Miracle of the Andalusia schoolhouse wasp

12 Comments

 

For two years I worked in a school located high in the Sierra Nevada mountains of Andalusia.

School buildingAdjacent to the schoolhouse stood an old and diminutive stone building, with a classical Moorish courtyard and a small chapel, home to seven elderly nuns who had founded the school 50 years previously.

The grounds were encircled by an impenetrable ivy-covered wall, 25 feet tall.

I suppose the wall was designed to provide sanctuary, but I found it claustrophobic. I was always pleased at the end of the day when I left the grounds. The fresh mountain air was invigorating.

Of all unwelcome visitors in my class, including the nuns, insects were the worst. One day a wasp appeared through the window and refused to leave. Chaos ensued as my class screamed hysterically.

I attempted to continue with the class but it was impossible for the children to ignore the wasp. I elected to evacuate the classroom. The wasp won.

The kids loved it — we had our lesson on the playground. One of the kids went home and told their mother about the wasp and that instead of class, we'd had an extra long lunch. The mother failed to appreciate the dilemma I'd faced, called my boss and asked her how I could be trusted with 20 children when I couldn't even handle a single wasp.

Next week, same class, the wasp returned. Of course, it's impossible to say it was the same wasp but he had the same propensity for attention seeking. I'd had a bad morning, and this was a day when I was looking for something to hit. I rolled up my textbook and started swinging. The kids were screaming, baying for blood.

 

"I was the first Englishman to have lived in the village so I'd already acquired celebrity status, but this incident took the attention I received to stratospheric heights."

 

The wasp finally settled. I approached carefully, eyes locked on him. With a mighty sweep I attacked ... It's a blur in my mind, whether I made contact I don't know, but my follow-through smashed a window and shattered the pane of glass. The class went berserk.

I couldn't believe what I'd done. How had I failed to notice the window?

I poked my head out of the window and, you wouldn't believe it, two nuns were sat on a bench directly below in shock, picking glass out of their hair.

It was a farce but at that moment it seemed serious. I sent the kids home, went to the head-teacher's office to apologise and offered to pay for the window. I felt genuinely remorseful. The wasp remained unconquered.

The whole town knew what I'd done by the end of the day. I was the first Englishman to have lived in the village so I'd already acquired minor celebrity status, but the incident with the wasp took the attention I received to stratospheric heights.

The story had a life of its own; the wasp had rampaged around the classroom hospitalising dozens of us; a swarm of at least a thousand wasps engulfed us; I had even thrown a chair through the window in one of the wilder retellings.

My own recollection was blurred and contorted by these fabrications and I began to forget precisely what had happened. I have tried so far to tell this story with honesty so believe me when I tell you that what followed is not a fabrication.

The wasp returned two weeks later. I asked if the class was always infested by wasps, but apparently he only ever appeared when I was there.

Wanting nothing more to do with my old enemy, having learnt my lesson, we abandoned our classroom. Rain was hammering down so I took the students to shelter in the chapel.

We had been there no more than five minutes when the ground started to shake. Earthquake. The force grew. There was a tremendous noise. The children were screaming, lying flat on the floor. When it finally stopped, I checked the children were okay and stepped outside to inspect the damage.

The wall surrounding the school had collapsed against the schoolhouse and caused some of the roof to cave in, specifically in my classroom. I rushed inside the building to help evacuate the other classes. Everyone was fine.

The local paper reported it was 'miraculous that there had been no injuries'. We were certainly very lucky. I was stunned at how fortunate we'd been, I think the nuns were quite affected too.

We had, for all intents and purposes, been saved by the wasp.

The school closed while the building was repaired, but we all returned.

When strange things happen to young people, they seem unaware of the abnormality of the situation. One of the children simply asked me, 'Do you think the wasp is okay?'

 


Dan GrahamDan Graham is a graduate of the University of Liverpool. He is an English writer and journalist.

Topic tags: Dan Graham, Sierra Nevada, Andalusia, wasp

 

 

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Existing comments

Wasps are, at the same time, solitary and social insects of the order Hymenoptera, including spider wasps, digger wasps, woodwasps, potter wasps, gall wasps and hornets. Females inflict painful stings. Solitary wasps usually provision their nest with paralysed prey to feed the larvae. Sounds to me like the wasp could take care of itself.
Pam | 19 May 2016


What a wonderful story! My wife and I had a European wasp nest in a rockery near where we stored the garbage bins at our home in Sydney. I was stung once or twice putting out the garbage so we hired someone to remove the nest. As far as I know there were no earthquakes. But ever since I've had respect for wasps. Someone told me not to kill a wasp because all its mates will hear its distress call and fly in to repel the invader. I now heed his advice which probably makes me a bit of a Buddhist. At least I respect the right of a wasp to live, but probably out of self-preservation.
Barry Morris | 20 May 2016


What a lovely way to start my day! Thank you for such a well told tale.
Pauline Small | 20 May 2016


Nice one Dan. But how did the wasp arrange for the earthquake?
Vin Victory | 20 May 2016


Hmm, did you ever find out whether one of your students was capturing a wasp each time and releasing it in the classroom. In that case he/she would be the hero who saved you all from the collapsed wall.
Barry B | 20 May 2016


Great story Dan, could we have more? Not wasps. They have invaded our garden this long dry, mild summer; they nest in the ground. And kids' remarks are always priceless.
Mahdi | 20 May 2016


Vin, if the wasp in question had prior knowledge of the earth and, presumably, that the teacher would take the students from the classroom, then it was definitely a wasp with humanitarian qualities!
Maureen O'Brien | 20 May 2016


Dan, only british wasps fly during rainy days, spanish used to be scared of the rain.....
Paco | 21 May 2016


We all have a strange "that could've been me" story that we wish we could tell as well as you have. I also read this as the bedtime story to my two boys, aged 3 and 5, and they love it.
Peter | 21 May 2016


Thank you so much for your kind comments, they are really wonderful to read. I hope you enjoy my next story too.
Dan | 24 May 2016


Thank you for your kind comments, I'm really pleased you enjoyed the story!
Dan | 24 May 2016


Dan, can I just ask one question? Is there some fiction in this otherwise factual story? Nothing wrong with that in creative writing of course.
Maureen O'Brien | 24 May 2016


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