This morning we left our hotel early and were on our way to the train station just as the city woke up. Catching an early train to the sea we shared the platform with students, commuters, and the sunshine. We were on our way to Viareggio, a seaside town known for its annual “Carnival” which is a celebration held each year at the end of February, beginning of March. While the purpose of our trip was to visit a school in Viareggio; we also were treated to an orientation and understanding of the region’s history and culture. This was done by both a visit to Puccini’s homestead where a beautiful outdoor theater has been constructed as well as a visit to where the Carnival floats are created complete with a tour through the Carnival museum.
In addition, we were formally greeted at their City Hall by a number of different political figures.
It was their first time welcoming a study tour delegation and they welcomed us with grace, dignity, and tremendous warmth.
But the bulk of our day was spent being welcomed and touring one of their schools. They consider themselves as embracing the Tuscan tradition of Pistoia and Reggio. We saw wonderful examples of the love and respect that they show each child, and family. I was especially struck by their careful attention to the rights of each child.
Outside each entrance (there were two schools located within the one building that we visited) were listed the rights for each of the protagonists (parents, teachers, children, community). This sense of rights is very important to these people and our interpreter was so moved by the “rights of children”, that independently she decided that she would read them all to us before we entered the second school – and I am so glad that she did. They were not what I expected. This was a very official looking sort of document, on a very institutional bulletin board. Before she began reading them, I assumed they would be obvious, rote, standard. Instead they were evocative, challenging, thoughtful.
Here they are – best I could capture the translation:
Every child has the right to dialogue.
Every child has the right to use their hands.
Every child has the right to get dirty.
Every child has the right to build a fort in the pine forest.
Every child has the right to climb trees.
Every child has the right to splash in the seas.
Every child has the right to the street.
Every child has the right to play freely.
Every child has the right to smells.
Every child has the right to silence.
Every child has the right to do nothing. (time that is not scheduled by their parents)
Every child has a right to a good beginning.
Every child has the right to breathe clear air.
Every child has the right to clean water.
Every child has the right to nuances – to admire the sunrise and sunset.
Every child has the right to taste what is beautiful.
Every child has the right to live in truth.
After our return from Viareggio, we quickly caught our breath and headed right over to a reception that included another US study tour. Their group of 28 included professors, graduate students, and undergraduates. Most of them were from the West Virginia area. They had just arrived on Wednesday and were at the very start of their journey, while we were on opposite side of our journey.
It was joyful to share a delicious meal with them and get to know some colleagues who are also as interested and open to learning, sharing, and embracing this beautiful land, people, culture. It gave me a chance to have yet another perspective as to how much I have absorbed, considered, have been provoked, and stretched this week. Grateful. I am grateful.
Friday we will have an early morning lecture and then will visit two more schools before concluding our study tour in the late afternoon. Following its conclusion, Noni and I will board a train back to Florence along with a few of our new found friends and colleagues for one last night here in this beautiful country.
Thank you to all for your comments and questions. I have answers and information for all of you – just not enough time with good internet connection to individually answer you at this point. Please know that I will follow up with you and all as soon as I have a little more time, space, and connectivity. Grazie. Grazie mille.