Is it really dead people? A 3 minutes conversation

A few days ago I went to a very interesting talk at The Waldorf School of South West London. The speaker was a lady called Erika Grantham and the talk was entitled “Doing not talking”, aimed to parents and school tutors for kindergarten. No need to say the environment was ever so peaceful relaxing and very welcoming. The thought that in that same room children spend their days made me somehow jealous.

All the colours were soft and warm, there was a nature table with natural flowers and hanging from the ceiling a beautiful weeping willow branch, with some of the ends covered in green, symbolising the spring buds. As you can imagine we sat in tiny chairs in a circle, and perhaps the mood of the room was so calming whoever entered automatically pulled a couple of gears down and spoke very softly and calm.

Regarding our speaker, Erika, she was quietly sitting down, facing all of us, observing and I think enjoying herself with the surroundings as we were. How can I describe her, a tiny woman oozing the strength of a titan, and at the same time that lovely gran from the fairy tales that you wish you could have her as your next door neighbour. With a strong German accent she opened the talk and her words still resound. She spoke about the will, the fantasy and the imagination in a child and on how nowadays all three of them are manipulated by the comforts of modern high tech living.

From this talk and particularly the part of imagination, I remember quite well an episode when I was working regarding this subject.

It was a very cold evening, and we were waiting for a train that was delayed. That train was coming from Disneyland, and I was prepared to greet grumpy parents, overtired children and anxious travellers. But nothing prepared me for the story I’m about to tell you.

As I was saying, I was waiting for the train to arrive; I was informed that a wheelchair passenger was on board, so I was there on the platform with the ramp ready to be deployed as soon as the train stopped. The train arrived, doors were opened and I started to deploy the ramp for this passenger.

To my surprise, the first passengers to come down the ramp were two boys, who were obviously excited to be back. As you can imagine I kept an eye on these two – who were no more than 7 years old – because I did not see an adult coming after them. So I just stood there, with the ramp fully opened and waiting for the wheelchair passenger to come along.

These two boys were talking between them, and they were dangerously close to the edge of the platform. Obviously they had not thought about the danger – at that age they are not fully conscious of it – and they were quite persistent trying to look underneath the train, and close to the rails. It is worth mentioning that the gap between the train and the platform is quite substantial and the depth of this gap is substantial as well.

I was a bit uncomfortable watching these two so close, so carelessly close to the edge so I decided to walk towards them, you know in a very casual way. As soon as I approached, they came to me, hesitating and talking. Finally after a discussion of “no, you ask” “no you do it””you ask go on” the question came out.

– “Is it really dead people under the train?” blurted one of them.

I have to say, I have heard, I have been asked  so many things when I was working, that I could write a catalogue with details and even so probably I would miss a few. But this question? NEVER. Imagine my shock when they asked me, I simply could not believe for one second that 2 seven year old boys were asking me that.

– How about you move with me away from the edge and then I tell you? I said, calmly and with a smile on my face as if the question was the most natural thing to ask.

– But if we move – said one of them – we won’t be able to see the dead people!

– Well, I’m afraid it is dangerous to be so close to the edge, so please come with me and I tell you all about it.

They agreed, perhaps under the illusion the dead people would emerge from underneath the train and grab them. Although that sounded like the right thing to say  to get them away from the edge of the platform– thinking back on reflection – at the time it did not cross my mind to say it. I did see some excitement in their eyes waiting for the promised answer. But my answer was not an answer, was another question.

– What makes you think they are dead people under the train?

– Because in this game we are playing the dead people hide under the train – started one of the boys

– And then – said the other – you have to kill them all!

– Yes, yes, and the more you kill the more dead people appear and then you have to kill them!! – said the one who asked the question in the first place.

All I managed to say is “Ohh….I see” completely astonished.

At that same time the wheelchair passenger was making his way down the ramp and who I think it was the father called them and off they went. But before they went, they did ask again.

– So, are there dead people then?

– Josh, Matt, come back here right now! – Said the man

– I was folding back the ramp and I answered them “Of course not! There is not such a thing”.

The disappointment in their faces was beyond words to describe it. They went back to the adults who were getting ready to leave the platform with all their bags and suitcases whilst I was making my way back to the office to clock out and go home. Nothing that happened that day could top this last event.

Needless to say this “3 minute conversation” still very clear in my mind because it did shock me and every time I recall it still does. And after listening to lovely Erika and all her wealth of knowledge I started to comprehend – understand is not the right word in this case – as to why these two boys posed such a question.  The first thing that comes to my mind is “their imagination is corroded” by these new games and paraphernalia that surrounds children nowadays.  Fair point, children do have to know that those games exist, violence is a real deal, and life is not as rosy as we, parents, expect it to be. We, parents, do our best to keep life as rosy as possible, but the fact remains; reality is not a soft pillow, rolling hills with green grass and perfectly blue skies.

But then again, isn’t childhood what it is all about? Blue skies, rolling hills with green grass and soft pillows? So, why corrupt it so soon and so fast?

And….It has been such a long time….

It has been such a long time after the last post.

I just cannot believe how much time has passed, and the most incredible thing is, I don’t feel that much time has gone like water under a bridge.

My little one is now 10 months old, he is crawling and trying to walk in his own very peculiar way; he babbles like there’s no tomorrow from 06:30 in the morning until 20:00 when he goes to sleep.

I laugh when I read my last post, regarding all the hurdles I had to jump in order to get into the airport in Buenos Aires, and that feels like a very distant memory. BTW, you really want to know what happened when we got to passport control and customs?

Well, long story short, we passed passport control pretty straight forward – controls in Argentinian Airports are nothing like the checks in England, trust me on that one – but the inconvenience started when we had to go through bags control and the infamous x ray machine.

I say infamous because the police officers made it like that. I give you the picture: I was leaving my mother behind, with my little one half asleep, juggling hand bag, bag, pram, passports, flight tickets after a quite agitated beginning of the day only to end up in a queue after being told by a lovely girl at the BA desk I was going to go straight through the fast track queue. YEAH RIGHT.

I followed the signs towards the “fast track” only to find out it was a “closed lane”. I even – naively – went to ask if such a queue existed, only to find out that yes, it *did* exist, but oh, not today. They did not have enough passengers with a need for it, and oh, there’s only 2 (yes, two) x ray machines working.

Well, at least I had everything sorted in a way; going through the x ray machine was going to be like a walk in the park.

That is, if I was in another airport.

After waiting for 30 minutes in the queue, finally my turn to go through the x ray machine came. I started to prepare my little one to get out of the pram, put the bags on the tray, removed the milk and food from the backpack neatly separated in transparent bags, and a full explanation in my mind for when the police officer ask about the formula milk in cartons.

But guess what? I did not have to give any explanations. Instead, I had to pass the pram through the x ray machine. To my amazement, I was asked to fold the pram and put it on the x ray machine. Let’s recap here; I was alone, with my 7 months old and two bags. A man – shall I say gentleman? – offered to help me, but guess what? The police said no. I asked the police officer how did he expect me to fold the pram, what should I do, put the bags through the x ray machine, then the baby, then the pram? It felt like the tale of what would you cross first, the chicken the eggs or the fox.

His answer, “It is not my business”. Yep. That was his answer.

So, I left my little one seated on the floor, folded the pram. At this point, my bags, with the passport, the money, flight tickets, computer, phone, camera was on the other side of the x ray machine. And to add insult to injury, the police officer decided to move the queue a bit, letting other passengers go through. Cheers for that.

Pram went through the x ray machine. On the other side of the x ray machine, finally someone – I believe it was a supervisor – came to find out what was going on. She asked if I needed some help, I answered yes, but I was not quite sure if the police officers would allow her to help me. To which she answered that obviously some people there did not know what it was like to be travelling alone with a baby. Before I left the x ray machine I did take my sweet time to check that nothing was missing. Of course, needless to say, under the evil looks of the police officers.

At that point, my little one was starting to get hungry, and I desperately needed a coffee. So we went for a quick look around the free shop whilst looking for a place to sit down and fulfil our needs. And choose between two coffee shops, one more expensive than the other, with a very limited range.

The time to jump on the plane came, the flight was marvellous, the crew ever so caring! I think it was just the right TLC we needed after the ordeal.

Conclusion:

– Argentinian customs are not mother-and-child-travelling-alone friendly when it’s very early in the morning during weekends.
– The coffee shops are outrageously expensive and the choices are limited, again, very early in the morning during weekends.
– There are some charitable souls out there, even when it’s the weekend, and very early in the morning.

And….landing

ImageWell, the day finally came when I had to make my way back to England. Goodbyes and hugs here there and everywhere, of course lots of tears, and my little one looking lost and confused as to why he suddenly was wearing a long sleeve shirt and a jumper when he has been with a sleeveless bodysuit for almost a month.

The flight was at 13:00. Knowing that in Buenos Aires almost anything is possible, I made the decision to leave the house reasonably early, perhaps too early to the trained and experienced traveller, but for me, it made all the sense in the world.

Let’s put it this way: I was not in England, where you know that the major obstacle between you and the airport is either the M25 jam packed or the Piccadilly line with “minor” delays due to a signalling problem and in the worst case scenario, you can always talk to someone and explain your situation and make the suitable arrangements; no.

I was in Buenos Aires, where you can find yourself facing a demonstration or a picket at any point of your route to the  International Airport (important: there is only ONE route to the International Airport and there’s only one International Airport which is called Ministro Pistarini, AKA Ezeiza (that’s the name of the location).

The other Airport is smaller in size and it is the National Airport and it is located by the riverside and it is called Aeroparque Jorge Newbery. Mind you, you may, on the odd occasion, catch an international flight from Aeroparque; but that is almost one chance in a hundred.

Anyway, we left early to Ezeiza, in order to avoid and/or diminish any kind of situation explained above. Hence, we woke up early – that’s not a problem when you have a seven month old little boy! – And got ready to leave my mum’s flat where we were staying.

Add to that that there was no electricity (the previous night was raining quite hard, hence the electric substation that feeds the blocks was flooded, hence no power) and I had to come down 10 stories with a baby, the pram, two suitcases and the pertinent bags for both for the flight; and oh, yes, my mother who was very persistent to come with us to Ezeiza,  despite the fact she would face going up ten stories in order to reach her home when she got back from waving goodbye.

You may wonder, well, probably the power at that point would be restored. Nah. Is Buenos Aires, very difficult that anyone would provide services during a weekend.

Weekends are sacred down there, and if anyone can avoid doing some work – even emergency ones like restore electricity – they will do. To give you an idea, when I called to report the power cut (this was at 5am) the person who answered the phone sounded half asleep, and the answer to my query was “due to union problems, we don’t know when we will be able to send an emergency service to your area”. You may wonder when the service was restored. Nearly 12 hours later, according to my mother who sent an email to tell me so.

So. After doing my exercise quota, we got in the car and made our way to Ezeiza. And an hour later, we were there, trying to find a place to park. In the meantime, I was left in the drop off area in order to wrap the suitcases and get everything ready to start the check in.

Bags wrapped – that’s something I always do, no matter what! I had some nasty experiences before and I learnt my lesson the hard way! – boarding passes and passports in my hand, I made my way to the BA desk. It was crowded. Despite the fact that I arrived almost three and a half hours earlier, obviously there were people with the same idea.

However, someone from BA saw me with my little one and told me to go straight to the beginning of the queue (would you believe the amount of evil looks we got?) which I did. Because I had everything printed, the process was fairly smooth. The assistant at the desk was very helpful as well which made the beginning of the journey a bit more bearable.

More tears and more hugs, we make our way to customs.

Oh well, sit down and grab a cup of tea, because that deserves an entire new chapter.