It was early afternoon and our thirteen year old son and his classmates heard a series of gunshots (turned out to be 18 in all). Right away the administration moved all the students into an upstairs classroom, away from the street. The energy ran high as bits and pieces of news came trickling in quickly. It became apparent that there had been a shooting in front of the high school and people said someone had been killed. Everything had died down by the time the school day was done, and they were let out of school. Our son and the others who wait at the same bus stop as him had to take a different route as the side of the street on the way to the bus stop was closed off by police.
Our son came home and told us about what happened. It wasn’t long until we were able to get more information from the local newspaper online. Apparently, two men on a motorcycle came up to a police officer on a bicycle and tried to steal his gun. The police officer was able to hang on to his gun, and in the process, both the robbers got shot, one being mortally wounded. The police officer was not wounded. This made our son feel a little better, knowing that it was the criminals and not the victims who were shot.
This son (we don’t use the names or photos of our children on our blog, for privacy purposes) has just started high school at the beginning of the southern hemisphere school year, in March. In Uruguay, high school starts in the equivalent of the 7th grade, as there is no “middle school”. Primary school covers the first 6 years of school and secondary school covers the second 6 years. This has been a big step for him. He was happy at the elementary school near our house. His three younger siblings went there with him, it is just a 10 minute walk from our house, and it only met from 8am to noon each day. In contrast, the high school requires a 20 minute ride on a city bus and the schedule is from 8am-3pm. On the plus side it is an evangelical school and he already had a friend there, who sits next to him in class. We homeschooled him our first year here, so this is just his third year going to school in Spanish. I have been happy to see his Spanish skills growing, as he is increasingly able to correct my Spanish errors or provide a word that I can’t think of. However, being able to function academically is more difficult than simply being able to speak a language. I read recently that it takes 5-7 years for a child to catch up when they study in a school in their second language. Obviously this statistic isn’t accounting for the age the child began school, or how different the first language is from the second language. The advantage with Spanish is that academic words often are very similar to their English equivalent. This helps, but he still struggles both at memorizing information for tests, and for knowing what piece of memorized information the question on the test is trying to ask.
Our son is doing a great job facing a lot of new experiences this year. It is our prayer that these experiences are those that create resilience and give him the gift of fluency in a second language and culture. Even in the tradgedy of the shooting it was possible to see glimmers of God’s grace. The math teacher has the habit of taking his break in his car during the time that the shooting happened. That day he had been detained in the school during his break time. A bullet went through his car, and he was thankful to the Lord for His protection. We also pray for our son to be able to see those glimmers of God’s grace even as he faces challenges this school year.
The city buses are often crowded and it is an adventure each day. But one of the beauties of the city of Montevideo is how people look out for each other, especially school children. He noticed this past week that the bus driver said, “buen dia” to him, acknowledging that he recognizes him as a regular on the bus route. Likewise, he at times gets offered a seat on a crowded bus. It is quite likely that other passengers that also take the same route daily also recognize him. This helps so that if he were to have a problem–a lost bus card, or whatever–there are those around to help him out. There are many high school kids on the buses each morning and each afternoon. We accompanied him on the bus the first two weeks. We saw other parents also with what looked like first year high school students teaching their kids how to take the bus. It is big step of independence, but one that he is equiped to take, and a step that is pretty normal for kids his age in the city. Being a missionary kid certainly has both its challenges and its rewards. We pray for both his safety and that he would thrive through all of these experiences.