On Friday night, at 5pm, I entered the amphitheater where the last year students were to have their graduation ceremony.
About 140 students, their parents, and all the teachers (they had to sign a paper upon getting in the room. Apparently, last year, some were late and the doors were closed so major loss of face with empty rows where the teachers should have been. Hence the compulsory signatures).
At 5:10, before the students got in, the secretary asks me “tu tienes que dar el certificado al mejor alumno de ingles”
Ok. That seemed ok, since I had helped him write his speech in English (correcting only the language, not the actual message – 3/4 were about thanking god for shining light on the class).
But then I was told (it was about 5:20pm by now and the students were walking in): “oh, tienes que sentarte a la mesa directiva para dar el diploma.”
Well, it´s that long official table covered in a white table clothe that is right on the stage, where the rector, vice rector and 9 other teachers were seated.
“wait, I JUST have to give that certificate? What else do I have to do?”
“no, no, that´s it. I´ll tell you when to get up”
The students come in, the ceremony starts.
We all have a fancy program with the names of ALL the students who graduate tonight on it, silver letter, logo of the school, program that says “speech by X, speech by Y., musical piece 1, student award 1, speech by Z, musical piece 2 etc”
The secretary starts:
“due to a printing error, we have to apologize because student X, who graduated in -insert whatever major here- does not have his name on the list. ”
Ouch. Poor kid !
Ecuadorian national anthem (I REALLY need to learn it, damnit)
After the few first speeches comes the reading of the students´names. Turns out that … 12 names are read. 12 students stand up, holding their square hat. 12 students start walking towards the stage.
Sure I just have to give that one certificate?
Each student stands in front of each person at the mesa directiva, me included. The rector reads a text saying that according to the article number y of the constitution, he certifies that they are now about to be officially graduated. Then each kid gives the person in front of him, and the mesa directiva people get to place the hat on his head, shake his hand and say “felicitaciones”.
That, about 12 times.
The good thing was that the students were super stressed, and didn´t have more of an idea of what they were supposed to do than I did (not giving the hat in the right direction, sweaty hands, hands trembling with stress, not knowing if they were supposed to shake more than one teacher´s hand, replacing the hat on their head so that it wouldn´t fall.)
The musical piece turned out to be Kenny G style songs blasting on the sound system, which gave the opportunity to the parents to stand up and go in the aisles to photograph their kids.
Graduating fronm high school is a big deal. The majority doesn´t go to university.
Then it was time for the best English student to give his speech, which turned out to be the longest of all (about 10 min, and he … hadn´t printed the corrected version, it seemed?). After 10 long minutes, he said “now I am going to translate my words in Spanish so that you can all understand”
That woke everyone up. The audience didn´t like it.
It all ended with the Cuenca anthem.
All in all the ceremony lasted about 2h, and it was interesting to see the Ecuadorian version of a graduation ceremony.
After having seen an American one, a Chinese one, an Ecuadorian one, I am always kind of sad deep inside that I never got one in France.
Ah, French public system = no money = no ridiculous hat and gown nor emotional “I did it” time. Sigh. I have kind of gotten to like those and wish I had had one of my own.
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