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  • A Visit to Angangueo's Escuela Issac Arriaga
    by Elizabeth Donnelly and daughter Adrienne

    What can you do when you don't speak Spanish and have thousands of butterfies to deliver to Mexico? Sometimes the answer is under your nose. My 10th grade daughter became an interpretor and monarch ambassador for 10 days. One of our stops was Escuela Issac Arriaga where we delivered 365 paper butterflies--one for each Grade 1-6 student in this small mountain town.

    School director Tomas Rebollar Rongel greeted us, along with these 4 giggly girls. It took 2 full days to visit all 15 classrooms. When we entered each room, the students immediately rose to their feet and said in unison, "BUENOS DIAS SENORAS," pronouncing each syllable very clearly and slooooooooowly.

    With the big boxful of butterflies in hand, we explained why we had come. I would speak one sentence and Adrienne would translate. "Have you ever wondered why monarchs don't stay up north?", we asked. We showed them a picture of our hometown, covered with snow. And another of a lake with cars driving on top of the ice! Next we read a message on the back of one of the butterflies. It said, "This fragile butterfly has flown a long way and it's wings are tired." Finally we asked, "Will you take care of these butterflies for the winter?" "Si!", they all said, full of smiles.

    As was done at Escuela Primerio Pedro Ascencio, each student chose a butterfly to care for, and each made a butterfly for the return trip. After selecting a monarch from the box they placed a dot on the map of North America to show how far the butterfly had flown. (Click on this map so you can see.)

    After visiting a handful of classes, we began to notice the students were trying very, very hard not to laugh. We realized we made a comical pair; a full-grown adult babbling in a foreign language and her daugher making sense, but with a strange accent. Although we both felt a little embarassed, we gained a new appreciation for how difficult it is to speak another language.

    Adrienne translated the English messages on the butterflies into Spanish for the students. Throughout her visit she was surrounded by these red-sweatered students, allfull of enthusiasm and excited to meet a new American friend. "Como se dice mi nombre en Ingles?" the students all asked, crowding around. They shrieked with laughter each time they heard their name spoken in the unfamiliar U.S. accent.

    This monarch was sent from New York City. Marta Martinez Romero was thrilled with it!