Yesterday, September 1st, was the day I officially started working once again as a teacher, at an international school no less, and I could not be happier. I simply love children and teaching has always been my passion. It was a tremendous pleasure to meet all the children and families at the official introduction yesterday. After all the families have gone, the entire staff – the director, coordinators, teachers, and support staff held a toast for a job well done for the past weeks in preparation for the big day that is the official start of classes next week. We are all very happy with our teams and have been doing such a great job at putting everything together and we are all excited to be working with each other in the next months. It gave me such a wonderful feeling.
I have been moved from being a part-time teacher for Math and Science for both primary and middle school to being a full-time teacher for the third grade and middle school Science. Yesterday, with excitement, I decorated my third grade classroom with plants and visuals. The plant lover in me brought some plants from home and took five more from the flower shop I passed by on the way to school. My new best friend, Nicole, an American who has been teaching in Shanghai prior and is the Humanities teacher, helped me finish the classroom just before the families started arriving and the program began.
To say that yesterday was an amazing day is an understatement. Although I would have to say that the most marvelous thing happened at the end, while I was on the bus on my way back home.
THIS is a story of how we should always be true to ourselves and make it a point to have a good and open heart regardless of the situation, no matter who we are interacting with – for making judgments about people should not become our way of life.
The full time teachers at the school were required to be present for planning two weeks before while part time teachers were required to be present one week before the start of classes. I had just been on a two-week trip to the Philippines to process some important documents, liquidate assets, and pack up the rest of our belongings that we had to leave behind last year due to baggage and shipping issues. I also had to spend a week in Sardegna to enjoy what was left of the summer vacation with the rest of the family before finally starting on my new journey. I went back to Torino ahead of everybody else so I am taking public transportation alone around the city for probably the first time since I arrived in Italy.
At the end of my first day, the Spanish teacher and I took the bus together on our way home but on the second day, my Primary Years Program team ended our meeting late, and I had to go to the bus stop alone.
The bus passes in front of the school every thirty minutes and I was early. I went to stand in the shade of a tree near a lady seated on a chair whom I thought was also waiting for the bus. There was nobody else on the street but us. I was sipping from my water bottle when a car stopped in front of me and the driver asked me if I was working. I had just come from a long day of work and I was in the process of emptying my mind so this question caught me off guard. But in Italian I said, “No, I’m not working. I’m waiting for the bus.” The man asked me where I was going, and when I said to the city, he said he can take me there. I said, “No, thank you.” He drove away.
The lady behind me started shouting and that’s when it finally dawned on me what was happening. I turned around and said, “Mi space ma non lo so dove la fermata. Sto aspettando per pullman!” [I am sorry but I do not know where the stop is. I am waiting for the bus!” She was screaming, shouting, gesturing farther up ahead, and saying that is where the bus stop is. I walked away. As I was walking away, I took my phone out of my bag and called my husband to tell him what was happening. I was at first actually laughing. The lady was still screaming, shouting cuss words at me. I think I heard her say “merda” or “puta” or something to that effect. I ignored her.
At the bus stop, the correct one, for there was the big sign right above me, three more cars stopped in front of me, and I would just gesture to the big “Bus stop” sign and they would drive away. The first car, red in fact, who stopped in front of me, and apparently spoke English, kept coming back though, five times to be exact, rolling his window down and telling me that it was a dangerous place and he will take me home. I kept shaking my head and saying, “No thank you but I will take the bus.”
This angered the lady all the more. I could still hear her shouting even from far away. I was still on the phone with my husband and there was still nobody else on the street. I checked my watch and I still had twenty minutes to wait. I started to become afraid.
Then I saw the lady, now with another one with her, walking towards me. I told my husband on the phone I was afraid and I did not know what to do. They were big ladies, a head taller than me, and there was nobody else around. They finally got to me and the first lady started shouting at me, right in front of me, and started to hit me. I hit her arm back instinctively. The other lady, who was nicer, came to try to stop her.
I was also shouting in Italian, trying my best not to fumble with my words, “I am already at the bus stop. I am waiting for the bus. What else do you want? I am a teacher! I work at the school!” gesturing at the campus some hundred meters away across the street. The other lady finally understood. I was still on the phone, and my husband could hear all the shouting and screaming, and he was also afraid for me. I handed my phone to the other lady and said, “Qua, parla con mio marito. Sono insegnante alla scuola. Sto aspettando per pullman.” She spoke a little bit of English and started to speak to my husband on the phone in English but I told her my husband is Italian. She was apologizing, saying they made me a mistake. She was apologizing to me as she led the still shouting and screaming and very incensed other lady away from me. I was in tears behind my sunglasses as I said, “Grazie mille. Mi dispiace.”
Finally, the bus arrived, and with a tremendous feeling of relief, I got on.
The next day, I was at a meeting with the school directress and I told her about what had occurred the day before. The police was called. They came and filed the report. They informed me that the ladies have always been there but as long as they just sit or stand there, they are not doing anything wrong; but an incident like this is a different matter, and they assured me they will do something about it. He advised me not to go out when it’s dark, or not to go to the bus stop alone, and probably best to wait for the bus right in front of the school and just run towards the stop when I see it coming. Yes, he did say that. He said it would be good exercise. He was just joking though.
At the end of my second day at school, I checked if the ladies were there before coming out. If I saw them, I come right back in. I also made sure I was only three to five minutes early before the bus’s arrival so I did not have to wait that long. Although I noticed that when they saw me coming out, they also walked away.
By the third day, everybody already knew about what had happened to me out in the street. Apparently, everybody knew about the ladies except me. They all apologized for not informing me and promised to never let me go out there alone. To say that my colleagues are wonderful is also an understatement. I love them to bits even if we have only known each other for a few days.
After the Meet the Families program, and the toast, and everything else, it was late, it was nearly eight, and two of the Early Years Program teachers accompanied me to the bus stop. We arrived just as the bus was pulling in. I waved them goodbye, ran after the bus, got on, and sat on an empty seat right next to an elderly lady at the second to the last row. I checked my phone, reviewed the route on Google Maps to make sure I was getting off at the right stop, and rummaged inside my bag to make sure I had everything with me. After some time, the elderly lady sitting next to me got off and I was seated alone.
It was then that a hand from behind tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around to see the two ladies from two days before seated right behind me. They were smiling at me. The meanest one, who looked a little bit different because by then she had straight hair instead of curls, and I noticed a really pretty dimple on her left cheek, was smiling and saying, “Scusa tesoro… scusa…” She was apologizing very nicely while trying to hug me. I told her I had been very afraid. And she kept apologizing for what had happened.
As they were getting off their stop, they apologized again, and the really bad one finally said, “Scusa. Mi dispiace,” and she kissed me on my right cheek very gently and sweetly, before the doors opened, and she got off. I said, “Grazie mille. Buona serata.”
I was completely overwhelmed and again almost in tears.
Did I just make friends out of two prostitutes?
I am sure I will see them again because they work on that street.
The street where the school is undergoing a lot of changes. It is right behind the Juventus Stadium and prior to the completion of the campus, there seemed to have been nothing there. There are still numerous constructions going on as the entire Juventus Village is being completed, with the hotel right next to our campus still halfway built. The police say once the street completes its transformation, the ladies and their customers will have to go somewhere else.
I have been through many things and these days I do not complain anymore about incidents where I get treated badly for misconceptions and other people’s mistakes. I also do not hold grudges. With what I have right now and where I am, I have every reason to be happy. Although I am not always due to chemical imbalances in my brain that I and the rest of my family try to deal with as best as we can, I am generally at my best all the time.
At the beginning, I did not want to blog about this but it gnawed on me all night. That feeling that something extraordinary has happened to me that I just have to share with the rest of the world.
What is the lesson in this story?
That it pays to be nice, all the time, even if you are being disrespected and treated badly, and even if you know it is not your fault. That one must always stand up for oneself but not lose his or her head. It pays to treat others with respect regardless of their profession and that they are truly more than what meets the eye. That iy is good to apologize, to accept apologies, and to give thanks where gratitude is due.
I was thankful to the other lady who rescued me from the first one when she was beside herself in anger. And I was thankful when the other lady, after realizing her mistake, apologized to me. I accepted her apology wholeheartedly and graciously.
We separated with our hearts full of love and the world is all the better for it.
I loved them for their humility and grace despite their profession. Do I feel pity? No, I don’t. But I feel like inviting them over to my house for dinner or going out for coffee at the bar at the end of the street where we all work. Because life is beautiful.