When I was in high school, commuting from school to the countryside was always one of the most satisfying stimuli of the school year. The reason was that we were leaving home for the first time and distanced ourselves from the family “tyranny”. It was an opportunity to prove to ourselves as teenagers how independent we can be even if we lack the comforts of home when it comes down to it.
For this task, the calendars scheduled 45 days without returning home. Their goal was to combine study with work, and their participation was mandatory. The places of work were rural areas planted with reeds, fruit trees or various crops, where these young contingents, clumsy with hoes, made their debut as peasants, causing more harm than the famous elephant in the glass shop.
Preparing a family for school in the village used to be intensive and well in advance. The first step was to get a wooden suitcase – there were no others at that time, like backpacks, as they are now – and usually you had to make it in the carpentry workshop of the plant or from some famous carpenter. They weren’t fancy, just rough rectangular boxes with a lid and a couple of bolts to padlock them.
A few days before, the school administration had given us a change of work clothes. Infrequently, their sizes fit all of us, so our mothers had to put on skates before leaving to fit into pants and shirts. Another pair of Russian boots, which we called stone breakers, were so rough and heavy that we had painful calluses on our heels.
Packing time was an ordeal. Our well-meaning prudent elders made us include a small bag of aspirin, a mosquito net, Chinese menthol, chromium mercury, clothesline, adhesive plasters, a spoon, a pitcher, an inhaler, slippers and, of course, paste, a brush, soap and damn it knows how much more.
The moments before the game were emotional. The overjoyed boys gathered in front of the school, and our parents chatted nearby. For us it was a party; a tragedy for them. We were advised: “Eat all the food, swim early, if you feel bad, let us know, always go out with friends, wear a hat so as not to endure the sun, do not play with your hands …”.
The decisive moment was the arrival of the buses. We approached and began to sing and quarrel, and the parents said goodbye to us, grimacing. Already in the camps the mood had changed. As darkness fell, some became homesick, and then the occasional tears came. This caused ridicule from the most experienced. Who could sleep in such conditions?
Camp life, of course, was different from family life. We slept on bunk beds, ate on metal trays, which we encountered for the first time. As for the menu, the paucity of his offerings meant that we were always hungry, to the point where even the fussy would prepare for pea rengancha or we would dispute leftover rice in the cauldrons.
We swam in cold water. Some of us were carrying buckets and canisters from those that sold butter. At night we played cards, dominoes, brocades, checkers… Sometimes we sat on the floor around the bunk of fat Jorge Alba, a born storyteller, to tell us horror stories. we also heard Night and some even sang.
At 22:00 we had to go to bed. Before going to sleep, most of the Joderos would run around the hallway of the dorm and tug at the sheets, fool around, dress up, or be naughty. After a while, everything was quiet. At 6 o’clock in the morning, someone (almost always a cook) struck with an iron bar on a huge plow disk hanging from a bush. The sound he made was the classic “get up!” There we ran to wash, comb our hair, relieve ourselves, have breakfast, go to the morning meeting, line up and go to the fields. Someone was always left as a “barracks” to clean shelters, bathrooms and the surrounding area.
In the field, the tasks were not always the same. In one case, we were forced to weed reed fields, in another – to classify malangs, in the third – to pick oranges. Many of us took some with us to the shelter to give to our parents when they came to us on Sunday mornings in rented trucks.
The village school left an indelible mark on the students of my time. It was a good experience, despite the fact that its productive results were controversial. There we alternated mud, spiders, guisazo and nostalgia for the first time. And for the first time, we didn’t have a family to carry chestnuts out of the fire.
Source: Juventud Rebelde