#382: Things of the past - 2015-10-04


Mashed potatoes with meat or chicken croquettes. Salads with lettuce, corncob, peas, tomato, cauliflower and broccoli to taste. Assorted icecream for dessert. The kids spent half an hour with each other at two of the tables of the large dinning room. There were a few hours left before leaving, but this would be the last time they would be all talking together.

They wouldn't miss talking about the memories of the time they shared during primary school, and with that the late arrivals to the class were the first ones invited to speak about their former experiences. Arnoldo Navarrete was the first to talk.

- “ Well, I was born at our town, and I stayed here until kindergarten. We moved to Viña del Mar with some relatives, and we stayed there until mid-1994. ”

- “ How were things there in Viña? ” - the teacher asked him.

- “ The neighborhood was tranquil, but it suddenly becomes crowded, most often during summer with tourists. My old school was a large one, there were like eight classes for each year, between 30 and 40 students each. ”

- “ And your classmates? How were they? ”

Arnoldo shrugged.

- “ To be honest, I didn't make many friends at my class. Problem was... I was way too popular with the girls there, and my male classmates were envious of me. ”

Catalina crossed her arms. She already listened to that story.

- “ Oh, really? What did they say to you? ”

- “ They called me ‘Casanova’, ‘Matador’, ‘Sailor’, etc., but always laughing at me. They said that I had a lot of girlfriends, that I should leave one girl for them... absurd stuff like that. ”

- “ Hey, but you say so as though it was a bad thing! ”

- “ Of course it was! I never did anything to earn that fame! I mean, well... I did like some girls, and there were a few moments that I enjoyed them... but it always caused me trouble. In fact, there was a group of ‘fangirls’... that did everything they could to make hell of the life of any other girl who dared to get too close to me. ”

- “ Oooh... bullies. ”

- “ Yeah, they were insane. One time I found them a few blocks away from school, they were surrounding a new student, a skinny bespectacled girl who once made me a drawing. They said: ‘ If we can't have him, nobody will have him! ’, At that point, I confronted them. ”

They all stared at each other. Only Catalina knew that side of the story.

- “ I told them: ‘ Enough! Who do you think you are, huh!? What are you doing to...? ’ - I don't remember the name of that girl, but I knew it at that moment. I hugged her and she cried in my arms.

“ One of them became infuriated and yelled at me: ‘ Why, Arnoldo!? What does that girl have that we don't? Why do you defend her!? ’

“ ‘ You're five against one! What did you think I would do? Did you want me to cross my arms while you harass an innocent girl? ’

“ ‘ Arnoldo, you don't understand! I'm in love of you! Why you don't look at me? Why do you have so many fans? I don't want anyone else to look at you! I'm dying of jealousy! You belong to me! Why can't you see it? ’

“ ‘ Me, yours? YOURS!? Of course not! You're a bully! You and your friends are the worst at the school! Forget about me! ’

“ They all had some bags with stones inside, with which they would stone the bespectacled girl. When they started taking them I fled with the girl, protecting her with my back. I was hit by some stones, and one of them hit the school's principal, who was passing by. They tried to flee, but a Carabineros patrol car stopped them. They were all expelled from the school. ”

This story seemed too fantastical to be true. They all stated at Arnoldo without believing anything.

- “ That was the worst problem I had while at that school, but not the only one. In the end, despite having so many fans, I never had a girlfriend... until I returned to our town. Here I met Catalina, and she changed my life forever. ”

- “ Oooooh! ” - they all cheered when they saw Arnoldo and Catalina kissing each other in front of everyone.


The next one invited to tell her story was Li Xiaoshang, who joined the class in the beginning of 1994, but who still didn't fit well along her classmates.

- “ Tell us, Li! Where do you come from? ”

- “ Uh... I was born at a town in Guangdong province, People's Republic of China. I have but a faint memory of that time, as my family moved to Chile when I was little. I grew up in Iquique, and was taught in Spanish. I went to kindergarden, then to school up to fourth year. ”

- “ How did you come to our town? ”

- “ Dad was at Iquique working for a company owned by Chinese descendants. For a long while he was saving to buy a house for us. Mom didn't want to come to the south that year, but we had troubles there and we had to look for a place urgently. We found a large plot at this town, and as Dad wanted to stay working at the port, we moved here. But there was no work for us here, so we had to do Chinese stuff in order to survive. ”

- “ ... Chinese stuff... ”

- “ We started selling Chinese food. That wasn't what we wanted to do, but we didn't have much money and we had to survive in some way. There was also the possibility of teaching Chinese martial arts, which my parents already did in Iquique, though as a semi-informal activity.

“ We had to follow a difficult process in order to get the necessary permits. During 1993 we opened our academy, though we never had enough students to make a living from it. Also, Karate is more popular here. There are like three or four Karate schools in the commune, they join tournaments and everything. We're alone here, we don't belong to any federation... actually we're just starting on it, and we have no knowledge about the Chilean martial arts scene.

“ Luckily for us, we encountered my mother's brother. He lives in Concepción and works at a factory. He helped us a lot economically, and now we have a grocery store. Now my grandmother moved to our place with other relatives; there in China remain two great-grandparents, three grandparents and several uncles and aunts. So we're better off than two years ago. ”

- “ Good to see that your family is doing well! What about you, Li? You were the best student of the class this year. What are your plans for the future? ”

Li Xiaoshang became nervous. She still hadn't thought about it, so she resorted to say something to get out of the situation.

- “ Well... that depends on how I do at secondary school. If I fail at it, I'll dedicate myself to martial arts and to my family's businesses. If I succeed, I'm going to study... Public Administration! Yeah, that surely will suit me, hahahaha! ”

- “ Why are you laughing? It makes sense. From your results at the vocational test, I think that politics suits you well... something where you're in the middle of everything and where you can work with people. In fact, and this is something that I wanted to tell you since a while ago, but it appears that it has been difficult for you to fit with your classmates... ”

- “ Oh... well, that was before. To be honest, I was a fool, I thought that as a new student and as a Chinese girl I wouldn't find a space at the established groups of friends... however, during the last two months I knew two great friends that helped me abandon the fears that I had until then. ”

Those two friends were the German cousins, Rodolfo Hahn and Marcela Kahn. They where those who broke the ice and weren't afraid of the indomitable and defiant spirit of Li Xiaoshang. The three hugged each other in front of the applauding class.


- “ Well, kids, I'm going to take a nap now. Continue enjoying the pool, the landscape and the games we have for you all to play. Remember that at five o'clock I'll call you for the last class photo, and that the bus will leave at five and a half. Understood? ”

- “ Yes, teacher. ”

- “ Oh, before you leave! ” - Judith interrupted - ” I think that there's a mystery that still remains to be solved... ”

- “ What are you talking about, Judith? ”

- “ Alonso, tell us, once and for all! What's the girl you like? ”

They all laughed, except the teacher who didn't understand why he was interrupted for such a trivial topic. Alonso became very nervous, but accepted to tell his secret...

- “ Well, as you insist so much... Yeah, there's a girl that I liked. ”

- “ Ooooh... ”

- “ ... thing is, she was still in sixth grade... so I better forget about her for now, maybe in a few years when she's out of primary school... ”

- “ Hey, many of us have relatives at that year... maybe we can help... ”

The nervous smile that Alonso sported until that moment became completely erased. He ran out of patience.

- “ Hey, mind your own business! I already said that I'll wait until she's out of primary! Huh? Also, why do you even care about whether I like anyone or not!? ”

No one else wanted to ask anything to Alonso. Only Judith stayed with him at the dining room, while everyone else went to the pool or away to play.

- “ Hey, don't get mad... it's just that you always laugh to yourself, and you have the face of a lovestruck... ”

- “ It's the only face I have, Judith! Stop with that already! ”