With my hand on my heart: where are you taking me, dear Education?

julia margaret cameron niñaI visited my friend and colleague Alejandra last Thursday morning.

Sane people would have taken around 5 hours to process the enormous amount of information we exchanged. But we both work in education, so we pushed contents forward and fit the whole thing into intense 90 minutes, before the bell rang.

Time and again I directed the conversation towards free education. I can´t help it. Since I have memory I feel an urge for change. For transformation. I can almost visualize the image of a renewed humanity born from the re-education of adults learning to allow the self-education of infants. As if a revolutionary spirit would revolve within my self, frustrated and satisfied concurrently… Much has been seen and said, but I sense much more has to be done yet!

It would be easier not to feel like this, but I do.

Then I came back home to pick up my husband and our youngest child. We needed to drive him to a health center. He got bitten by a cat, which is stuff for another post to warn you why you should not allow your child to caress stranger cats. But that would drive me off the story and since our boy is ok there´s nothing to really worry about.

So, now we are in the car and Ricardo asks me how did the visit to my friend go.

– You can´t imagine!… She has been working in public infant education for 25 years. She tells me… the little ones, from 1 and 2 years old are asked to sit at the table with their hands held in their backs, while teachers place the materials to “work” with in front of them – I can almost see the image I am describing; innocent children handcuffed in the back in some kind of concentration camp camouflaged by good intentions. The one who moves hands, is the bad guy, the one that misbehaves. They are so automated that by K5 they do it by themselves, she says…  no one has to tell them.

I sense within an emerging indignation that ignites while I speak… Is perchance a sin to move little hands around? This is so far from what I dream infant education to be… I am outraged and my disapproval is evidently expressed in the pitch of every word I say. 

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Unexpectedly, from the rear of the car reaches us the soft voice of our 5 years old boy:

– Yeah mom, but it is not as bad, you know?

– Do YOU have to put your hands in the back when you sit at the table at school???

– Yes, but I don’t mind, he wisely answers. It is just like keeping them still on your lap.

Our little boy is far from being automated, flattened by education, destroyed in his uniqueness… He is far, far from that. He is one of the most self-determined people I know, if not the most one. But he knows how to lay his hands on his back without further psychic damage.

Then I ask myself. I ask my self. I ask myself.

Am I exaggerating?

I would like to end this post with this question. Right here.

But I can´t.

I am not pretending you to give me an answer…  if I do exaggerate, if I don´t… I am not expecting anything from you (even though I would definitely appreciate your comments).

I want to throw this question within, let it resound and observe wherefrom its echoes resurge.

Am I exaggerating with my vision of actual education? I ask my self and wait…

julia-margaret-cameron2

I am what I am, I am not going to tell little children to lay their hands on their backs. But I believe I can give me the chance to lower my hypersensitivity and look at formal education with better eyes.

The Education… I imagine her as a distinguished lady, standing in front of me, no age or time yet as old as humanity itself. I look at her in the eyes and new words surge from my lips…

– Education, until today I was bound to you by my anger, my desire for you to be different. Now I see you and accept you as you are…   I take what you have for me and that is enough… I wasn´t able to acknowledge you before. I apologize for that… And I thank you.

She is standing there, calmly looking at me. She smiles, in glowing eyes.

I feel the desire to go closer. We hug.

Me from underneath her arms, she embraces me over my shoulders: I feel her generous hands surrounding my back.

I feel sheltered, I am a little one.

I am free.

Thereby, fueled by a new inner force I turn and look into the future, towards my own destiny.

If there is to be the revolution, so be it.

After the Manner of Perugino_Cameron

Photos by Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879).

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Gratitude is in the air. Not just a travel anecdote.

My dear friend Nina is a stewardess. She had to work on dec. 31st in a return flight from Miami to Argentina. On these Holidays crew members are allowed to take a friend with them, so she invited me to join her all the way from Buenos Aires – Miami – Buenos Aires in just 48 hours! We were going to celebrate new year flying somewhere above the Ecuatorian sky…

No need to say I accepted!

After visting Miami Beach we rushed to Dolphin´s to buy all sales we were able to pay for and capable to carry with (women´s ability to meet both goals is well known so we did a good deal of shopping). Then we went to the Cheesecake factory because I was hungry and insisted. The other girls said they were ok with a Starbucks coffe… pardon? Coffe for dinner? Not for me!! The funny thing was they ate as much or more than myself… they were hungry too!

Next day we walked in the sorroundings of University train Station, did a bit more shopping and ate sushi from Whole Foods at our hotel, sitting comfortably by the  swimmingpool.

Time was over and we litteraly sat on our before empty suitcases to be able to close them.

Then I had the idea to play a new year´s friendship game during the flight. Rushed to Holiday Inn´s PC room, searched for a nice 2013 image and started printing 45 copies. Printer run out of paper so I dared to go to front desk to get my problem solved. We assembeled all crew members, captains and other airline staff that was travelling with us that night and briefly explained how it went: you should think of a life purposeful desire for the coming year and write it down as a desire for someone else (“I wish you”… kind of text) and you should sign giving a medium difficulty clue about your self to play an “invisible friend” game during the flight.

2013All agreed enthusiastically (is not easy to counteract a 20 years experienced toddlers and young infants teacher, you see?) except for  one man who didn´t join us… a self induced fringe person.

We departed on time and after serving some drinks, my dear friend put all papers in a bag and walked through aisles for us to pick one, as if she were serving an appetizer. Then fun began. People got up, they started asking each other:

– Do you live in the West Area of Buenos Aires?

– Were you born in Corrientes province?

– Did life offer you a second chance?

– Do you have only one bunion? (this was the best one and believe it or not, her friends knew who she was!!)

There was laughter and joy when every one discovered his well wisher and they gave each other a big hug. In the mean while captain appeared in the loudspeakers. We were in the countdown for new year and we jumped in repeating along whith him… 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1,

Happy new year!!!

An old american couple woke up and they were looking at their watches asking each other: “Why do they celebrate new year???” (Argentinean time is two hours forward and for sure the crew wanted to turn off the lights early and get a short nap before serving breakfast). Poor old people, they paid premium business class and were surrounded by around 30 cheerful Argentinians that were travelling for free!!

I got home, gave my dear husband and dear kids the little presents I brought and our new year started sharing a peaceful day at home. Towards the evening, Ricardo and I went watering the front garden. In no more than 25 minutes a few people approached asking for food and old clothes. The last one was a pregnant lady with two girls. I gave her some bananas and a bottle of water because we are in summer and it was a hot day.

– Don´t you have left overs? We haven´t eaten anything today.

I went back to my kitchen, warmed a rice, lentils and vegetables stew and gave it to her. They sat on the walk side immediately and started eating. My husband stared at me and I stared at him. We both agreed.

– Come in, sit at our table and have your dinner.

– Sure, she said and her smile revealed an irregular and incomplete set of teeth.

Rosa and her girls, Rocío and Camila, chatted, laughed and asked for bread, cheese, baby blankets, mosquito repellent, antibiotics, diapers, money for the bus and train card, a stay over job to clean homes… Oh my! Some things I could give, some of course not.

– I was born in 1983, Rosa mentioned. But I like to say I´m a bit younger, only rags are old (that´s a common expression in Spanish: “viejos son los trapos”)… She was just 29 years old, had 6 kids and one coming! To me, she looked like a 45 years old woman.

After slowly picking all their bags, carriers, boxes and loose items they kissed me and left. Balancing their steps they turned round the corner and disappeared. The image gap to my recent travel was so huge and so small at the same time…

homeless-women

Various emotions rushed in and quickly vanished again in my conscience… gratitude for what I have, sadness for what they don´t, and a sudden determination… like a prayer…

In this journey of life may I become an “invisible friend” of those in need and despair,

learning to reveal their hidden clues.

In gratitude.

child-heart

I´ll be coming back to amararama as often as possitble this year to say thank you. Hope you share this new adventure with me.

Tech Free Tree Fest (read this out loud and quick if you´re looking for a tongue-twister. For a nature love story read the post to the end).

We are back in town after a long stay in the countryside.

Those 4 months were intense, beautiful and tech free! We didn´t even have an oven, so we became experts in baking bread and cookies in the pan! Anyhow, this post is not about emergency cooking recipies, therefore you got my in-law (don´t miss her cooking blog). It´s not about countryside photography either, therefore you got my mom (her photo blog is beautiful).

This humble post is about what I could see from my kitchen window, beyond the house limits, in a world where kids had no TV, no internet, no phone, no mobile, no playstation… A tech free playful life! More specifically, this post is about how my kids rediscovered, enjoyed and loved trees.

It took them some time to realize trees were something they could interact with. The first weeks they explored the surroundings wanting to do the usual things they were used to: they asked us to take them to the playground and wanted to ride their bikes and skates on the road side (actually on the road, there was no “side” at all, but no traffic either).

It surprised me how many scrapes, minor cuts and bruises they collected in their feet and legs during this period. This brought me to think they were “city” kids, who never had a true extended opportunity to roam around freely, barefooted, without my constant warning advises behind. I trusted them, though. So I resisted the temptation to confine them into the house and they quickly developed the necessary skills to keep themselves safe during their games.

Slowly, they stopped asking for a daily visit to the playground and they started to realize there was a great world of play opportunities all around them, in front of their eyes. First thing they noticed was they could climb a big bush which they named “The Fat Sumo”. They literally went into the bush, took position on different branches and started moving them as the arms, legs and head of a big fat sumo wrestler.

Fat Sumo Wrestler (the bush, not the boy!)

It took three to four kids to complete the task and they spent hours and days repeating the game. Unfortunately the bush was not used to such high risk experiences and its left arm-branch broke. So we kindly invited them to explore real trees to climb and play with, remembering them trees are living creatures too.

From then on they chose a Weepping Willow as a King´s Court (throne included), a Shade Tree became a swing and a riding horse and some sort of Medlar was transformed into a den wherefrom some “fruit munitions” flew into the open field (some reached me and let me tell you the word munition applies perfectly well here). Finally, a beautiful Sweetgum in its Fall dress became the Everest, but only the older child in the troupe made it to the summit.

They didn´t left behind any tree to explore and play with. But the old grumpy Chestnut. It was that time in the year when the tree drops it´s distinctive spiny fruit shells  to the ground… did I mention kids were barefooted all day long? One or two stings were enough to establish safe zone limits.

So there it was, as a Selfish Chestnut Giant, standing alone, sorrounded by it´s own natural barrier, keeping kids at a distance. But as Oscar Wilde knew (and we parents all know) kids are not easily discouraged, specially when it comes about limits. Actually, kids love barriers… just to be able to cross them and see what´s up on the other side. And this is precisely what happened.

Slowly, very slowly, autumn neared winter and the good old Chestnut tree run out of its porcupine like little bombs and the field was cleared. Our gardener helped a lot, ignorant of the love battle that was going on he did score the final goal kids needed to win the game.

Helpless and naked, the tree surrendered. For good.

It became the most adored, trusted and cared for tree in the world. In my kids world at least. They lived great adventures around it and asked me to read them fun stories while sitting on its bare branches.

Finally, one sunny autumn afternoon it became the most fashionable spiritual Grandpa Tree there has been. Kids had organized a fest in its honor. They decorated the branches with silk wool and polyester wadding, wrote little love letters to hung on the threads, made invitations for neighbors, created tree masks and prepared fresh lemonade for everyone (I did help a bit with the little boy´s mask and cutting the lemons into halves). The lady opposite our home brought a copper inverted pyramid containing dry dung, rice and clarified butter (ghee) and offered us to burn a small fire praying for the healing of the Earth. She explained this was called HOMA Therapy.  We accepted.

So there we were, experiencing joy, unity and peace, praying for the healing of the Earth under the Great Tree our kids learned to conquer…

Recalling the whole experience I don´t feel anymore like advocating for the importance of playing in nature which was my first idea when I started writing this post. I don´t know you, but what my heart is whispering into my mind right now is a simple question: am I ready to release my well fostered ill-feelings towards thorny life experiences? Are you ready? I hope we all are. A true natural love story might be waiting behind.

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5 km to the Summit

I was born in Bariloche, Argentina. This region is beautifully sorrounded by Andes mountains, lakes and amazing nature. As a teenager, I didn´t idetify with many of my classmates activities and I found an incredible refuge in climbing mountains in small groups. Our leader (a kind 60 years old mountaineer) was always a bit lost and we would insistingly ask him under the weight of our backpacks and feeling our tired legs could walk not for much longer.

– How far are we?

Every single time, he would answer:

– 5km!

So, we kept walking even far distances through virgin woods, valleys and hillsides.

I remember feeling really tired and wondering why on earth I engaged again in this walking tour. But when we reached the summit and I was able to appreciate the immense Beauty of God´s creation, an equally immense feeling of gratitude expanded my heart and without even noticing l was still carrying my backpack I would just think:

– Oh my! I´m ready for my next climb!

This experience has been of great help for me during my life. Sometimes, when things get difficult and steep, I know there is a summit awaiting, and its worth every effort. I also know as a mountaineer that usually after you reach a summit, a higher one appears in sight. And that´s a big part of the fun!

(I wrote this post inspired in The Race, posted at http://www.thesimplelifekdl.blogspot.com/)

Meet me, the first person singular blogging black sheep

traditional “mate” drink

I´ve been blogging for 9 months, reading Freshly Pressed for 4 months and wanting to become Freshly Pressed for 3 months, 29 days.

Finding out this feature is only for English bloggers and starting my own English blog took me 2 more months.

Forgetting about Freshly Pressed and subscribing to wonderful blogs in English about education, homeschooling and parenting started only 30 days ago. Naturally, I got curious about the authors and then I made a great discovering.

All bloggers I follow introduce themselves without using the “I” pronoun even once. They write about themselves as “she is”… mother of three, a loving wife, a teacher.

Then I had the joy to read Jenn in Japan´s post True Life: The Downfall of a Former Grammar Nazi. “I never wrote in the first person for an expository essay” she claims.

It didn´t take much thinking to realize how inadequate it is to use the first person singular to describe yourself  (and your thoughts) when writing in English. I wondered why.

Are they all practicing Advaita knowledge, persuing the True Self, dettaching from the identification with the body and mind by using the third person singular when talking about themselves? Mhmmm… I doubt so.

Most probably they are following obvious grammar rules for proper use of the language. Obvious for them, I mean. For me, those rules remain in the misty and foggy fields of the unknown. And I´m loving it!

I´ve been an obsessive conformist all of my life. Not knowing certain rules gives me a good deal of freedom and I feel myself like a little girl again, just jumping puddles of words, getting dirty, wet and scold (ed?).  Ha! I´m really loving it. Thank you English language for giving me a second opportunity to become the black sheep of the blogging familiy! I strive to be identified with my True Self and I do my best to master English language, but the enthusiasm I find in not being perfect is giving me a unique sense of authenticity.

Want to meet me? Here I am!

Holding argentinean password, I love my motherplace, my mothertongue and my social crisis addicted land. I mean. It´s part of myself. And I´m consistently dedicated to love myself, lights and shades included.

Having traveled around the globe and lived in Germany, India and Tahiland I consider myself a citizen of the world. Addicted to mate (don´t scandalize here please, that´s just a traditional drink… sex is not bad either, but I would deffinitely not call it “mate”). A lover of beauty. A vicious multilingual writer. A mother,  an educationist, an appassionate for equity.

My thirst for happy children, happy parents and happy families makes me jump into the waters of world peace. Not that I want to change society! Not that I want to carpet the world to protect my barefoot feelings.

I´m just in the search of authenticity finding the U turn that guides me back to my essence. I´m just after the calm joy of expressing what´s born in my heart and piles up in the print queue of my mind: True Word Seeds.

I never know what they´ll become, but I can´t refrain from bringing them into life. Sometimes they grow into huge trees called books. Sometimes they humbly shine and disappear on a paper napkin lost in chaotic-kitchen-all-purpuse-drawer where spiderman toys happily coexist with lost keys and forgotten to pay bills.

Amararama is the intimate cave where my profound or hilarious expressionism takes place. Start reading it from the end, start reading it from the beginning, you´ll get the same: my true self.

You´re invited to walk by my side sharing your expressive seeds too, no transgenic included please. Be welcome and enjoy!

Floating beauty

Nick Dolding/Getty Images found at http://bit.ly/dchM76

Once, about 17 years ago, I was walking with an 8 years old girl on a rural dirt road in India. All of a sudden, she stopped to watch something her face told me was the 8th. World Wonder. I looked around but could not enjoy the Wonder for there was nothing, absolutely nothing awsome for me to see.

– How beautiful, she said.

– What?, I dared to ask.

– That plastic bag!

Then I saw it. A dancing queen, filled with hot dirty air, flying across the road in total freedom. Then time became still, everything around me disappeard and I was that magical ballerina made of plastic bag, unfolding my mistery and beauty for those who really can see.
Even today, when I recall this experience, a sense of deep peace comes to me. But I don´t recall it very often, though. You might know why too: motherhood, writing, work, one car family, schedules. “Once again, my mind became a crowded, chaotic room with too many voices competing for my attention.”, says Eros-Alegra Clarke in her beautiful post.

Thank to her words that expanded unity consiousness came back to me. And left again. But now at least I remember it´s there.

Pay heed to advice vs. common sense. Non-advising movement foundation

“Keep it”. That´s the best piece of advice I ever received.

It enourages my inquiring mind and sponsors my common sense, you see?

Every time I have to make a decision I think: shall I keep it, shall I not? (sounds like a song… mhhmm “I’ve got a right to be wrong. My mistakes will make me strong”).

See how this advise moulds my mind:

Shall I keep old jeans that don´t fit me anymore?

Shall I keep eating boston cream pie though new jeans don´t fit me either?

Shall I keep encouraging my 8 years old boy to use fork instead of fingers?

Shall I keep my dog, my husband, my house, my job? Shall I keep myself?

(Yes, sometimes I even wonder what if I would let loose and completely release my Self from myself. I´ve read it´s a luminous experience… I think I´ll try that after finishing my boston cream and this post.)

But above, beyond and most of all, I wonder if I shall keep advising others about what to do, about what´s right and what´s wrong (do I really know?).

When giving advice is on the mire, I suspect the best thing I can keep is my silence. When I feel tempted to give someone else a “good piece of advice”, I´ll repeat to myself: “keep it, keep it”.

Then I´ll be setting the Foundation Stone for the Non-advising movement in my soul. That might help to keep friendship, to keep silence and to release my Self. Nice, uh?

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