The blue skirt

I could see her blue skirt through the shoulders of the people sitting in front of me. I would lose the sight of her, I would get distracted reading, I would start thinking about something else. Then I would gaze with no purpose at the playground and see her blue skirt. And seeing it would make me feel peaceful.

It was mid July and it was hot. Too many things going on around; in the world and in my own life. I was glad we were moving. With all the stress of packing, finding new place to live, working on new projects, with all the good and bad things it entails, I still was glad that we were not staying here. People around looked wealthy and happy. They complained about the freshness of the bread, argued about the price of the meat, and discussed their vacations; they dressed well and talked loud. The waiters patted my children on their heads when they took them inside to chose the ice-creams. I loved the city and the people.

And then I could not remain stale. I felt being a part of the things that happened; people being killed in other countries, poverty, stupidity, and unnecessary acceptance. I knew that my thoughts did not solve anything. But they also made it impossible for me to argue about the freshness of the bread or the latest issue of the women magazine. There were other things close to my heart. There was a future to be built, the kids to be fed and taken care of, projects to be carried through.

I liked that we were moving and that the kids could see people in other parts of the world and have a different perspective on things. Even if this meant leaving their friends and grandparents behind. All the hassle of packing, selling, moving did not feel hard after all.

I was catching the sight of the blue skirt that my daughter wore that day. And this patch of blue made me feel fine.

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In the summer of 1999

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On a hot July afternoon I waited until the church clock struck 4pm. I remember I stood next to that old wall made of uneven yellow stones and each stone was very hot. Everything around me was hot from the sun and I just waited there and listened to music with the headphones in my ears. I did not want to think, I was nervous. When the church clock and then the church bells announced 4pm I walked up the narrow stairs adjacent to the wall and rang the doorbell. After a long silence a priest dressed in black opened the door. I walked inside the room where the air was cold.

“I am here to see the priest,” I said.

“I am the one,” the man replied and stretched his hand to me. “Please sit down.”

We sat for a minute in silence on the opposite ends of a large wooden table. He looked at me and then I finally said, “I want to convert into Catholic.”

He fixed his eyes on mine and the silence became even deeper and I could feel the texture of the wooden table under my hands. And my fingers became cold and I did not move.

“Why?” he asked.

And I told him a story of love. I told him that I was in love with a man who was Catholic and believed in God. And I was not Catholic and did not know if I believed in any God or religion. And that I thought that if I would become Catholic I could probably see the things that he sees and have a new perspective on things, and love differently. And be loved.

I did not say anything else.

And then the silence and the cold air inside the room became unbearable. And we looked at each other. May be five minutes have passed. And then the priest spoke.

“You do not need it,” he said. “You do not need to become Catholic or believe in anything else apart from what you believe in already. You have it all within you. You are strong. You do not need anything else.”

He talked for a little bit longer, but I could not concentrate and I did not remember his words. I felt calm only when I was outside walking fast up the street. It was hot again and the sun was burning my skin. It was the summer of 1999. The priest was the priest of Santa Maria del Mar church. And I was 21 then.

…..

The Santa Maria del Mar church was full of tourists. I stood there and watched how all of them were buying church candles and lightening them. I stood in the middle of the crowd and looked up for a while. There is silence when you look up. I hesitated if I should get a candle too. Then I walked outside. I stood on the church steps and looked at the people passing in front of me. Since the first time I crossed this church entrance in 1999 I got attached to it. Apart from sharing the name, I loved that this is the church where wives, lovers, and daughters of the sailors came to pray for the men who were in the open sea. I thought that I would also light a candle for somebody who is on a mission. Every time I left this city I became one of those sailors too.

I stood on the steps thinking all this, and thinking about all the moments I spent inside this church. Never like a passer by. I crossed its doors when I felt down, sometimes in despair, sometimes full of resolution, once with the tears in my eyes. I never came here on purpose either but found myself to be nearby when I need it the most. And then I always found strength to go forward.

I went back inside the church. I got a candle and walked along all the saints and looked at them. And then I saw one who was not suffering. She stood with her head high and with two little angels around her. It said Santa Maria Cap de la Cort (Santa Maria the head of the court). I lighted a candle there, watched the flame for a second, and left the church.

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A comment

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Yesterday night my seven-year-old daughter was reading us a book before going to sleep. In the book a boy, Anton, gets angry because other kids do not want to play with him.

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Anton says he will leave and never come back, because he will be dead. And then he pretends that he is dead.

At this point my four-year-old son asked, “Is he really dead?”

To which my daughter replied, “Or course not. Can’t you see? He is just a small boy. Children never die. To die you have to live long and grow old. To die you have to become an old man with a beard. Haven’t you seen how old people look? He does not look old. Look! You can’t die when you are that young.”

“Aga,” said my son. “Then he is not dead.”

“Of course not. He is just pretending, because this is the way he plays.”

I just listened and my daughter kept on reading. I thought that the way children see the world is very different from how we see it. May be we know more, but their view is truer to what is should be. I keep thinking about her words and wondering what future in her head looks like. I get to know it little by little through her comments and games. Interesting & inspiring!

DSC_3069DSC_3070DSC_3071DSC_3072DSC_3073and at the end…DSC_3076

 

So you walk on stage…

Palau de la musica

I was sitting in the theater, on the first balcony, right above the left side of the stage. I watched the young girls dancing below me. I could see their hands, faces, and feet. I could also see all the small mistakes and inexact movements. Now that I have been on the rehearsals I knew what the perfect performance should look like. But it was not the uncleanness of their steps that bothered me.

While listening to the Mozart’s music and seeing the little bodies transforming the stage in to a magical world I thought that what did not let me enjoy the performance to its fullest was the tension. The tension was visible on almost every ballerina face. The tension transformed their hands and feet. It was the tension and the attention to detail that danced that night. It was not the joy of dancing. Coached to smile while on stage, some of the girls would suddenly stretch their mouths in long smiles. But the smiles were not radiant. The glow did not come from inside. I longed to see a ballerina who enjoyed the dancing more than each particular detail of the dance. And right then one came on stage. And the glow was so radiant that I closed my eyes for a second.

I stood up and leaned on the wall right over the stage. And looked. And then I thought that our life is not different from that. After years of being grown ups we become professionals at this grown up life thing. We know how to do our jobs, how to run our households, how to bring up our children, how to maintain our relationships, how to talk to other grown ups and how to talk to children. Those of us who are any good focus on details, because finally details are what make us be us. It is about how you talk, how you eat, how you dress, how you hold your pen, how you close the door, how you sleep on the couch when you are tired and nobody is watching you. All these are details and our faces are tense making sure we do not omit anything. Then there is the next level: the radiance of living. Once all the details are perfectioned and become part of us, once we remember what it feels like to gaze at the sky, to laugh without stopping, to run for no apparent reason, once we love ourselves again only then we are able to make others smile. Only then we are able to give something valuable and irreplaceable to the world around us. And it is not easy and it does not happen by itself. And then I thought that I always appear serious in life and on the pictures. I thought that I was no different from these young ballerinas who learned all the details of the dance, but have not yet got to enjoy it truly. Without this glow we can never create anything of value.

I ran down the beautiful theater stairs, I crossed the hall, I showed my green pass to the guard, and pushed the hard wooden door. I ran down the simple greenish stairs and went straight into the open door that said Camerinos. There I found my daughter already changed.

“How was it?” I asked her.

“It was great!”  she replied.

“Lorena, listen, next time you go on stage just enjoy it, ok? Do not think about anything, do not think about your hands, your feet, your face. Just think how you enjoy dancing, how you enjoy dancing on stage. Think about yourself. Dance for yourself. It does not matter if you make mistakes, it does not matter if you lose extra second with a movement. It really does not matter now. Just love yourself when you dance. Will you?”

“I will. I already do,” she said.

And then I thought that she knows so much more than I do. So, you walk on stage… and you must love yourself. I am learning from her now.

Ballet Junio 2014

Ten pictures of touristy Barcelona

Two weekends in a row I was in the downtown Barcelona. Here are ten pictures of the most touristy part of the city.

Plaza Catalunya with its balloons, pigeons, and street artists and entertainers.
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La Rambla: The most touristy street in Barcelona.
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One of the old pastisseries on La Rambla
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La Rambla where it gets closer to the Columbus statue.
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The Columbus statue. It is said that Columbus points his finger in the direction of the Americas. I think every tourist that comes to this city has a picture next to it.
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The City Hall on Plaza de Sant Jaume.
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A church and a fountain on a secluded plaza in the Gothic Quarter.DSC_1261

A restaurant and a shoe museum on the same plaza in the Gothic Quarter.DSC_1258

Carrer de Ferran that connects La Rambla and Plaza de Sant Jaume (where the City Hall is).DSC_1242

And here are the bracelets that are sold everywhere in Barcelona. DSC_1277

Rendez-vous

LFB Barcelona

I had a chance to spend one hour at the school where my daughter goes. A month ago she told me that she saw two moms of her classmates eating at the school canteen. She learnt that parents can come to school to spend an hour eating the food the kids eat and evaluating the canteen services. It is called Rendez-vous á la cantine. It took me couple of weeks to set the date and prepare the visit together with the school administration. I have been given the rules to follow and a questionnaire to fill in after the visit. The rules were simple: not to disturb children’s routine, quietly observe the children and the school staff, not advise or help children or adults, and not to spend more than one hour on the school patio. The questionnaire was about the quality and quantity of the food, the attentiveness of the canteen staff, the presentation of the food, the state of the food facilities, and the daily habits of the children while eating. 

The school where my children go accommodates 2,200 children. The catering service Serunion provides the food for all the children. Every day the children eat their lunch at school.

When I got to the canteen my daughter and her friends have just finished their lunch. She was happy jumping around me for 30 seconds, and then she told me to look for her in the patio after I am done with the food part. She also told me that I was lucky as today they had french fries and hamburger, which happens like once a month.

The canteen was large. One of the staff ladies showed me around and told me how I should proceed. The truth is that I have not been present to the school life since I finished high-school. We are talking about a 20 years gap. Things that are obvious to people working at schools appeared fresh and new to me. I took the tray as I have been told and got a fruit. Somehow the food line started with the dessert. The kids had to chose between an apple or a banana and between a greek yogurt or a cuajada (curdled milk). Then there were glasses for water, napkins, and silverware, including knifes. All kids got a fork, a spoon, and a knife. Next was the broccoli soup. The soup was served as the children arrived. Then there was hamburger (just the meat part, non the bread) and a choice of french fries or fried onions. I went for the onions. All the kids took the french fries. The last was salad, which included lettuce, tomatoes, hardboiled egg, lentils, carrots, and something else. The bottles of olive oil and vinegar were placed next to the salads. The kids helped themselves to pour those on their plates. The last were two choices of bread: white and wholewheat.

I looked around and found a table with some empty chairs. Each table sits twelve kids and as I have been told each class has two tables assigned to it. There is one canteen lady watching after each class. I was free to chose where to sit. I sat at a table with three kids on my left and two boys on my right. The kids on my left were finishing their food and talking. The boy had bread crumbs around his mouth and he was laughing and talking to the girls next to him. All of them were about six or seven years old. The amazing thing is that all the kids were happy. They laughed, talked, ate, made jokes, asked for more ketchup, and smiled non stop. I did not realize before how happy the kids are. The adults working with the kids seemed happy too. You can’t keep a tough face when kids are laughing and playing around you.

I did not notice how I ate my food. I enjoyed looking at the kids around me. They talked all the time. They were talking in French and making jokes. Probably around lunch time is when kids learn how to become social, how to eat and enjoy a conversation. None of the kids was screaming. Actually they mostly talked in normal voices and I could not always hear what the kids in front of me were saying. But when they laughed I inevitably smiled.

Patio LFB

When I finished my lunch I went to the patio to look for my daughter, I knew what patio her class plays in. However, I could not see her there. I met couple of her friends and they all were happy to see me, but they could not tell me where Lorena, my daughter, was. I went inside the building and asked somebody from the school staff if they knew where she could be. I have to tell that around patio there was a lot of school stuff.  All of the school staff wore green vests and were easy to recognize. I was not aware that so many people were involved in playing with the kids during the patio time. As soon as I have asked a lady in the green vest about my daughter a group of girls came running to us.

“Who are you looking for?” one of the girls asked.
“I am looking for Lorena. She is the one with two pony tails,” I said. “Do you know her?”
“No,” said one of the girls.
“Lorena Salvado?” said the other. “Yes, I know her. She is a friend of Aitana, right?”
“Yes,” I said.
“And she is a friend of Margot and Leocadie?” the girl asked again.
“Yes,” I answered. “Do you know where she is?”
“She is in the librbary. It is her library time. Do you want me to take you there?” the girl asked.
“Yes, please, ” I said. “What class are you from?”
“I am from CP 3, and she is from CP 4, and she is from CP 1,” she pointed to the other girls. “And Lorena is from CP 6, isn’t she?”

I nodded. CP is the first grade. There are six first-grade classes in the school. The girls took me to the library and showed me where to find Lorena. Once inside I saw her sitting with Aitana and reading books. I told her “Hi” and she run to me, gave me a kiss, and told me, “You did not search for me, right?”. I could feel that she was feeling a little bit awkward seeing me in her world. Thus, I just looked at her for a second, touched her pony tails, smiled, and told her I was going home, and that I loved eating at her canteen and visiting her school. Later in the evening Lorena told me she was nervous seeing me, because she knew she did not want me to leave the school and her heart beat twice as fast the moment she saw me.

Walking back home I thought that I loved her school because the kids were so amazing. They were open, helpful, happy, trustful. They played, talked, smiled, and learnt a great deal of social skills. I did not feel like an intruder, I felt like a guest. And I kept on smiling long after I have crossed the school gate.

I did not take any pictures, the ones I’ve posted here are from LFB website.

The world in reverse (or talking to my son)

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El mundo al reves es:
La piscina al reves,
Los arboles al reves,
El mar al reves,
La casa al reves.

(The world in reverse is:
The swimming pool in reverse,
The trees in reverse,
The sea in reverse,
The house in reverse.)

My four-year-old son made this little verse while we were riding a bus to the downtown. We strolled through the touristy streets of Barcelona and ended up at the Liceu. We were sitting in the first row, on the floor, listening to the opera arias performed in the Liceu hall. My son with his eyes fixed on the singer and the pianist. His little body, so stout and strong, felt intense. After couple of arias I asked him, “Do you want to go or to listen more?”.

“I want to listen more,” he replied without looking at me. We sat and listened. I love live music and ballet very much. However, I am not that interested in listening to the same music on CDs or watching the same ballet on my ipad. We rarely have any music playing at home. Like my son, I am absorbed by the beauty and intensity of the sound when it is produced in front of me.

“Shall we go?”
“No. I want to listen more.”

I am actually glad that he wants to listen more. I want it too. It is not comfortable sitting on the floor, but we do not notice it. The deepness of the voice and the music occupies all the space in the hall. The beauty is born at the intersection of the passion with which he listens to the music and the uniqueness of the voice that produces it.

“Shall we go now?”
“Let’s listen more.”

Today we listened to the music and we understood it. It made us experience the sound in a way that left a long lasting impression on how we will live today, tomorrow, and the rest of the days. I know this because we were silent and did not talk. Because we do not like to listen to the same music on the radio. Because we both in order to experience something need to pay full attention to it and understand it.

“Let’s go,” my son stood up and we went towards the exit. He gave me his little hand and I held it tight. On the street he said, “Let’s go get some ice-cream.” And I agreed. Then he added, “Do you remember, mom, this is our world in reverse?”. And he laughed at what we said because he found it very funny.

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Cromos

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So, the kids are into cromos. Before they started school I did not know what cromos were. Cromos are those stickers that kids exchange with other kids at school. And sometimes, if they have the special albums they stick those cromos into the right place. There is Peppa Pig albums, Barca albums, Monster High albums, National Geographic albums, Animals albums, Pitufos albums and many more.

You can buy cromos in small envelopes at 0.60 Euros each envelope. There are six cromos inside the envelope. And when you have them in repeat you take them to school and exchange. Similarly to how we exchanged stamps when I was a kid.

Here are the envelopes with Peppa Pig cromos:DSC_1015

Here is the Peppa Pig album for cromos:DSC_1016

Here is the Peppa Pig album opened. You can see the empty spaces for cromos. Each cromo has a number on its reverse side and the kid has to find where that cromo goes inside the album.DSC_1017

Here are the Peppa Pig cromos:DSC_1031DSC_1033

Here are National Geographic cromo albums:DSC_1018

Here are some pages from the National Geographic albums:DSC_1020DSC_1021DSC_1022

And here are some National Geographic cromos:DSC_1023DSC_1024

Here are some cromos from Animals collection:DSC_1025

And here are the cromos from Pitufos album: DSC_1026

Here are the ones from Aviones album: DSC_1027

At last comes my daughter’s large collection of Monster High cromos. All the girls in her class collected and exchanged those. I refused to buy her the album as I found the images neither esthetic nor elegant. Finally she accumulated a lot of Monster High cromos and persuaded me to get her an album to have her collection organized. When we went to buy the album it was already out of print. Cromos collections are very time sensitive, there are about six to nine months to buy cromos for any specific album. Now her Monster High cromos are safely stored in a metallic box from cookies. DSC_1037DSC_1039DSC_1028

Walking in Barcelona (4.2km)

Walking with the kids through the city is an adventure in itself. You get to discover buildings, shops, cafes, and plazas. You get to fall in love with the city over and over again. I like Barcelona for its streets, for its trees, for its cafes, and for its people. My mom used to tell all her friends that she loves Barcelona for its balconies. And she was right, those balconies make the streets look delicate.

One of our favorite routes with the children is from our house on Muntaner Street to Placa Catalunya. The route is 4.2 km long and it is mainly downhill (walking towards the sea). We do this route almost weekly with slight variations of the streets we walk on and cafes we stop at. Thanks to these walks the children have a very special relationship with the city, they know it like the palms of their little hands.

“Mi vida dulce,” said my six-year-old at the cafe today while tasting her ice-cream. And then she asked, “Can we walk like this EVERY day?”

Here are two screen prints of the route.
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Getting out of our house around 10am we go all the way down the Muntaner Street.DSC_0667

The kids stop at every stop light and wait for me. They are used to biking in the city. Here is a small park that is empty right now. In fall and winter a man was selling roasted chestnuts in this park. The kids and me used to buy those at 3 Euros a dozen. DSC_0672

La Criolla cafe is still closed. When it is open sometimes we have coffee and croissants there. It has a nice patio inside. Lemon trees with big lemons grow in that patio.DSC_0688

And here is a house in front of La Criolla.DSC_0694

There is a small fruit and vegetable store that is open on Sundays. The kids take a bag and pick some apricots and loquats (nisperos). We get the fruits and they eat one of each right there while riding down the Muntaner Street. Those fruits feel like war trophies for them and they laugh with their mouths full.DSC_0699DSC_0700DSC_0712

We get to the Crusto cafe at the cross of Muntaner and Via Augusta. It has three tables outside and fake olive trees on one side of the tables. The coffee and bread are very good there. Kids share a croissant.DSC_0727DSC_0728DSC_0734

We notice a tree with little while flowers while waiting on a stop light.DSC_0744

Here is a large house that has all kind of mystery stories around it. The house used to belong to a very rich textile dealer. The man also collected original paintings. In his will he donated his entire art collection to a state museum. However, his daughters decided that this was not fair and sneaked into the house this past winter and “stole” all the paintings. As newspapers said it was due to the high monetary value of the collection. DSC_0749

We get to Av. Diagonal and turn left here. Diagonal is great for cycling as it has a special bike path.DSC_0753DSC_0759DSC_0757

Here is one of the stores that I like. On Sunday everything is closed here.DSC_0774

The kids ride fast on Diagonal and in couple of minutes we reach Rambla de Catalunya. Here we turn right and go down again.DSC_0780DSC_0783DSC_0788

We pass by Farga cafe. The Farga delivery truck is parked on the street. DSC_0792

There is a new Pronovias store opening on the corner of La Rambla de Catalunya. Thirteen years ago I got my wedding dress at one of their stores. When I was twenty-one I remember passing a Pronovias store on Passeig de Gracia and falling in love with one of the dresses I saw in the window. I remember the dress perfectly well even now. Two years later I got married. It took ten months to get my dress done with them. My two roommates used to come with me to the monthly fittings. One of my roommates was Japanese. When I asked her how I looked she said, “Like a tomato”. This was the last thing I expected to hear then. She told me I blushed non-stop while trying the dress. And we all laughed a lot.

Many years have passed. My marriage did not proof to be as strong as it should have been. Still I got two children and I appreciate what I have learnt about myself and others. The friendship with my roommates survived the distance and improved with years. And I realized that I like the fact that Pronovias keeps opening its stores in the city.DSC_0795DSC_0799DSC_0808

Here is the church that I like, because couple of times I went there with my family on the Christmas day. DSC_0811

And here is a small side street in front of the church. There is a beautiful restaurant on this street. And I have never been there. One day!DSC_0812

We get to Mauri cafe. This is one of the oldest cafes in Barcelona. According to the kids it has the best ice-cream in the city.DSC_0813DSC_0816DSC_0832DSC_0829DSC_0848

And here is La Bodegueta, a small and cozy wine celler. It is closed at this hour of the day. Can’t remember how many times we had a glass of wine and olives here after midnight.DSC_0857DSC_0860 DSC_0868

And here are some more of those balconies that my mom likes so much.DSC_0872DSC_0873

We cross Arago Street. The terra-cotta building with wires on top is Tapies museum. I visited it once with my class when I was in the high-school. I remember it was very weird, I could not believe that people seriously thought that this was art.DSC_0880DSC_0882

It becomes more and more touristy as we get closer to Placa Catalunya. Now we pass by hotels, cafes full of tourists, and typical “touristy” food offering.DSC_0884DSC_0885DSC_0886

We have been walking for 2 hours when we reach Gran Via with Placa Catalunya in the background.DSC_0894DSC_0900

Rambla de Catalunya ends here and our last bit towards Placa Catalunya is in between of tourist restaurants and shops.DSC_0902

Here is Placa Catalunya with tourists crossing it in all directions.DSC_0904DSC_0914DSC_0916

Two girls in blue dresses look back at us. They are nice. We stop at the elevator and take it down to the train station. It is 12:05pm and the walking is over. We take train to go back home.DSC_0928

When we get underground we hear a violin playing a familiar tango. The kids stop and listen. They both want to play violin. They listen and listen till the tango ends. I give them couple of euros and they put them into the violin case. Then they listen some more. DSC_0933

Friday 3:25pm

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There are two moments of the day that I treasure. First is in the morning when I take my children to school. The second is in the afternoon when I pick them up.

At 7:50am I walk my daughter to the Bonanova church where the school bus picks her up at 8am. She goes to the Pedralbes campus. She is the last kid to enter the bus as we live not far away from the school. Marisol, the woman responsible for the children in the bus smiles cheerfully, calls Lorena “corazon”, and wishes me a great day. The bus driver salutes us and the bus takes off.

At 8:45am my son and me get out of our building and walk to school. Fifteen minutes of jumping, running, hiding, talking, and laughing. Closer to the school gate my son recognizes his friends and sometimes runs to them. The school director greets all the parents at the gate. Once inside the school patio we go to the classroom door, and Carole, my son’s teacher, says, “Bonjour Miro” and “Ça va?”. “Ça va bien,” replies my son.

LFB

As a grown-up I have an impression that time runs differently inside the school walls. Like if the care of the teachers, the love of the school personnel, the attention of the bus drivers, the lettuce and strawberry planted by the children, the running little feet, and the children’s smiles made it magical. Every minute has a different purpose. Every word weights differently. Every hand is helping, strong, and kind. Every interaction leaves an impression.

Sometimes when I walk out of the school gate in the morning I feel a little bit silly, like if I was about to cry. Because I see the children’s growth; Because I have the full trust that they are transforming into real people. And this experience, this touch of magic and future, is transforming me too.

I love picking up the kids from school. 4:25pm every day, 3:25pm on Fridays.