other students talk amongst themselves. At least no one is strangling anyone else, I think. "Come on! Tidy up!" Her requests fall on deaf ears.
Finally, we begin. Child by child, we wade through the class; each student goes to the front to hold up a tiny piece of paper with food drawn on it. The class squirms, each child impatiently waiting his or her turn to tell from where some food item is sourced. "Sausages come from pig," Adrián says quietly, "and hams comes from pig." "Ham. Comes. From. A pig," the teacher corrects, patiently. Ah, the ever-present ham leg makes its appearance yet again! The student nods and smiles absentmindedly, clearly not understanding but anxious to return to his seat. "OK, very good. Who is next?" We wait for the next student, who probably also drew a ham leg or a sausage.
I feel lips on the back of my arm; Diego is kissing my tricep. My heart feels heavy for him, a sweet boy with autism who desperately needs a classroom suited to his needs. I smile and reach my hand out and give him a high-five, directing him back to his seat.
"Tea-chair! Tea-chair!" a student whisper-talks. "Where do hamburgers come from?" I am not in America anymore.
I hear a clicking sound and look across the room. Marcos is picking the lock to a teachers-only cabinet with a paperclip. I shoot him a look that says Don't you dare, understandable in any language.