I stepped off the bus onto a narrow winding road on the hillside. It had been a stressful few weeks, preparing for the move, getting my papers in order, organizing job interviews, taking the long flight… I found my head swimming almost non-stop.
It had taken me just over one hour to get here on the bus, and I still had some walking to do. Where am I? I looked around for the street sign I was told I would see, via Castel di Poggio. Amongst the trees, crooked and faded, there it was, looking dirty and old. I crossed the street, and entered the woods. The road was unpaved, as I had been told it would be. I happily picked my way along, as the road dipped downwards. There was silence. The temperature was pleasant as the late afternoon sun filtered through the leaves above me. Though I wanted to look good for the interview, I wished I had worn my hiking boots. The ones that always made me feel like an explorer, someone who belonged outdoors, unlike this girl now traipsing through the woods in leather shoes and a teacher’s dress.
As I continued along the winding path, I felt my mind begin to quiet. This could be a nice trek once per week. I savoured the smell of fallen leaves, the gritty feel of the gravel beneath my good shoes. I avoided a mud puddle that had gathered in a rut. I heard a small crack ahead of me, and slowed down a bit. Suddenly, a female deer stepped gingerly out of the trees, not fifteen meters away, and crossed the path into the woods on the opposite side. I was shocked for a moment, before a smile spread across my face and I continued on my way.
When the path split, I took the right, as I had been instructed. They said I would see the school, but all I saw were miles and miles of rolling olive groves, and a cluster of trees near the top of a hill. I could hear tiny voices, so, encouraged, I pressed on. A pickup truck rumbled slowly into sight, and I moved off the path to let it pass.
As I crested the hill, to the right I could see brightly coloured little jackets among the trees, and hear more tiny voices, playing and calling to one another. To my left, just behind the trees, I saw a large old stone farmhouse. I hope I haven’t accidentally stumbled into someone’s yard. But then I spotted a woman approaching from below, followed by a cluster of kids holding walking sticks. Leave the sticks behind, it’s almost time to go home! she said to them, waving at me. The kids all followed a man who had previously been at the rear of the group, and they headed down the path the way I had just come. You must be Allie. Welcome to our forest school!
Moving towards the house we made our way around the chickens, past a brown cat basking in the sun, and into a small wooden doorway. Here we are. Would you like something to drink? she asked, pouring a glass of water. Thank you.
After showing me the two classrooms with wood-beamed ceilings, and the back sunroom, we sat down at a wooden table to chat. I took in the arts and crafts on the walls, the stone floors. Do you think you would be happy to teach here?
Yes, I think so.