Valentine’s Day

On this February 14th, I have a valentine – 23 of them actually.

For an hour on Tuesdays and two on Thursdays, I teach a lifeskills class to the Form Bs, the equivalent of high school freshmen. We discuss making good decisions, communicating opinions and wants and, eventually, HIV/AIDs, early pregnancy and drugs and alcohol. Today, though, we took a break from assertive behavior for Valentine’s Day.

Most of the classes are straight lecture, without much play let alone crafts. Lifeskills is a class where I can incorporate more hands-on and fun learning as opposed to English, which requires a lot more board work and notes. We have been talking about surrounding ourselves with people who help us make good decisions, such as a teacher or parent, so I took a bit further, to incorporate the holiday, and reminded them to tell those people we love them.

One of my loves, Amy, sent me a box of crayons in a Christmas package so I brought them to class and instructed the students to tear out a sheet of paper and write a message to someone they love. I showed them an example that I made the night before and dumped the crayons on to a desk. But before they began, I handed them each a little paper heart with their names and a simple declaration: I love you.

I do love my students. On the tough days, the why-am-I-here ones, they change my attitude. They make me laugh and scream at the same time. Their smiles dissolve all the hate in my heart and I am ready to try again.

On Valentine’s Day, we get so wrapped up in romantic love that those who don’t have it are bitter and jealous. But, this day isn’t about that for me. Maybe it’s because my romantic life has been put on hold for many years to make this dream happen and happen without any reason to look back but it could also be that I have so much love around me that it doesn’t matter who it comes from.

At home, there are many people that I love and miss greatly, but, here in this tiny country, I have new loved ones. They are scattered throughout the kingdom but also in this tiny village. Love, I have it, and lots of it.

There will be no fancy dinners, boxes of chocolate, shiny red cards or bouquets of roses for me today. Instead, I had 40 minutes with a group of coloring teenagers singing Akon and Justin Bieber. It was the perfect Valentine’s Day.

Happy Valentine’s Day, my loves.

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