Reflections in a School Yard

A School yard in Panama.

Growing up depressed most of the time, it had always been rough for me to find moments to reflect on my own feelings, especially feelings of joy and anticipation of an evening that promised to hold pleasant surprises. Tiredness had made me slow down as if I had been walking on a hot sandy desert without having taken a sip of water. My thoughts then turned to the opportunities I had been made privy to.

Just the experience of what it was like to even deal with business people and dream about one day owning a business of my own somehow freed me from the hold the exhaustion had over me just as our crew approached the intersection near the school. I simply listened, too tired to respond to whatever my boys were telling me as I followed them into the school director’s office a second time that evening to deposit all the items we had collected.

Noticing how the closet was now bulging as we tried closing the door on all the donations really told the tale of all the work Teacher Ana and I had done. Finding my way outside I then followed my pack of friends to the back of the school and sat. The hard concrete step made me yearn suddenly for the comfort of my small bed at home. The school yard had a history, in fact, and it also functioned as grandstand for school events like the basketball games I so enjoyed playing.

I began to reflect on my sixth grade teacher, Doña Francisca, and her incessant math lessons involving real price minus interest and so forth. Then she’d moved on to lessons on how to calculate interest on a loan to be paid in one year. All that left out the other side of doing business, I thought, as the day’s experiences had brought in focus another side of business and the retail world- the non-consumer side. Scouring all the businesses along Central Avenue with Ana had changed my perspective somehow. Ana couldn’t imagine that she had transformed a schoolboy into a budding businessman- or could she?

“Cobert I know something you don’t know,” said Jose Manuel smiling from ear to ear. He had taken me out of my musings rather brusquely and so I responded with annoyance. “What do you know that I don’t?” I said. I made no attempt at following up on Jose Manuel’s playful challenge since I was contemplating taking off for home, hitting the showers, snacking and calling it a day. Suddenly a smaller boy came up to me and said, “The teacher wants for you to come inside.”

I looked at the kid and asked, “Which teacher?” At this point I was too tired and annoyed for yet another errand. The kid answered, “That teacher over there!” pointing over towards the darkened grandstand. It was then that I made eye contact with my regular teacher, Doña Francisca. I noticed that she was peering into the courtyard beckoning to me to come over.

The noise of kids running to and fro having fun was becoming distracting by now but I made my way around the younger kids playing on the grandstand, keeping my eyes on the teacher. She seemed almost happy to me, a mood I had never seen her in. She was always the picture of grief in her black outfit and stolid demeanor. This is new, I thought to myself, as I approached the spot where she was standing patiently waiting for me to weave through the crowd.

This story continues.

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