Stopping By The Old School
The American School of Asuncion, February 2016
The American School of Asuncion, 1977
The wonderful thing about being a teacher is to be part of a multi-generational community. Being a teacher in an international school further expands that community to include students, colleagues and parents from the host country and other cultures. This can only expand and enrich one's life in countless and sometimes unknowable ways.
When I arrived at the American School of Asuncion in June of 1976, I was primarily a mono-culturalist and a somewhat myopic young American with limited experience of the greater world beyond my native country's shores. I was eager for new experiences and adventure and open to learning more about the place in which I would be living. This is why my wife and I had chosen to leave the comfort zone of our hometown friends and family to live overseas. By the time I left Paraguay in Dec. 1979, I was a changed person. I was also a father of a beautiful girl! I had begun to learn a new language and the culture and history of my adopted country. Through all of this, I gained an awareness of how cultural differences shape our perceptions of our world and of one another.
While teaching at the American School, I was able to establish relationships with some of my students that I was so incredibly fortunate to be able to renew on this trip. On Monday, February 15, Shelley, Bryna and I, along with former ASA librarian Graciana and former student Gloria, stopped by the old school campus on Avenida Espana to see how much had changed. When we taught there, there were about 400 students from first through twelfth grade. Today there are about 680 with a waiting list for more. The most significant change was that the main gate was now a high security affair and located on the side of the campus that, when we were there, was just a dirt road; it is now a busy side street. The front part of the campus looked pretty much the same with a bit more landscaping and flowering shrubs added to the main courtyard. Most of the expansion was off to the sides and back including an air-conditioned gym and new cafeteria. Most classrooms are air-conditioned now whereas we had to rough it with fans. Several new blocks of classrooms and multiple playing fields, a track and an alumni building were added over the years, giving the old school a very 21st century feel. It was a wonderful and nostalgic walk into the past while simultaneously seeing the future.
The new entrance to ASA with its enhanced security. This was once a small dirt road where we would often see horse carts passing.
Graciana, Shelley, Gloria and Bryna next to the Headmaster's office. It all looked pretty much the same "back in the day."
The lovely central courtyard of the school. It was the first day of classes on the day that we visited.
Another view of the courtyard from the late '70s. Back then all the students would gather there in the morning to sing the Paraguayan national anthem and the American national anthem while the respective national flags were raised. Now we are told the anthems are sung in individual classrooms.
Just outside my former classroom this patio under a grove of mango trees always offered a shady place where the high school students would gather. It was nice to see that it hadn't changed much since I was there many years ago.
This is how it looked back in the day.
A wonderful reunion with some my former students and friends from the American School.
On the same day that we visited the school, our friend and former ASA colleague Georgina drove us to Avenida Bruselas to find the little house that we lived in for about two and a half years. There was so much change to the old neighborhood that it was hard to recognize that it was the same place. At first we thought that our old house must have been demolished to make way for one of the many newer multi-storied houses built there now, but suddenly, like magic, it appeared, tucked between two newer houses. To our delight it looked almost identical to when we lived there. Asuncion had experienced so much change in the years since we left that it was heartening to have a few anchor points from our era still there to be able to hold on to.
Our house at 2051 Bruselas as it looked when we lived there in the late '70s. That's our 1969 German-made VW sedan that we called "The Green Dinosaur".
The old casa as it looks today. The metal work is a different color as is the car in the drive. Note the road is asphalt; back in our day it was cobble stones as most of the secondary roads in the city were then. We regret we didn't knock on the door to see if we could have gotten a look at the interior - perhaps the next time...
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