Seven Years

They did the math, you know
Every seven years, your cells have all replaced themselves
You have a new skin
And probably smell different
Every seven years

This means
I can figure out exactly
To the day
The moment when none of me
will have ever touched any part of you
And when you will no longer smell
The way you used to.

Sometimes, I scrub extra hard
When I shower
Just to try to move that date up just a bit
To erase you completely
From my entire being.
Even if I can’t quite get you out of my mind
Ever again
At least one day
My skin will never have known you.

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The Bellwether

When I become a walking question mark
Things get hazy and unclear
And words flutter and fly
In fragments and flashes of brightness
Only to disappear before I can understand them

I become the intimidating blank page
Stretching eternally
unwilling and intimidating

When I figure out the answer to the question
The words suddenly pause, reflect
They begin to float, to let themselves be caught
The blank page stops scaring me
And suddenly there isn’t enough ink
And I can’t breathe properly
Until the words are out of me

Sometimes you are the answer
I see you and my mind is still
I have all the words and I can explain everything
I can write about you as easily as breathing
Words that perfectly capture
How your hand feels with mine

Sometimes you are the question
And I am muted
Cowardly, uncertain and insecure
And my words avoid me
Because I don’t deserve them
When I won’t use them
To tell the truth
To myself
Or you.

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A tiny, tiny moment

I got the rare and soul-saving pleasure of witnessing a student wake up to something the other day.

I’m doing a unit on trade with 7th grade at the moment. This is following study of different religions, different climates and resources, all building to an understanding of culture as mix of various, ever-changing ingredients that are rooted in history and geography combined. They’ve studied the big 5 religions equally and had chances to research and learn about countries all over the world.

Anyway, this day, we were discussing Marco Polo – charting his route from Genoa to Beijing and considering the travails of early travel.

Then we moved on to the Spice trade and who controlled it. I explained that the routes had originally been largely created controlled by Muslim caliphs in the 1100s, before the Europeans developed seafaring technology and took over, even before Marco Polo made his famous trip.

“So, it’s important to remember that Muslims actually did control it from the beginning, and that it wasn’t always dominated by Western Europeans.”

“Why?”
“Well, because sometimes that’s the way the story is told. We’re in Europe and the story gets told from a European point of view – like the Spanish and Portuguese controlled trade from the beginning. And they leave out that the Muslims were doing it first.”

The Egyptian, muslim, girl looks up from her notes.
“Wait, they just leave it out? Why? How?”
“Yes. Because we’re in Europe so they only tell their side. And as Winston Churchill, PM of England during WWII , said, ‘History is written by the winners’. It’s easier to just tell one side, isn’t it?”
“But it’s not true. So how do we know what is true?”
“Well, we don’t. And it’s our job as historians to track down the truth and look for the other side of the story to make sure we’re not missing it.”
“But… ”
“Yeah.”
And she goes back to her notes.

And her face shows me clearly – she’s been duped and just learned it. She’s just learned that the history of her people, her religion, her culture, gets erased. Possibly on purpose.

really really hope that that was a seed that turns her from being a bright, driven, student to being a purposeful, intent, adult. Even though she might not even remember it.

And that, that, is what keeps me being a purposeful, intent, adult.

Posted in critical thought, education, politics, students, writing | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Sleep

I had a nightmare
So real my muscles were frozen
And I was screaming in my mind
Maybe also with my voice

And I was alone in bed
When the last thing I wanted
Was an ocean of space by my side
And the first thing I wanted
Was to feel another person’s heartbeat

And when I woke up
I did the math
The first Hug I can get
Is a 3 hour train away
The second Hug is
a 3.5 hour train away

After that, I kind of need to fly
And that’s a long way to go for a hug
But maybe it would be worth it
Because 3 days later
I still feel it dragging its’ cold fingers
Down my spine

And a hug sure seems like
Fighting ice with fire
To warm my soul up again

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How did we get here?

2003: I am 16, President Bush has declared war on Iraq.
I am half-American, going to school in Brasil.
Hallways are full of teenagers talking about BLOOD FOR OIL
We sit at bars, teenaged mimicry of adulthood
Drinking beer and whisky drowned in soda talking about war
I become used to the idea that America is at war.
I become used to hedging about how American I am.

2005: I go to college in America.
I am used to America being at war overseas
I start to learn more about America being at war at home too
I meet people who are suffering from it.
People who were given a different set of rules for how to live
I learn which set of rules I operate within
I still call myself Brazilian

2009: Obama is elected
When he wins, people are crying, hugging and bottles of bubbles spill
His victory feels like our victory
We learn that Obama is not perfect or magical
But small victories still happen
The different rules seem to start being SEEN
The President has operated under different rules
He knows they exist.

I move overseas.
It becomes easier to say “I’m from America” than to explain
My entire life story

I don’t have to defend being American
We debate issues – everyone knows what’s happening there, after all
But we all have the same issues
And sometimes we can praise America
We can acknowledge the good things happening there
And Obama and Michelle are inherently good
We can respect their grace and personhood
Because they seem to respect our grace and personhood

2016: Trump was Elected President Last Night
I am almost 30 and an immigrant living in Denmark
A socialist country.
I find myself saying I am Brazilian again
The explanation is shorter than the feeling of alienation
From a country I cannot understand
And a President I did not vote for
And cannot respect
And the America that he represents
Which stands so far away from everything I have ever believed
Which is poised to undo and destroy progress
Which seems incapable of basic kindness and grace
Which seems blind in the face of injustice and inequality

How did we get here?
Where do we stand now?
Where do we go from here?

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Fire

Fear tastes like wet paper
Soggy and choking
In the back of my throat.

Bravery feels like swallowing fire
Gasping
Scorching my stomach
Making my hands tingle

I want to be brave like a forest fire
Usefully
Clearing the brush
Making room for fresh growth

I want to swallow the fear
That gets stuck
And leaves me where I started

When they come together
Somehow
Bravery and fear unite to
Scorch the earth
Leaving nothing behind

Smoking, barren and desolate
A ravaged landscape
A perverse fresh start

I’ve been down that path before
The hope that lives in my sternum
Heavy, warm and permanent
Knows the way back
And would do it again and again and again
But would rather not.

Here’s to being a forest fire
To raging with purpose and growth.

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Diary of an Excursion

Last week, we did a field trip to Berlin. This was the first field trip I have planned on my own (with a lot of guiding help from others, for sure!) – booking hotels, finding trains, creating an itinerary, calling museums, calling the hotel, calling the hotel, calling the hotel…

We had to convince the kids to go! And convince the parents to send them! Then finally, 3 months later, so many phone calls and a 7-hour train ride later, we were there! Nineteen kids aged 13-17 and four adults tromping around Berlin.

So what did we do?

Day 1 – Saschenhausen Concentration Camp. We needed to feel the memory of departed souls and face the reality of the horrors, so it could haunt us for the rest of the week and we could reflect and recover.
Then we hit the Christmas Markets and let the kids eat fried food and run mental spending money and being kids – lift the memories from their shoulders a bit.

Day 2 – Pergamon Museum (Babylonian artifacts & Islamic art), Bode Museum (primarily Catholic art), DDR Museum (interactive exhibit on life in East Berlin). OH BOY did this day tire them out. Many were not used to being dragged around and spending hours in museums – “Why are we in this museum? What does this have to do with Berlin?” “Nothing really, but it’s art! Look at it!” (Thanks mom & dad for making it so I never question going to a museum.)

Day 3 – Jewish Museum. We gave them maps and told them to get us there. Half the kids were competent, 1/4 were content being told what to do. 1/4 got very lost and almost ended up on a train to Frankfurt. Many didn’t realize the museum was so big and ended up racing through (note for next year: tell them to start at the top). They all came out interested and wanting to learn more. None of them actually know any Jewish people.

Then more map work and walking to the Berlin wall museum. 1.5k of murals – something for everyone.

More Christmas Markets – more friend, greasy food. By the end, the students were melting and grateful to be sat looking at their phones for a bit before going to see Blue Man Group. They came out of that B O U N C I N G with energy – many haven’t seen a professional big-city performance before and boy oh boy did they love every minute of it.

Finally finally finally day 4 – train home. 7 hours long, and they sleep for most of it. And make their way through their candy hoards.

No real disasters, no tragedies. A few tears. A few empaths being overloaded. A few grouchy and cold kids with sore feet. But overall – they did something new and it’s safe to say that they had a great time doing it.

I do not regret a minute of all the work that went into the trip – I can think of a 100 things to do better next time, but I know they won’t forget this, and that’s worth it.

Posted in education, personal, teaching | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment