My first day at school

Everyone remembers that dreadful day.

I did.

My mom was a teacher herself, but at a different school.

So my sister, 19 years my senior, had to grudgingly play surrogate parent.

She dropped me off to join a bunch of babies whose cries were contagious.

The French school was two blocks away.

It required students to wear blue uniforms and  proper shoes. They checked our finger nails every day, a fear that takes me to manicure shop to this day.

Bonjour Madam. Bonjour Monsieur.

So I joined the crowd, moving from one lesson to the next, from private to public school (in Vietnam, back then, it’s an elite thing).

A lot have happened since.

I still remember walking to school with Pierre,  a fat half-breed.

We discussed the assassination of President Kennedy (cool? They have barely released the suppressed document on the second Tonkin incident).

And later, I eye-witnessed the self-burning monk.

I even played a woman in our annual school skit, and gave the student body a wholesome laugh (Tootsie).

And to this day, I could only recall two kids from my Elementary school.

Pierre was one of the two. He pulled the lever at the traffic post and somehow,

got traffic to stand still for hours.

Vietnamese literature has a famous passage.

It goes like this: “these routes I have taken everyday, but somehow, today it’s different.

The difference is, today is my first day at school.”

Because of that first day at school, I look at that intersection of Cao Thang and Nguyen Dinh Chieu in a different light.

The traffic post is still there, with faded white umbrella. (as of this edit, that was finally taken down, leaving a chunk of square concrete blocking the sidewalk).

Many pass by but few notice it. But to me, it’s special.

Because, it bears witness to my fun childhood albeit in war-time. People I interacted with then were of Indian descent, French half-breed, French (principles), GI teachers etc…

Later, I spotted a transferred student to my jr high. Over recess,  on his first day at school,

I approached him to include him in our group “Hi, would you like to join our volley ball team?”.

He remains my friend, if not best friend, since.

You’ll never know who will click and stay on with you.

But one thing for sure, you have to take that first step.

School or life, there will always be that first awkward, and sometimes, dreadful first day.

Even when it’s in your old neighborhood. The difference is, now, you see it with  different lens.

I cried hard on that first day. I realize now that I shouldn’t have. School has been fun, and I can’t get enough of it.

The only constant is change. So we must embrace it, and learn from it. For instance, the new battery in Volt

costs about $10,000. And GM promises that it will last 8 years, or 100,000 miles. Good luck with lithium.

No smog, no noise. But when it makes a stop at the intersection where my Elementary school is, watch out for Pierre, the Devil.

There will never be my last day at school. Learning has taken on a different form for me. It could be a pearl of wisdom on LinkedIn

discussion board. Or a stranger on the bus. People are willing to share hard-earned lessons for free. Embrace the new, the hidden gem in every day’s encounter, with capacity to surprise us.

(Coronado could have found gold in the SW territories of the US, but he went looking specifically for a city made of gold, thus missed out on a great opportunity). Learn all you can learn from those acres of diamond.

It’s not what you know that will save you. It’s what you don’t (see my other blog, Chief Learning Officer). The same with Social Network.

It’s not who you know, but it’s who knows whom you know. The network effect (more on that on other blogs as well).

Teilhard de Chardin predicted the Omega point sometimes between 2030-2040 ” when for the second time in the history of the world, mankind will have discovered fire”.

That “fire” which he refers to was “the energies of love”, among them should be the love for learning i.e. self-advancement (even if we come in full circle,  the journey is well worth it). I would cry harder than I did on that first day of school if today were my last day of learning.



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