Keeping On

I vacationed in my mother’s hometown one unusually hot summer. The searing day temperature led me to crave for a refreshing treat for some relief. I let my mother know that I was going out for some ice cream. Having no grocery or a convenience store nearby, she suggested that I settle for a local cold treat which is a mixture of shaved ice, sweet preserved beans, jackfruit, sweet yam, sliced sweetened plantain, and pounded dried rice. This mixture, usually served in a tall glass, is topped with ice cream. She recommended a peddler from whom I could buy the treat.

I went to the peddler my mother had told me. The “store’ was a woobly wooden table placed under a mango tree. The leaves of the tree serve as shade from the angry rays of the sun. The peddler was a girl who was about 12 or 13 years old. In the country where I come from, some children her age do odd jobs to help their parents earn a living.

I ordered one serving of the cold treat. The girl took out a shiny metal ice shaver and started to shave the block of ice. She then proceeded to take out small amounts of the ingredients which were inside the jars laid out in a row on the table. She put the shaved ice and the delectable ingredients into a glass and topped it with a scoop of ice cream. The glass started to perspire and the scorching air started to melt the ice cream. I started to eat the colorful concoction.

“How old are you?” I asked the girl, wishing I was wrong in thinking she was 13 years old.

“I’m 13,” she answered.

“So next year you’ll be in high school,” I said.

“No, Ma’am. I’ll only be in 5th grade. To be honest, I do not want to go to school anymore. My family is poor and parents couldn’t send me to school. Sometimes I am embarrassed when my classmates tease me that I smell like the goods I’m peddling,” she told me.

“Why, this sweet, filling cold treat isn’t smelly. Do you peddle other things?” I asked her.

“Yes, in the morning I sell vegetables and fish. I peddle them on the streets before I go to school,” came her reply.

The scorching air suddenly became a little cold. Suddenly there was a rush of memories in my head.

“Well, you shouldn’t give up, you know. You shouldn’t be embarrassed because you are doing a decent thing. And it is pure hard work. You should be proud of what you are doing,” I said.

“But sometimes I get tired. Of waking up very early in the morning, peddling, and getting myself embarrassed by some classmates,” she explained. I noticed tears were starting to well in her eyes.

I told her a story about another girl, who once peddled on the streets when she was young. She peddled native delicacies, including this sweet, filling cold treat. She was also teased from time to time by her classmates. At 13, she went to the city and worked for a rich relative who paid for her school fees. The relatives weren’t really so nice to her, but she endured everything just so she could continue studying. “Do you know what she’s doing now, all grown up?”

The girl shook her head. “She has finished college. She is now working with a big company and she is also teaching children to read.”

“Really?” she said. “How do you know?”

“Oh, I know everything about her because that girl was me. So just keep on, okay?” I smiled at the girl, handed her the payment for the cold treat, and started walking home.

When summer was over, I prepared to leave my mother’s hometown. On the way to the airport, the car stopped at a pedestrian lane in front of a school gate to give way to children who were crossing. It was the first day of school. I saw a familiar face among the children. It was the peddler. She smiled at me and shouted, “I am going to school now!”

As the car bounced violently over the rutted dirt road, I looked in the rearview mirror after we passed by the school. I saw the girl waving her hand.

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5 Responses to Keeping On

  1. Shelley says:

    We none of us know how the light of our lives may illuminate a path for someone else.
    I once had a student come back over ten years later and thank me for being "out" in my job (he was a work-study student in our office). I didn’t even remember him.
    Welcome to the blogosphere, and thanks for your visit over at http://butwait.blogspot.com

    SHELLEY,
    Thank you for visiting.
    I can relate to your story about the student who came back after 10 years. Would you believe that I still communicate with my first grade teacher? It’s been 24 years since she had me as her student. I started writing her when my family moved out of our town when I was in second grade. Our friendship has blossomed into something like a mother-daughter relationship. I respect her a lot. She has taught me a lot about life. Amazing how teachers can change the lives of their students. Teaching is, indeed, a noble job. (Guess I’ll write about my friendship with my teacher one of these days. Thanks for giving me an idea ;))
    Will visit your blog often.

  2. Jen says:

    I remember someone with the same experiences while reading your post… the very reason why i admire that man because of his hardwork and perseverance to finish studies despite poverty. keep on posting!

    JEN,
    Welcome to my blog, and thank you for visiting.
    It takes a never-say-die attitude to change the course of life.

  3. Sophiagurl says:

    This is a very touching post and to know that it was about you makes it even more beautiful. you must be very proud. a true inspiring story. God bless you!

    SOPHIAGURL,
    Thank you. It makes me happy to share my story, and I hope that somehow my readers could pick up something from my experience. God bless you, too!

  4. missP says:

    such an inspiring life story. at most times our life can become a living testimony to others who may be slowly loosing hope to move on in life. thanks for sharing this.
    and thank you also, for the visit to my site.
    p.s.
    natakam ako sa halo-halo mo. you didn’t need to say the name of the cold treat, but my mouth was definitely watering while reading your entry 😉 !

    MissP,
    Hello and welcome.
    Thank you.
    It is one of my desires and hopes: that in my own little way, I could somehow contribute, even just a little, to the personal growth of a person, or keep a spark of hope in a person’s heart.
    Hahaha, you noticed I was referring to halo-halo. I was just trying to find out if my readers would know lol.

  5. JC says:

    thank you for this inspiring post, it made me realize some aspects of my life that i tend to ignore…sometimes i whine with the things that i lack that i forget the abundance that i have…
    thanks for reminding me… 🙂

    JC,
    Hello. I am happy that you have found your way to my blog.
    You are welcome. Yes, sometimes, we are blinded by the big pictures of life that we take for granted the small things, which, in truth, are what really make our life abundant.

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