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My mother loves to tell the story of my first day in first
grade. We lived in Arizona. My mother was excited for me as I began this
lifelong journey of education, but when the school bus arrived at my bus stop
at the end of the day, I wasn’t on it. I’m sure she panicked. Her only child
The school was able to confirm I was okay. I was on the
wrong bus but they would make sure I was delivered safe and sound as soon as
possible. My mother waited. Now her concern was how I would handle the
situation. The thought of her daughter lost and alone made her chest tighten.
Was I afraid? Crying? Anxious in any way?
Much to her relief, I hopped off the bus happy as anyone
“I told the teacher that wasn’t my bus. But oh, Mom, I saw
so many beautiful things and places I never would have seen!”
What does that have to do with my life now in Kosova?
Everything. It is an experience I can draw from when things don’t go just
right. Like yesterday.
Yay! The big yellow bus is here and I'm ready!
I’ve been getting up my nerve to ride the bus to Prishtina
High School where I will be teaching fourth grade. (The school started as a
high school but has morphed into an educational center offering grades 1-12.) I
I’ve had rides with various people during the days of
teacher preparation, but I know I need to be able to ride the bus when needed.
This was going to be the day.
I bravely walked to the corner of my street, but the bus had
just pulled away. Hmm…I walked to the next intersection and looked back for
another bus.I may as well walk a bit more. I hoped to find a bus stop. The ones
in the city are nice little shelters. But
alas,no such bus stop here. I
reach the third intersection and have almost convinced myself that at this rate
I can walk the two kilometers to the school and forget the bus. That’s when the
big yellow bus appears. Yay!
I board and sit down. I learned the protocol from a friend.
Board, sit down, and wait. The ticket taker will walk back and take your forty
cents and give you a receipt. He does exactly as expected and I am one happy
camper. Until the bus stops and he asks me a question.
He doesn’t speak English. I don’t speak Albanian. He asks
again. I tell him I am going to the school and I point up the road.
“American?” he asks.
I assume he’s talking about me so I say yes. He offers me a
few instructions I don’t understand and points to another bus heading the
opposite direction. He points for me to get off and cross the road. What do I
know? Maybe this bus is going to turn off? Still, I ask again about the school
at the end of the road. He tells me to get on the other bus with words I don’t
understand and hand motions that are clear.
It turns out 40cents can take you places!
The next bus has more people on it. That has to be a good
sign, right? But as we pass my apartment without making any sort of turn I know
for certain I am on the wrong bus. I’m not totally worried because I’ve been
told by others that the yellow buses make a big loop around the city. I figure
the worst case is I make a big loop and wind up at my school anyway.
The big yellow buses do not make a loop.
We make several stops. People get on. People get off. We
finally reach the end of the line. I’m the only passenger left. My smiling
ticket taker points to a new bus. “American shckool,” he says.
I get on the new bus. It drives only a few blocks before it opens
its doors in front of the American University of Kosovo. The new ticket taker
points to me. This time I do not get off.
“This is not my school.” I suddenly remember a booklet I
have in my bag. It is a copy of the parent handbook for the school. I pull it
out and point to the name of the school. But it is not the school’s name he
recognizes. It is the logo. A distinctive tree logo found on every sign I’ve seen
regarding the school. His face brightens and he has me sit down. A few more
stops and we are in my neighborhood once more. We finally reach the corner of the street leading to my school and I hop off the bus, happy as anyone can be.
Hey, it only took me two hours to travel two kilometers to
my school. Not all that bad. I saw so many beautiful things and places I may
never have seen.