I am Alfonso Olvera, I’m 13, and I live in Mexico City, the biggest city in the world.

Let me explain the title of my column to you. “Qué Onda!” is the Mexican equivalent of “What’s up?” or “What’s happening?”. This is how kids say hello to each other: “Qué onda?…. Cómo estás?”, or “Qué onda?… cómo te fue?”. It also means, what’s going on?. So… “Qué onda cómo están?”

In this column I’m going to tell you about life in a Mexican school, my school.

It’s called, “Escuela Sierra Nevada”, and it’s going to celebrate it’s 50th year!!

It’s a private school and goes from kindergarten to 5th year elementary, and from first year of junior high to the third year of senior high school. I don’t know why it doesn’t have the sixth year. Weird, isn’t it?

The worst thing is having to get up at 6:30 in the morning because there is no school bus in my district, so we hired a lady whose name is Megumi to take me every morning. Since she has to pick up other people, however,  she comes by for me very early. In the beginning it’s awful, but I wake up on the way to school.

I get out of school at 2:30. I’m not so tired when I get home, but by Thursday  I would give anything to sleep for a bit in the afternoon.

My school’s facilities are not very good, since the buildings are new and are just barely being finished now.

In the first year of junior high, which is the grade I’m in now, there are about 70 students, divided into three groups. We all get along well, and we’re all friends and have fun, even if not everyone is in our group.

I have 14 subjects: MathLiteraturePhysics and Chemistry, Civics,Typing, History, Geography, Artistic Expression, Guidance,Computer Science, Language, Spanish, and Phys Ed.  I like Artistic Expression and Geography because they’re not hard or as boring as the others. The subjects almost everyone likes least are Physics andChemistry, because the teacher is “mala onda” (very strict and demanding).

Literature and Language are in English. For Literature, we read stories, novels and short stories, and in language we study grammar, communication and spelling. The Lit. teacher is from Kansas, and the Language one is from Houston… We have read 3 novels in literatureThe Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, which wasn’t bad, but after that, The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, was hard to understand. Now we’re reading My Brother Sam Is Dead, which isn’t awful, but it doesn’t thrill me, either.

The grading system in Mexico is based on a scale from 0 to 10. Zero to 5.9 is failing, and 6.0 to 10 is a pass. Almost everyone gets between a 6 and an 8 average; mine is 9.

We have 5 minutes between classes to get to our room.

During recess almost everyone eats “molletes” (a bread roll split in two and covered with beans and cheese). Anyone at Sierra Nevada who hasn’t had “molletes” is missing out on something delicious, or else he doesn’t know where the “Cafe” (cafeteria) is.

We also play soccer at recess and “gorreamos” – sponge – potato chips off our friends.

In the afternoon you can stay after school and work on the computers, play soccer, work out on the basketball team, or if you’re having trouble with a subject, there might be a teacher around for private classes.

School is kind of hard, but it’s fun, too. Sometimes you get a lot of homework, sometimes none, but it’s O.K. in the end.

The hardest thing for me is that there are a lot of exams; I have between 1 and 5 a week, and there’s a lot of pressure. There’s a good side to everything, though – there are no term exams or finals at Sierra Nevada, and you can be excused from taking the exams every two months if you have a 9 average.

Well, this is just a short introduction to what my life is like at school. Watch me, I mean, read about me in the next issue, when I’ll tell you more about myself and my school.

These are some pictures of my school, you can click on them to see them larger.