On My Way To School Essay

This is a guest post by Krisha Garvey

So…what’s always the best way to deal with new experiences or things that gives us butterflies in our tummy? Make it super fun!!!!

The little girl Livi in the adorably clever new children’s book On My Way To Schoolby Sarah Maizes has got it right. What would seemingly be a nerve racking first day of school becomes a morning full of adventure.

Her mommy summons her out of bed, Livi becomes a snail and oozes out of bed soooo slooooow. Getting dressed becomes a treasure hunt by Livi the pirate as she digs for the hidden booty that would be her outfit.

On the bus, Livi dreams up a jungle where Livi the Lemur and her fellow lemur friend wiggle around trying not to get eaten by the hungry tigers sitting amongst them. My personal favorite is her movie star strut and stride from bus to classroom. Posing for paparazzi, she’s confident, she’s got this, all will be ok.

My son Gibson started kindergarten Tuesday and we read this hilarious, sweet book together. His reaction was a big “wow…her imagination is cool!” With brilliant colors & silly illustrations by Michael Paraskevas, this is a crowd pleaser. I picture a teacher reading it to her classroom on the first day of school turning nervous, blank faces into giggles and smiles.

Written by Mary Chandler Philpott (University of Virginia), Student Correspondent CET Siena, Fall 2016

When my roommate and I first learned our host family’s apartment in Siena was a thirty minute walk to school in the morning, we exchanged apprehensive glances. Thirty minutes? Back in the United States my farthest class was fifteen—if I was walking slowly. My immediate response was that thirty minutes seemed like a hassle. Was there a bus we could take, so we could sleep in a little longer? Could we carpool with someone, so we could have some extra time to get ready? During orientation, I looked with envious eyes at our classmates who lived right in the city center. How had they gotten so lucky?

After two weeks in Siena, turns out I am the lucky one. The long walk to school was a blessing in disguise. Those precious thirty minutes have quickly morphed from a “hassle” to one of my absolute favorite parts of the day. I am fortunate enough to witness the city come alive each morning—and as I do so, I let it teach me. I am learning to walk a little slower, to live a little deeper. Each morning I un-train an anxious American mind that has long viewed minutes like currency. Each step alters my notion of time, and slowly but surely I’m beginning to look at it as our Italians friends do. Sprawling, and joyous, and full.

Here are eight things I see on my walk to school every morning.

  1. La Campagna

My walk begins with bidding farewell to Tita, our host family’s dog. I scratch behind her ears and she follows at my heels through the yard. At the black gate I look out into the Tuscan countryside—rolling hills, and farms the color of faded earth. Most days it’s a little misty. The land clings to the quiet and the stillness of the previous night, and the fields seem to glow, hazy beneath the morning sun. As I close the gate behind me, Tita scampers out of sight. Back into the yard, and through the fallen leaves.


  1. Porta Romana 

As I head toward Siena, an enormous arch looms in the distance. Its sharp square crenellations puncture the sky as modern cars slip in and out of the city beneath. The astounding mix of old and new is a little jolting, and the feeling intensifies as I pass through Porta Romana. Here, my route converges with an ancient road, the Via Francigena, that once linked a series of European cities to the holy sights of Rome. On this section of my walk, I trace the thousand-year-old steps these pilgrims took through the city of Siena.


  1. Il Bucato 

A thousand years is confounding. But as I continue walking I see how certain elements of human life are timeless—a city waking up looks like a city waking up, no matter the time or place. Above me, in a third-story apartment, a woman opens her colorful shutters and begins pulling in her laundry. A shop-owner sweeps the stretch of cobblestone in front of his store with a yawn. I hear the jingle of keys as two women enter their office. The whole of Siena shakes off its sleep.


  1. I Panifici 

My roommate and I have breakfast each morning with our host family, but if we didn’t, we’d be far from out of luck—Sienese bakeries dot our entire path to school. I watch as locals duck into their favorite shops, each with a unique name and aroma. I pass Conad, the Italian equivalent of a grocery store, where on weekends we’ve found yogurt and fruit and bottles of wine for two euro. Our favorite gelateria, where we stop on Mondays after class, isn’t yet open. The door is bolted, the glass dark.

  1. Torre del Mangia

Right before turning onto Via Banchi di Sopra I catch a glimpse of Piazza del Campo and its iconic tower through a narrow road. For just a moment, the tower lines up perfectly in the frame of the passageway, and I crane my neck to see the top. Although it’s still early, people are chatting and shuffling into the Piazza—out of the chilly shadows of the streets and into the open sunshine.


  1. Piazza Tolomei

Home to my favorite building in Siena, I pass the little square that once belonged to an illustrious family of merchants and bankers in the early 13th century. (Interestingly today this piazza is still equipped with a bank and a money transfer service.) On my left, the windows of Palazzo Tolomei are pointed and carved into intricate clover shapes. I watch as the purple windowpanes shimmer like a bubble in sunlight.


  1. La Lupa

On the final stretch of my walk, as the street slopes and tapers toward school, I enter the Lupa Contrada—the district that won both Palio horse races this summer, and can be found parading around the city most nights. In the morning the street is quiet, lined with their trademark white and black flags floating proudly above the shops and storefronts. I pass beneath them. The emblem of the wolf, standing tall in the middle of each flag, is a symbol of victory and promise. 


  1. La Vita Senese

I round the corner; the arched door to our school is right up ahead, and my walk is nearly over. I hear a sound behind me—an engine slowing to a stop across the street. I watch as a Sienese father parks his Vespa in front of an office building, and lifts his young daughter onto the cobblestone road that is older than my entire country. He unclasps the helmet from her chin and smoothes her hair. They go inside and begin their day, and so do I.

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