So this is the article I wrote for The Quill... our student newspaper.
I miss Peru quite a lot.
Really a lot.
It's also great to be around friends and family though of course.
I hope I will be fortunate enough to return someday.
Close your eyes. Close your eyes and shut down your memories of everything past. Take away your hopes for the future. For just a second, concentrate on being. Feel your heart beating against your ribcage and the flickering of your eyelids as they defend you from foreign particles. Feel the energy of life around you, through you, becoming you and appreciate what being alive is. For that one moment, you are with every person before you and billions in the present. Just being.
Open your eyes and look around. Look at what you are, what you have made for yourself and what has been handed to you. Think about the problems facing you every day and how you react to them. This is your world. Now, I want to take you into another world, one that I have witnessed, and therefore have the responsibility to share.
Imagine the average classroom in your school. Quarter the space and multiply the class size by two. You are 8 years old. The boy on one side of you has serious behavioural problems. The girl on the other side is very sick. You don’t know what she has, but the fact she is ill is very clear. You are tracing letters. An hour passes. You are still tracing letters. All week, for the time you are in this cramped space, you are tracing letters. You’re getting pretty good at it. Next week you will be tracing shapes. Maybe you wouldn’t even be here, but that being here guarantees you one meal a day. A meal your family needs you to eat, because maybe they can’t afford to feed you. Or, maybe they don’t care whether you eat or not. Maybe they don’t care if you live or die but your teacher does. She understands because she was you 10 years ago. Your teacher never graduated high school. She has had no training. She does the best with what she has been given and does it for a meagre amount of money. But she is lucky, because she has a job. Maybe one day, you want to be just like her.
But now is your favourite part of the day. You are singing. Singing and learning about shapes. You love this song because you sing it every day. Every single day. Then the kind lady knocks at the door and you are so excited because she brings new food. She brings food and sings some new songs with you. The milk yesterday was kind of lumpy but you didn’t care. It felt satisfying sitting in your stomach. Still, the new milk is something to look forward to. The lady seems angry about the off milk. She is a very pretty woman. You want to hug her, because she’s so full of warmth and richness. It seems she is from another world. Her skin is the same colour as yours, so you don’t understand how she can have so much food to share and you have none. You have heard plenty of people talking of the Gringos and their money, the trouble they bring with them, but she is not a Gringa. She is just a very pretty lady and you like her songs. You like the food too.
There is an elderly woman sitting at the back of the classroom. She doesn’t speak and she doesn’t smile. She watches everything. Maybe her eyes scare you, and you wonder about her life and the things she has seen and experienced, but it’s a fleeting thought. You only know that everyday she will be there, watching.
But now you have need to relieve yourself. You walk outside onto the cracked pavement, in your bare feet, to the toilet. The only privacy offered is a few rows of bricks in front of you. You can see over them. Flies and mosquitoes buzz around your head. You’ve never been vaccinated, but it doesn’t even cross your mind that you might contract something. It’s just a normal day for you.
It is not certain how many years you will be in school for. Your parents might need you to work soon. The thought of high school doesn’t cross your mind. Maybe you will be lucky, but the chance is minuscule.
School is over now and maybe you will venture into another part of the city, pleading with people to listen to you sing, listen to you sing for just 30 cents. 20 cents. 10 cents. Anything they will give you. Maybe you will sell gum. Maybe you will be forced to steal tonight. Maybe you will work in the cornfields. Just a normal day. As you skip off home, maybe you are unaware of the poverty that surrounds you. Maybe you are happy now, being young and innocent. Your future is bleak, but it’s the same for everybody who surrounds you. For now you’re just skipping along. The sun is shining and flies buzz around your head as you laugh with your friends. You’re just another Peruvian child born into poverty.
Maybe for those who will never have the chance, we can all appreciate just a little bit more the opportunities here and the ability we have to grow as students and professors in a post-secondary institution. No matter which circumstances brought us here, our future is our own, and that is such a privilege. Maybe we can’t change the world, but we can improve little parts of it, and if nothing less it’s our responsibility to realise that we are among a small percentage in the world with the opportunity of post secondary education.