Lisbet Guerrera: My Past Life


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We're sitting under what appears to be a large roof made from straw, and the whole structure is supported by stilts, with a canvas like floor.

A structure similar to the classroom except it had a straw roof

As far as I am aware, there was no government funded education system in the remote part of Ecuador that Lisbet lived in. Schooldays were arranged on the fly, and classes were taken by volunteer teachers who were willing to spare any time that they had to teach the handful of children that resided there. This is the impression that I get from the memories I have of our learning days, I think they were few and far between. Nevertheless, I have one or two fond memories of days spent in the classroom:
I see myself as Lisbet, only this time I appear to be somewhat younger than in the usual memories, maybe 8 or 9 years old. I'm sitting on the floor cross-legged, in the company of about 5 other children, and there is a lady called  *Anilah* We're sitting under what appears to be a large roof made from straw, and the whole structure is supported by stilts, with a canvas like floor. I think i'm attending some kind of class, and today, Anilah is teaching us how to milk a goat. There are 2 goats, and we have to split into 2 groups, I'm a bit scared of the goat, I don't like it's eyes, but I make an attempt at milking, and i'm very pleased with myself at the results.

The next thing I remember is each of us children having a round piece of leather laid out in front of us, and we're each given what looks like a metal spike and a large stone. We have to punch small holes around the outside of the leather by hitting the spike with the stone, and then Anilah hands out a kind of metal hoop with a ring at the end to each of us, which we have to thread through the holes in the leather. The end result is a kind of leather bag, bunched up at the top around the hoop, and I believe this was used to carry small quantities of water.

Another young Lisbet lookalike!

There were no school buildings that so many of us are familiar with today. Lisbet's classroom was merely a roof supported by stilts, one on each corner. The children would sit together on the floor facing the teacher, and instead of learning the usual things like arithmetic, we were taught 'hands on' how to perform everyday tasks that would help us to live and survive in a remote region.

I had some other friends who were not as close to me as Margarita, just classmates really, I can remember attending lessons with 5 or 6 other children, one of them was called Luciana and I have a memory of the two of us setting off from school together on an assignment:

"I remember it was a learning day, and we were all gathered inside that structure that I described as a school. There must have been about eight of us there, and our teacher, Anilah. She split us all up into pairs, and I was partnered with another girl, who's name was something like Luciana?

Each pair was given a small wire mesh like basket, and our task was to go out and collect various berries and fruits, and to return them to the schoolroom, but Anilah made it clear that we were not to eat any of them, as the lesson today was going to be how to recognize what was edible, and what was poisonous to eat. I remember her saying, that if we ate anything, we'd be very sick, so she kind of instilled enough fear into us all, to make us not want to eat anything.

Fast forward a bit and I'm walking along with Luciana. There are no words to describe the scenery before me, a vast expanse of rolling hills and fields, with shadows of the clouds moving slowly across them. We've gathered a few berries in the basket, when we notice a large bird, maybe an eagle, I don't know what, but it appeared to be attacking a small lizard. I pick up a small stone and throw it in the bird's direction, to try and scare it away, but it still persists, so I run towards it waving my arms and shouting until the bird flies away.

A lizard like the injured one that we found

We cautiously approach the lizard, which is laying on a rock, and appears to be dead. I notice that it has a light colored stripe running from head to tail. I pick up a stick and prod it to see if it's really dead, but I jump back in surprise when one of his legs twitch. Now we're not sure what to do with it, i don't want to leave it here, but also, I don't want to touch it. We have an idea, we empty the berries from the basket, and Luciana, being braver than me, tries to lift the rock, but the lizard scurries off onto the ground, and we both scream and jump back, clinging on to each other. The lizard is now sitting on some dead twigs and bark, and he's injured, so I just take a deep breath, I close my eyes tight and quickly scoop it up into the basket.

I'm wearing an apron, or a petticoat, I'm not quite sure which, but I remember taking it off and wrapping it over the basket to stop the lizard from escaping. Unfortunately I can't remember what happened after that....I know we went back to Anilah with the injured reptile, but I didn't recall what happened to it."