Maya’s New School

.

.

 

„Good morning students! This is your new classmate, Maya. She will be studying with us in fourth grade. I want you to welcome her in our class and show her respect. Maya comes from another country, from Canada. We all have to help her to feel welcomed in our school and in our country, Guatemala. We are all happy when someone from another country comes to study with us. That means they want to learn about our country, our culture, and language. But we are also lucky to have them among us because we also learn from them, about their country and culture. The foreign students enrich our knowledge about other places in the world. And this is why today we are very fortunate to have Maya with us, we have to appreciate this. Welcome in fourth grade, Maya! Luis-Pedro, bring a chair and a desk for Maya from the other room and put it over there.“

 

Maya's classroom

Maya’s classroom

 

Facing the class, Maya beside him looking at the cement floor, her heart racing with excitement, el profe Estuardo says these words in Spanish, his right hand resting on Maya’s shoulder. She doesn’t understand what he has just said, she doesn’t speak Spanish yet, but I do. I lean at the door of the classroom peeking inside. About twenty kids in uniforms, from eight to fourteen years old, are standing up very still, listening carefully to their teacher. His words bring tears in my eyes. I will never forget this moment. 

 

Maya's first day at school.

Maya’s classmates on her first day at school.

 

Maya starts school two days after we arrive in Rio Dulce. The subscription procedure takes less than a minute consisting in meeting the teacher and asking him if she can start school. Sure she can, no problem, he answers with a smile, and so she is immediately admitted. No paperwork, no photocopies, no fees. The only thing we have to provide is a few cuadernos (notebooks) and a school uniform.

 

Taking measurements for the school uniform. This woman is the only tailor in the village who makes the girl's uniforms.

Taking measurements for the school uniform. This woman is the only tailor in the village who makes the girl’s skirts.

 

The school is a small one-story building under a great ceiba tree: a row of four classrooms with permanently open doors and windows where a total of about sixty local kids between five and fourteen years of age gather every day from 7:40 am to 12:30 pm. There are a bunch of sun-stricken village dogs who also attend the classes on daily bases walking in and out the open doors, undisturbed, occasionally chasing the neighboring chickens who venture in the schoolyard looking for bugs.

 

Kids in front of the school building

Kids in front of the school building

 

The schoolyard is covered with gravel and mud puddles, with palm trees and flowers that never cease blooming in the humid hot air of Rio Dulce. Between classes, kids run around and women from the village come to sell snacks: coquitos (peeled orange halves with salt and pepper), jugo (juice), heladitos (small ice creams).

 

 

Maya playing with the kids in the schoolyard

Maya playing with the kids in the schoolyard

 

In the morning, instead of a school bus, a lancha passes by to pick up Maya and the other boatkids as well as kids who live further down the river.

 

The school lancha (like a school bus) passes every morning in the anchorage to pick up kids

The school lancha (like a school bus) passes every morning in the anchorage to pick up kids

 

Maya is not the only boatkid going to El Relleno school.

 

Cline, 4, s/v Souricat

Coline, 6, s/v Souricat

 

Noial, Lovam, Ilan, and Coline, also go there.

 

Lovam, 5, s/v FriendShip

Lovam, 5, s/v FriendShip

 

Maya loves her new school. Next Monday, she will be doing an oral presentation about Guatemala’s national flower, La Monja Blanca.

 

 

Maya waiting for the school lancha in the morning

Maya waiting for the school lancha in the morning

 

Share

Maya and The Pride Parade

June 30, 2013, Key West, Florida

„Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law — for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well“

-Barack Obama

Every year in June there is a Gay Pride Parade organized in Key West. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender from the local community as well as from all over the world gather on Duval Street to carry the longest rainbow flag on the planet, one mile and a half in length. Locals and tourists come to watch the colorful loud bunch of gays, as well as gay supporters, as they parade from one end of the street to the other celebrating freedom of sexuality. The euphoria builds us, pink confetti, shiny beads, and little round packages with condoms fly over the crowds of slightly drunk onlookers.

.

.

Ivo, Maya and I go to check out this year’s parade. We are a bit late and miss out the long rainbow flag. We get to the New Orleans House bar. On the sidewalk in front of the bar there is a crowd of dancing people dressed up in pink feathers and high heels, suntanned buff guys in tongs, transvestites with silicon breasts. Everyone is dancing and drinking and laughing. The music is so loud and irresistible, Ivo and I join the celebration.

.

.

Maya is shocked. Although I talk to her before we go to the parade and try to prepare her for what we would see, she is stunned and not happy at all. At her age, nine and a half, sexuality is something of a mystery. Homosexuality even more so.

A young guy from Kansas, twenty one, drinking and dancing with the crowd tells me he has a sister Maya’s age and that he wouldn’t bring her to the gay parade. “Kids should not see such things, not before they are eighteen,” he tells me. “What things? You mean “reality”?” According to him, children should be kept comfortably ignorant of the real world and all its nuances, differences, miseries, injustices, and sufferings. Little girls like Maya shall have shiny pink bubbles to live in until they are at least eighteen, and little boys: shiny blue bubbles. Like little Buddhas, the harsh reality should only come to them as a shock when they are older and smarter and more capable of coping with it. Including homosexuality.

I explain to him that as travelers, our children are exposed to all sorts of sights his little sister in Kansas watching kids-friendly shows on TV will probably never see.

Travelling is discovering reality away from the screen and the school system which establish values and set social norms for our children. I also tell him that each kid is different, individuality should be considered in this matter. Maybe for his sister is best not to be exposed to certain things because of who she is or who her parents want her to become. But it’s not the same for Maya. And then I ask Maya what she thinks about the whole thing: the gay parade and gay people in general.

.

 

.

.

 

“A gay person is someone who is a boy and likes boys. They are OK. Like Raceton, I like him a lot. But Transvestites I don’t like because it’s not normal, they are guys that look like Lady Gaga and have boobs. I think this is wrong. I didn’t like the parade, I only liked the music. I felt awkward and embarrassed especially when my dad had his picture taken with the girl-guy, not cool… I think kids should not go to such parades, only teenagers, if they want too”, Maya tells me after the parade.

So maybe I am wrong? Maybe gay parades should be rated 18+? Or maybe Maya simply doesn’t like the fact that her parents don’t just look at the show, like the rest of the “normal” people, but participate in it: dance, pose for pictures and interact with gays and transsexuals. Maya is forced to be a part of the show herself, maybe that is what she doesn’t like? At least now she has a realistic idea of what a gay person is and a transgender . It is a valuable lesson for her; she has just broaden her horizon and she is now more at ease with the subject.

.

 

.

.

Although at this point of her life she doesn’t fully understand and approve of some aspects of homosexuality, she is wise enough to understand difference and cope with it. She already had an experience of rejection by her peers based on differences, and her answer to this is I don’t care about theses people who don’t like me or understand me. The important thing is that she likes and proudly accepts herself the way she is.

“I know I am not a normal kid, I am special, but that is different [from being a homosexual]. At school I once showed up wearing a traditional Chinese dress and people ignored me, they didn’t talk to me. They didn’t like me in school, they thought I was crazy and didn’t want to play with me, and that made me feel sad. When I showed up with a short haircut nobody recognized me. They thought I was lying when I told them I saw the Northern Lights, and a volcano, and that I was swimming in a canyon with my clothes on. I am different because I travel a lot. But I don’t care about those people at school and what they think. Nature is my new school and I will learn everything from Nature and Travel.  Besides, I never think I travel too much, it’s impossible to travel “too much”. I love travelling, it’s totally my favorite thing to do and I shall keep doing it”.

Maya, don’t you think that gay people feel sad too when someone doesn’t like them and tells them they are not normal?

They are who they are, and you are who you are Maya, and there is nothing wrong with this.

Maya

Maya

Share