A Kiss on Both Cheeks

imageOn the last day of break, I sharpen pencils and think about what we were told in December, that we are gaining 10 new students in January. Where will we put them all?

Over the holidays, I pondered table configurations – rows, circles, “U” shapes –  arranging and rearranging in my head, counting the number of seats each one rendered. I played, mentally assembling and disassembling, like a toddler with blocks.

* * *

“Happy New Year” all the students say as they enter. They take great joy in mastering this greeting and knowing they are understood.

* * *

Yesterday I arrived at the door of the church at the same time as one of the Iraqi students. We’d not seen each other in two weeks. She leaned in and gave me the double kiss, a peck on each cheek. I’m becoming more accustomed to this and picking up on when it’s done. It’s not a daily thing. It’s when a longer span of time has passed, when it’s been a while.

She gives me the double kiss and I think of the day, 6-7 weeks ago, right after Thanksgiving break, when I ran into two of the Cuban women in the hall. Our eyebrows went up. We all smiled. They began to step toward me, as if to give me a hug. Then one grabbed the other by the elbow and they both stepped back.

In Spanish, the elbow-grabber said to the other woman, “I hear people from USA don’t like that.”

Then she turned to me. “So sorry, Teacher. I forget.”

“What?” I asked. I understood what she’d said to the other student in Spanish, but just to make sure. Plus, it was a conversation opportunity!

She attempted to explain. It came out a mix, Spanglish. But it made for a good exchange – a cultural exchange, of sorts. In the end we all agreed: It depends on the person. After this came big hugs. Also, the kiss on each cheek.

We are all learning. Me, the most.

* * *

You might also enjoy:

A Washington Post story about a family resettling in Louisville.
A local story : How local schools are meeting the needs of refugee children
All my posts about the refugees

About Marilyn

Reading, thinking, listening, writing and talking about faith, creativity, ESL for refugees, grief and finding the story in a story. Student of Spanish. Foe of procrastination. Cheez-it fan. People person with hermit tendencies or vice-versa. Thank you so much for reading.
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