I wake up, tie my hair in a comfy pony tail and wear a fancy-colorful bandana. Let’s go, come on Ali, I say to myself. You’re gonna be late as always. I hurrily run downstairs. Step, step, step, step. Oh no. I forgot to check my bag before leaving. Quickly, check the bag: bottle of water, keys, wallet, lion’s tail. Phiuuuu. Great. Everything’s ready.
Matt and me have breakfast at the bar, the one we chose it would be our breafkast-before-kids bar. We go through the schedule and now it really seems kind of authomatic to go through it mentally, it really seems like we’ve been doing it for such a long time. It’s 7.43. We’d better get going, I gulp down the last sips of my naturally-sweet soy milk and I’m ready.
It’s the third day and it seems like I’ve been knowing these kids for a lifetime. Well, maybe not for a lifetime, but for sure more than just 3 days. Actually, this is just the calendar. This is the time someone needed to put into numbers to quantify it. I don’t need it, personally. When a child comes running at me at 7.45 in the morning and hugs me so tight, this has no time. This stops Time. This is the reason why I write about emotions and the time whithin it. No time for me, just a watch that I have to wear to know when it’s snack or lunch time. It’s the third day and I’m falling in love with this little souls, so deeply.
We sit on the bench, watching the kids playing, while everyone’s arrived. Matt and me talk, laugh, welcome kids who forcefully sit on our knees or make space between our legs to sit and snuggle up to our chests. Morning cuddles are the best!
Everybody’s here. We go upstairs. “Cosa visitiamo oggi? Dove andiamo?”- We still are in the Savannah, dear Matilde, it’s quite huge to visit just in one day, you know?”. She nods her head up and down, quite satisfied of my answer. We play Guess it, to review the animals of the Savannah. I stand on one leg and try to mime a flamingo. Someone goes around roaring like a lion, running like a buffalo and someother laughs like a hyena.
We then meet a Masai girl who shows us her village. She speaks Masai, but the video and the pictures help us understanding what’s going on. She lives in a house made of straw, sticks and mud. She goes to the well with her brothers and sisters to pick the water. She sleeps on a simple bed and have a basic breakfast. Definitely different from ours. She coughs, often when they cook inside, because of the smoke. She goes to school, she learns numbers and English and she wants to become a doctor! Matt goes through the video again, pausing and asking questions to be sure all of us got the meaning.
Now, we feel like exploring more about Masai traditional dances and we discover that they wear masks while enjoying these rituals. We run bearfeet to the Art&Crafts room (Oh no, we can’t run at school, this isn’t allowed! Hope that the principal doesn’t notice that! Quick, quick!). We choose our mask, we stick it onto cardboard, we paint it mixing and creating new colors out of the three main ones (yellow, red and blue). “I’ll give you empty cups to create your own personal colors, ok?”. After a while: “Aliiiiiice, ho fatto il colore mayonese!“. Wow. This is what I mean when I say that creativity comes when not everything is provided but the opportunity to create and something empty. Everything and Nothing are yet to be imagined.
Snack time, toast and jam. “Quante ne posso avere Teacher? Three, four?” – “No, Anna, let’s start with one, when you finish it, you can come back later. Here you are”.
She protracts her hand to take the toast, but I don’t drop it. She knows what I’m waiting for. I dont’t say anything this time (usually I start saying th.. th.. tha.. thank..). I know she can make it. We’ve been doing this routine for three days. “Thank you”, she whispers. I drop it. “You’re welcome sweetie”.
We continue our mask, now it’s time to cut it out, but it’s quite tough since that we have just 3 scissors and a cutter. Matt helps with the cutter – I honestly did my best but then admited that I probably would have been more useful going around helping kids understanding why we needed to be patient for our turn and how to share the scissors.
Lunchtime! Rice, salad, tomatoes and chicken bites. We are hungry, and as soon as we enter the canteen we quickly set the table. We take our dishes and line up for food. A little bit f this, a little bit of that. “I’m very hungry, Teacher! Mangerei un quintale di risotto!” Davide babbled while gulping down risotto until the last bite. I watch him eating. Actually, I stare at him, while he’s eating. He’s silent, he’s focused and eats with voracity. “Posso averne ancora?” – Help yourself Davide. And he does. He stands up, he goes and he puts a little bit of everything and repeats the process for other two times at least. And I fall in a kind of meditation staring at him, snarfing that food, quickly but savoring all the taste that the food gave him. Ali, wake up. Other eleven kids are here.
Free time, we play and some of us experience not feeling part of a group. Sometime it happens. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it lasts just ten minutes, until another little body comes over and asks to go along and collect flowers together.” “Maaaaat lui mi picchia, ha fatto questo e io ho risposto.. e poi.. e io.. e lui..” – “Discuss, go and solve yourself your problems”. And the children go. The fight over again and again, they use their hands, their bodies and their skills and then they solve it. By themselves. Without our intereference. This is what we believe in.
We then go back upstairs, and finally it’s time to decorate our masks! We have so much different material: wool, fabric, cotton, wrapping paper, straws, sticks, thread. I’ve been collecting all this waiting exactly for this moment: children touch, feel go nuts and choose the material that they like the most. “Com’è soffice questo!”. Wool becomes hair and for someone else mustache. They go literally crazy cutting and gluing and creating. The masks are A M A Z I N G ! Matt you can sit with the girls, it’s ok. I know you were pretending not be seen with Matilde sitting on you knees, but your shamelessly-still-white t-shirt is really resoundingly visible from all over the classroom.
Who finishes the mask goes to the library and reads some books, does crosswords, plays draughts and relaxes.
As soon as we all finish, (it took slightly different time from one other, depending on how much they were enjoying the touching part of the material. Vlada, I guess it’s enough hair for your mask. Almost, you can’t even see the paper anymore. But it’s extremely wonderful, good job!) we have bread and chocolate spread and then.. free time!!
[… children playing around, moving the toys, acting wars, shouting against each other.. Us, sitting on the white plain bench, tired, exhausted, relaxing and chilling..]
“Teeeeeeacher, giochiamo a hide and seek?”..Mmmmm is the only sound my throat can emit. “O magari a go and touch! Sì, sì, sì, a go and touch! Dai dai dai!”. I look at Matt. Haha, don’t look at me!- he shouts out loud in a laugh. Then I look at those blue eyes. I literally can’t resist. They are shining, trembling for excitement, curious. This kid really can make such effect on me. “Ok, let’s go!” I found myself saying. And I run into the game, past the shovel, through the tunnel, around the tree, behind the little house. I stop and catch my breath. How can this little creatures be so restless.
It’s time to go home, one by one they go, they say bye and we happily let them go. We explored so much today. Relations, emotions, feelings, food, skills, tastes, attitudes. And we’ve even learned something new about the Savannah. But there’s more! It’s been in a second language, in English. And children are getting used to our stress, to our pronunciation, to our way of saying, asking and answering.
And today they did this journey with Ali and Matt, two crazy human beings who ended up being teachers, two real explorers, curious and inquisitive ones, who love languages and are always looking for something new to learn, for something more in this great big universe. And children feel all this Wonder and Beauty in our hearts. I know it.
I feel it.
READ MORE IN OUR TRAVELOGUE“EXPLORE THE WORLD SUMMER CAMP ’17”
Day 3. Still in the Savannah (5th July 2017)