Mario Villalobos

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Two Gifts

Last week, I received two gifts by two teachers and friends I work with. The first was this wine by our 5th grade teacher:

I laughed out loud when I saw it. It references a few inside jokes that I won’t get into here.

And the next one was this beer by our 4th grade teacher:

Other than the fact that I think the elementary school is trying to turn their tech guy into an alcoholic, I appreciated both gifts. I’m not at all a wine or beer connoisseur, but I found both got me sufficiently drunk, so I highly recommend them both.

Three Words

“Woah woah woah.”

Those were the three words I said as I drove over the train tracks and saw a fox run across in front of me.

Woah #1: Dammit, Fox!

Woah #2: I’m glad I didn’t hit you!

Woah #3: Wait, you were a fox! I love foxes!

A few hours earlier, I saw a pair of deer gamboling across the vast fields lining the road on my way to work. I saw a horse bump its head against another horse, and not far away, a few calves playing with one other near their mom. I saw a hawk fly low across the road right above my car and countless ducks and geese and swans swimming in the reservoir.

Life can be so beautiful sometimes.

Saying Yes to Things

A few weeks ago, my friend Ginger asked me if I would help her out with something. She was applying to the Northwest Student Exchange, a non-profit student exchange program based in Seattle, WA. Next year, she was hoping to host a teenager from Germany, and while she was filling out her application, she asked me if I would like to be the girl’s academic coordinator. Without really thinking about it, I said sure. “What do I have to do?” I asked. “I’m not sure,” she said. “Okay.”

She put my name and email down, and not long after, I received an email from the NWSE asking me if I would like to apply. I emailed back and said sure. The NWSE representative then sent me the application, I filled it out, and I setup a phone interview for the following week. When the interview came, I talked to the representative and answered questions for about an hour. I didn’t really know what to expect, but the more she told me about the program and the role I played, the more I started to get excited about it. According to their website, “NWSE Area Coordinators love working with youth, believe in the value of international understanding and friendship, enjoy reaching out to others, and are often well connected in their communities.”

Maybe it was the coronavirus or maybe I’m getting soft in my old age or maybe I’m thinking more about my legacy, but working with kids and being around kids has really made me happy lately. Just this morning, my good friend Maddie, a first grader, ran up to me and gave me a hug. Kids around her started saying, “Hi Super Mario!” and I said hi back and joked around with them and made them laugh, and their laughter is just so infectious. Yesterday a young kindergartener showed me a small strand of pink yarn and she said she stole it from a leprechaun. I laughed and said, “I never met a leprechaun hunter before,” and she smiled demurely before running away and rejoining her friends.

The student from Germany will be 16 years old when she flies into Montana later this year. In her application she wrote that one of the reasons why she wanted to come to America was because she wanted to get out of her comfort zone and learn new things. I can relate 100%. I’m eager to meet her and learn from her and teach her and make sure her stay in America can be as good as it can be. If I had said no to this opportunity, if I had said no to Ginger, what would that have meant for me? That I’m a coward? That I’m comfortable with complacency and mediocrity? I don’t want to live like that.

So I’m glad I said yes to this. I’m scared but also excited. Isn’t that one of the best things about life? That feeling of possibility?

As an addendum to my last post, some elementary teachers are annoyed at me because I told their students to call me Super Mario. Is it really my fault that I enjoy walking into a classroom to a chorus of little kids saying “Hi Super Mario” over and over? I don’t think so… 😂

The Playground

One of the absolute best parts of my job is that I work at a school. I get to see and interact with kids of all ages, and other than reminding me of how old I’m getting, they also remind me of how much fun being alive can be.

I love walking around the playground and seeing new chalk drawings, like this one of one of our substitute teachers made during art class. I love seeing our kids express themselves in fun and imaginative ways. It reminds me not to be so stodgy and to loosen up a little.

I saw this on my walk today, and I can only deduce that someone made a hopscotch diagram using just water. The sheer imagination to come up with something like this impresses the hell out of me. I guess the lesson here is that the only limits in life are those you impose on yourself, so just go out there and play.

Canceled my New York Times subscription and resubscribed to The New Yorker. I found I didn’t really read the Times and I really missed spending an hour or so a day going through the meatier New Yorker articles. This one in particular convinced me to return.

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