The School Year Has Ended and So Has My Time As the Morning Van Supervisor

Moving across the world to a foreign country that you’ve never so much as visited on a vacation before requires a tremendous amount of faith. Unwavering faith that if you keep to the course, and trust God in all the choices and moves you make that things will line up. Beginning school was a daunting task for our family. We didn’t get accepted until two weeks before it began and it wasn’t one of the schools that I could walk to. I wasn’t yet driving and had no idea where anything was or what part of town our new school was in. There was school transport that we could sign up for and when I heard that each school van came with a supervisor to keep watch of the children I felt so much relief…until I heard that our van didn’t have one for the year due to Covid. And so I asked if I could do it. Everyone thought I was crazy to ask, but for me, it was delightful to get the opportunity to ride to school with my girls and know that they arrived each day safely. For this control freak of a mother, this was the perfect scenario. For all the other supervisors this was their job, for me it was a volunteer position and an honor to get to know the neighborhood children and be of service to our new school community. I was the only school parent who rode on the van. I was also the only one who got the benefits then of meeting the teachers and seeing the school and getting to know the staff in a way that never would have been possible this year any other way. It also allowed me to be the fly on the wall standing across the street from the school after drop off and watching all the parents walking their children into the school. I got to see the love and affection that moms and dads gave to their children. I got to watch as parents greeted each other or hurried off as fast as they could. I got to see everything and take it all in. I love getting to be camouflaged into the walls and watching people when they don’t know someone can see them. I loved getting to see the head master and the teachers greet the children at the gates and how genuinely excited they were to welcome the kids through. It made me fall in love with our new school. It let me know that my children were walking into a safe space with really great teachers and staff. It let me know that this was absolutely the best place that my children could be. It let me know that my trust in this whole process was worth every minute of stress and prayer that came before. It came with stress trying to get all three of us ready and out the door on time every morning, knowing that if we are late, we set off a chain reaction for all the other kids getting on the van. As the year went on, I began texting with the parents and being available in case they forgot to tell the driver something, or to see if we had already passed by.

As for the children themselves, what a wonderful group of young people! I loved each and every one of them and their beautiful, young hearts. I got to hear about their lives, their families, their travels and adventures. I got to find out what they love and what they don’t. I got to see their personalities shine through and we found ourselves often singing and cheering on our ride. Cheerleading is not a sport here in Malta, so I taught the kids some of the funny cheers that they had never heard before. It was a lot of fun. I adore them all. I became part of this crews daily lives. The children were so kind and they sang on the van and told jokes and giggled and asked me questions about America….mostly about Target because that is what they saw on YouTube about America. At the end of the year, I bought little gifts that is all the rage right now, these fidget poppits called Simple Dimples. I called every toy store on the island and only one store carried them. Off we went, me and my girls, to buy ten of them; one for each child on the van. They were so grateful and excited! In the bag I included candy, the simple dimple and this letter:

“Coming from America into Malta this year has been such a blessing. It was also very stressful trying to figure out our new life in a place we had never even visited before. We got accepted to the school only two weeks before it started. I had no idea where it was located or how to get there. We had only been in Malta a few weeks and I was not yet driving here. When I registered the girls for the van and they let me know there was not a supervisor, I jumped at the chance to volunteer to do it. It was a huge relief to get to ride to school with my kids and know each day that they arrived safely.

We had never even seen the school until we all climbed into the van to head to a whole new way of life with teachers we didn’t get to meet and a school we didn’t get to tour.  We hoped for the best and trusted that God would provide everything we needed. This year for us has been incredibly wonderful in every way. The school turned out to be the best we could have ever asked for; the children and teachers all incredible. And as for spending each morning on the van with you? Every single one of you on the morning van were kind, helpful, and wonderful. I could not have asked for better children to get to share our mornings with. Thank you for making this year so enjoyable.

Getting to know you this year has been a joy. You are a very special and wonderful person and you will do incredible things with your life. It was a gift to get to be on your van each morning.  I wish you so much success and hope that I still get to see you and cheer you on as you move into your next levels of school and beyond.

Keep shining your beautiful light and thank you for always being so kind to us this year!

We are grateful for you!

With love and thanks

Emily, Hannah and Ava”

One of the girls told me she was going to frame this letter. Later that week, she brought me the most beautiful picture she drew of me. I will keep it forever. And another wrote me another beautifully sweet letter as well. These kids were exquisite. All of them. They are loved and adored by their families, they are cherished by the world that is Malta. Malta is family all the way. You can see it everywhere you look. Family units still held together and a deep faith, not the faith that is in your face, but the faith that keeps the family strong and the children loved and nourished body and soul. Faith here in Malta looks nothing like the faith I saw back home. It is not for show here. It is authentic and deep. People here are not trying to keep up with the Jones’s all the time and it is unbelievably liberating. Everyone tends to do their own thing, and their neighbors cheer them on. Children are treated with the utmost respect, and in return, the children tend to treat all the adults with the same. Faith here is personal, deep and private but yet at the same time, shares a universal way of upbringing. People here still live in multi-generational homes. They honor their parents and their grandparents and keep all of the members of the family close. It is so beautiful to see. They have a deep knowledge of the countries history since history is being passed down through the generations by people who lived through it and learned from their own parents and grandparents.

 And as for my van ladies, my fellow ladies who rode the morning (and usually afternoon vans too) they were as sweet and supportive and kind as they could be. They were the ones who taped my interviews when I would be on TV here in Malta promoting my book. They were so proud of me and would tell me that they saw me over the weekend and that I spoke slow enough that they understood every word I said! They took really good care of me and took me under their wings. I am so thankful for my time spent with these women after morning drop off while waiting for the next van to arrive to take us back home. The last day of school after drop off the ladies and I went out to breakfast to celebrate the year. I love that the Maltese celebrate practically everything. They know how to live life richly. They work hard, but they play and rest just as hard if not even more. Life here is slower, more deliberate, and simpler. They know how to value the small things and slow down and enjoy life. I took some photos of the van and the ladies and the breakfast so I could remember always my very special first year in Malta. For some reason none of my photos are able to upload onto here saying the files are too big, but they are all from my cell phone so I can’t figure it out and I’m tired of holding this piece for weeks waiting for the photos to suddenly work right.

The school we are in is full of the best. The best teachers I’ve ever seen. The kindest staff. People here are not burned out and you can tell they still love to teach! No wonder every time I say where my children go to school the response is always “oh that’s one of the best schools on the island! You are lucky you got in there!” They could not be more correct. It was stressful waiting for sure, but the faith and the trust that I stuck to (more like clung to for dear life) was worth it. And even though both of my children had to skip grades to match up to the age and grade here, which was no easy task and required a year of after school tutoring and a lot of work from all of us, everything is exactly as it should be and all is well in our world here in our new beautiful home.

And on top of all of this…I just got word that my potato interview on Oh My Malta will be played on the airplanes for Air Malta! This country, this life, this world just keeps getting better and shining brighter. It’s amazing finally being in the right place.

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