jueves, 1 de noviembre de 2012

An Obituary for Kristina Westerberg

An obituary is a notice of someone´s death, usually accompanied by a short biography. It is not common to read obituaries in blogs for students but death comes to us all and I want to pay homage to a Swedish teacher who meant a lot for quite a few of us at school - and I mean teachers and staff, students and families, and to the city of Lugo in general: Kristina Westerberg.

Today is All Saints´Day  and a few days ago we read about the origins of Halloween in our 2º BAC classes (how Samhain became All Hallows´ Eve) so this is a good time to remember Kristina.

I met her in Santiago de Compostela in July 2000, when we both attended a summer course for teachers from different European countries. In the first term of the school year 2000-01, our principal, Javier, asked the English Department to prepare a school trip for a group of students who were taking part in a bilingual project. I started to look for a school that would agree to have an exchange programme with us and, eventually, Kristina accepted. She was really enthusiastic about it (I was soon to learn that Kristina showed the same enthusiasm on everything she laid her hands on) and very thankful for this chance to get back on the track again because she had been distanced from school programmes for a while. She was so excited about the project! She included this poem attributed to both Borges and Mario Benedetti (does anyone know who really wrote it?), called "El árbol de los amigos," in one of the e-mails she sent me back then and I think it fits just perfect right here and now (I am sorry but I can´t find  a bilingual version of the poem):

El árbol de los amigos

Existen personas en nuestras vidas que nos hacen felices 
por la simple casualidad de haberse cruzado en nuestro camino. 
Algunas recorren el camino a nuestro lado, viendo muchas lunas pasar, 
mas otras apenas vemos entre un paso y otro. 
A todas las llamamos amigos y hay muchas clases de ellos. 

Tal vez cada hoja de un árbol caracteriza uno de nuestros amigos. 
El primero que nace del brote es nuestro amigo papá y nuestra amiga mamá, 
que nos muestra lo que es la vida. 
Después vienen los amigos hermanos, 
con quienes dividimos nuestro espacio para que puedan florecer como nosotros. 
Pasamos a conocer a toda la familia de hojas a quienes respetamos y deseamos el bien. 

Mas el destino nos presenta a otros amigos, 
los cuales no sabíamos que irían a cruzarse en nuestro camino. 
A muchos de ellos los denominamos amigos del alma, de corazón. 
Son sinceros, son verdaderos. 
Saben cuando no estamos bien, saben lo que nos hace feliz. 

Y a veces uno de esos amigos del alma estalla en nuestro corazón 
y entonces es llamado un amigo enamorado. 
Ese da brillo a nuestros ojos, música a nuestros labios, saltos a nuestros pies. 
Mas también hay de aquellos amigos por un tiempo, 
tal vez unas vacaciones o unos días o unas horas. 
Ellos acostumbran a colocar muchas sonrisas en nuestro rostro, 
durante el tiempo que estamos cerca. 

Hablando de cerca, no podemos olvidar a amigos distantes, 
aquellos que están en la punta de las ramas 
y que cuando el viento sopla siempre aparecen entre una hoja y otra. 
El tiempo pasa, el verano se va, el otoño se aproxima y perdemos algunas de nuestras hojas, 
algunas nacen en otro verano y otras permanecen por muchas estaciones. 
Pero lo que nos deja más felices es que las que cayeron continúan cerca, 
alimentando nuestra raíz con alegría. 
Son recuerdos de momentos maravillosos de cuando se cruzaron en nuestro camino. 

Te deseo, hoja de mi árbol, paz, amor, salud, suerte y prosperidad. 
Simplemente porque cada persona que pasa en nuestra vida es única. 
Siempre deja un poco de sí y se lleva un poco de nosotros. 

Habrá los que se llevarán mucho, 
pero no habrán de los que no nos dejarán nada. 
Esta es la mayor responsabilidad de nuestra vida 
y la prueba evidente de que dos almas no se encuentran por casualidad.

We, the Spanish group, visited Sweden first, in May 2001, and I planned their visit for the beginning of October so that they could enjoy our "San Froilán" celebrations. Both visits were a big success and that was the beginning of the current exchange programme between our school and "Tibble Gymnasium." Both Kristina and I realized that both our cities were excellent for an exchange programme and we did our best to make it work from the very beginning. It wasn´t difficult because Kristina had worked in programmes like this before and she knew exactly what to do and it was then when I noticed something else about Kristina - apart from her enthusiasm: she never felt intimidated when problems arose. You could feel she was fighting to find a solution when you saw the way her lips closed against each other - that was the most outer expression of worry you could notice in her - but the next minute she would grasp her phone, make a phone call and everything would be on its way to a solution. In fact, that was another trait of Kristina´s personality: she had a special ability to know exactly who to call and how to ask for whatever she wanted or needed.

I took part in three exchange programs with her; the last one lasted for two years, the school years 2005-2006 and 2006-2007: it was the first Comenius project in our school and it involved a 3-week stay in Sweden for us and a 4-week-stay in Lugo for the Swedish students.The preparatory part of this project and its carrying our left me exhausted (during the second part of this programme I had to do all the work, which was a lot, believe me, in my free time) and that, together with some personal problems -which Kristina found out right away, because she had a developed interpersonal intelligence  as well - made me stay away from school projects for a while.

I had agreed to go back to work with her on a new project in our school but the principal chose someone else and that was the end of our professional relationship but not of our private one. We kept in touch and, even though I am not much of a "phone-person" and she was just the opposite, we had quite a few long conversations which always involved lots of laughing; the truth is I cannot remember a single conversation with Kristina, either on the phone or in person, when we didn´t laugh a lot but I do remember how we nearly split our sides laughing several times. I think that laughter unites people and those moments  became our inside jokes

Some people just pass by in your life but others become part of it and Kristina was one of these; I will do my best not to forget her optimism and her positive attitude in life - they are two excellent qualities that can surely make a difference in everyday life. I feel honored to have shared so many good moments with her.

For those of you who knew Kristina, here´s a video of an interview on the local TV in the year 2007. I think she is splendid here - just the way she was.

Kristina, R.I.P. (= Latin for "requiescat in pace", which is "rest in peace" in English)

4 comentarios:

  1. Belén Gato.01 noviembre, 2012

    Really emotive your words about Kristina.
    I do think she deserved it and also she is grateful , for sure.

  2. Precioso homenaje le has hecho a Kristina.....que guapísimas salís las dos en la entrevista.

    1. Thank you, Loli! You know I wrote it from my heart -you knew Kristina so you know everything I wrote is true.

  3. Belén, thanks for your comment!
    I appreciate it coming from you both as a colleague and as a friend.


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