READING

Petrișor’s Voice

Petrișor’s Voice

Petrișor is wearing a red cap, with white rectangles that start at the back and reach the brim. He has a pen stuck in the cap’s strap, that he moves right and left so it doesn’t show in the pictures. Now he’s soaking a black T-shirt in a sink, inside the Pietrișu kindergarten. He’s splashing it with shower gel and rubbing it mechanically, up, down, left and right. It’s not his, but another participant’s. Next to it, in the other sink, lay other clothes he grabbed from around the camp: “I’m washing some clothes. Give me yours, too.” It’s the same at Petrișor’s home. “My mom wouldn’t want to start the washing machine just to do my clothes.” So, whenever he would have a dirty T-shirt he wanted to wear, he would soak it in the sink and wash it. In time, he also started doing laundry for his family. He adapted.

In fact, his story so far, that of a 14 year old Petrișor, is an array of times he had to adapt to the reality around him. Petrișor was born in 2003 with anemia that he inherited from his grandpa on his mother’s side. Then the anemia proved to be thalassemia, an inherited condition that consists of a lack of antibodies and blood hemoglobin, or, as Petrișor puts it, it means your immunity is ”down the drain.” He defeated it by taking “handfuls of pills”. Petrișor talks a lot, “enough to fill the space on 15 recorders.” And every time he tells a story, he gives his exact age. “I know the years because I kept track. It might seem I have a bad memory, but I remember all the hard times in my life,” he says. Take, for example, classes at school, back when he was younger, when he escaped the teacher’s corrections because he would learn well. “We were in the 4th grade when she asked us to name the outermost borders of Romania. I learned them so well that I didn’t even get hit once, but had I made a mistake, I would have received four hits on the palm of my hand.” Despite this, Petrișor says he used to like learning. ”If you knew the lesson, the teacher would let you play with toys or draw. “Afterwards, in secondary school, no teacher ever touched us. They were just sick and tired of teaching us,” he says. That’s why this camp and school in general have nothing in common. Here he is listened to.

During the debate organized by participants on the 4th day of the camp, on August 7, Petrișor gave examples of what he considers to be inequity in education. With a tremble caught in his voice that he lost on the way he presented arguments and then answered questions from the public. And there was quite an impressive public, made up of teachers, specialists, directors of institutions, and even senators. And Petrișor made them all listen and pay attention. The life of a pupil is not that simple. “Do you know what bullying is?” It can come from other children, but also from teachers. Petrișor had some experience with it in secondary school, and he chose to avoid all altercations and be quite isolated. “That’s the thing; I was always a quiet child.” But because he couldn’t fight back, and wasn’t among the socalled cool kids of the school, he would find himself being chased by a bully holding a door he had lifted from its hinges, for example. But looking back, Petrișor says that, apart from their “bad jokes”, his colleagues were alright. He also brought up the issue of teachers eating during classes, or spending time on their smartphones, instead of teaching them. Petrișor was voicing the worries and experiences of quite a few children in the camp who were feeling vulnerable and missing allies in front of teachers and principals. Not many of them decided to speak out at the event, though. Petrișor stood up and spoke quickly, as usual, but clearly and wholeheartedly Petrișor generally sees vulnerability as an asset or at least as something valuable. And he doesn’t agree with all the boys who play the macho type. ”To be tough is to also be vulnerable and embrace this part of you”, he thinks. These are thoughts Petrișor developed over time, with care, being as reflexive, as he is talkative. Alexandra, another participant, says he gives things a lot of thought, like a grown up, and he can form an opinion on anything. A few days later, at the Palace of Parliament, Petrișor talked to Deputy Cristian Ghinea about the cost of school transportation that is only partially and insufficiently reimbursed. He pressed the button to turn the mic on and he went for it. There’s a need to be heard, that he satisfies by talking with modesty. But the visit to

Bucharest is a story for later. Come fall, Petrișor is starting school at the Energy Tech high-school in Bucharest. His mother didn’t agree with his choice, because the average of the school was very low. But she went there to visit and talk to the teachers and was reassured that the high-school is right for Petrișor. “In addition to this, I like its profile, so mom couldn’t stop me from going,” says Petrișor.

He loves anime. The first series he ever watched was Naruto, back when he was eight. After that, he stopped watching them until two years ago, when his best friend convinced him to check them out, and Petrișor became fascinated by Japanese culture. That’s how he even started to learn a few words in Japanese. Whenever he sees something nice or talks about a girl he liked he says she was “kawaii” ([kaw͍ aiꜜi], Ed.), meaning cute in Japanese.

People in the camp are also kawaii. Same are the trees in the kindergarten’s courtyard, that he skillfully climbed and especially the air here at the country-side. “There’s such a dense dusty air in Bucharest…When I got here and drew this air in, I felt I couldn’t properly breathe. Back home, all I inspired was smoke from exhaust. Here, we breathe real air.” His role in the camp, as of the other participants, is to discover the village’s problems or needs, come up with solutions and convince decision-makers that it’s important for them to solve them. Petrișor would be happy if the kindergarten would be renovated and turned into a trade school for parents who didn’t go to highschool. The kids should also all go to school and take their own parents as example. Now all he wants is to get to the Parliament when he’s also going to meet his mother. She’s bringing the drawings he’s done of anime characters, because he wants to give them to the teacher in Pietrișu. “She wants to show them to her students, as an example,” Petrișor says. Then she also wants to post them online.

“I want this kindergarten to become a trade school. It would be great for parents to be here and learn a trade because their children would see them doing something and they might even learn the trade themselves and would learn more fondly. It would be really cool!”

Story written by Oana Barbonie, seen by her and Tiberiu Mihail-Cimpoeru in the summer of 2017.

Check the  from camp last year:

Here you can find more stories:

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