Thursday, August 31, 2006

"If I Had My Way In This Wicked World..."

Please stop hurting them. Please be a Mother. That's what you're supposed to be.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Germany Fever Still

clockwise from left: Veronica & Me on the S-Bahn to Schorndorf; the girls & me outside the first Waldorf school in the world; me at the Engele bookstore; my first cappuccino at the cafe-with-no-name at Uhlandshohe.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

This Certain Love Affair

Dear Germany,

Please forgive me if I told you, you were the last thing I would have thought of a few months ago. You were not in sight in my daily things-to-do nor was the idea of crossing continents entered my mind. For how could I? I was too busy thinking of reports, cooking up curricula that never seemed to be finished; meeting teachers and parents; reading, reading, and reading some more while trying to remain a sane and fun twenty-seven year old. I’m lucky to have a very supportive husband who never complains about the fact that I have too much work, don’t you think? But I digress.

A decision was made: I was to go with Class 11 to participate in the 2006 UNESCO World Youth Festival in Stuttgart. I did not say yes instantly, mind you. I thought it over and considered my reasons for wanting to go and otherwise. My closest friends said I would be showing the world a really rare strain of stupidity if I would decline. My husband has always believed in carpe diem and has encouraged me to go since day one. My colleagues believed in me enough to have chosen me. So what else is there to think about? In my heart of hearts, I had my apprehensions. I was scared, I have to admit.

The thought of going to Germany with a bunch of eleventh graders for two weeks is not really something that you mull over a tall cup of café mocha at Starbucks, you know. The thought is, needless to say, simply out of this world. What if Aeon decided to run away and put up his own rock band in Switzerland? What if the girls met some really gorgeous Latinos (they did!) and decided to elope with them to Berlin (thank heavens they didn’t!)? What if Paolo got too drunk in a beer garden? What if, what if, what if? Ah, my worries were endless. But just like so many beautiful things that have happened in my life, I said yes to it. I decided to conquer whatever it was that was holding me back from getting out into the open, and this I did not do with eyes closed. I told myself that if I were really going to do it, I might as well feel, see, hear, taste every minute of it—I wanted to be There with Them.

And so from the moment we applied for our visas to rehearsing our performances, to the NAIA travel tax confusion, to Schiphol’s cafes and duty-free shops, to finally setting foot at the Stuttgart airport, my journey with the class was in itself my own personal odyssey. Not only was the whole trip a chance for me to get to know each of them, it was also more importantly an opportunity for me to get to know myself—again.

You know very well that the trip was not all nice and sweet. I and the kids had spats about the most trivial of things like who’s going to take a shower first to whether we Filipinos have a sense of national pride or not. We had countless arguments the venue of which was everywhere: we fought while riding the S-Bahn, we bickered while trekking down the Engelberg hill, at the McDonald’s Schlossplatz, at the girls’ restroom of the Waldorf school in Ühlandshöhe. Maybe we even quarreled in our sleep. But then, each day for two weeks, there was not even a single moment when I looked at them and saw all eight of them together that I did not feel the love they have for each other. I saw how caring albeit in their crazy ways, teenagers embrace their friends like true brothers and sisters. This love was contagious. I felt it swallowing up all my fears and I respected them for this. I saw how compassionate, tolerant and accepting they are of one another. Best of all, I witnessed how they are their own teachers. No adult teacher can ever beat that in this lifetime.

At first, I was asking myself, what was it about you that brought out the best and worst in us then? Was it the novelty of walking on your streets? Was it your trains and highways, your hills and castles? Was it your people? True, we got homesick. True, we only knew a few phrases of your unfamiliar language. True, the people we met were all strangers. But in one way or another, we all felt like we were “home”. Why was that?

Now, I see that experiencing your foreign land and culture has a deeper meaning than simply visiting a beautiful country. You were actually a witness to a story that began to unfold; a witness to intertwined lives of eight young people meeting the world. You have my deepest gratitude for this.

In the end I realized that I was afraid not for them for they proved brave, loving and strong, but more afraid for myself: for things I thought I could not do, for abilities I thought I did not have and for a love I thought I would miss once I leave home. I still have fears, that’s for sure. But I am learning to turn these fears into something beautiful and meaningful with them—my class. I’m certain you and I will meet again. Perhaps I will be with my students again or they will be on their own—who knows? For now, let me say Mit tiefer Dankbarkeit…Thank you very much.

Auf Wiedersehen,

For Kawayan Class 11, with my deepest gratitude and love.