The sign on the middle school staff room door said "No Students Allowed During Recess". I am not a student anymore but I felt like a 5th grader as I stood on my tiptoes, straining to reach the narrow glass pane at the top of the doors, only my eyes and the top of my head visible to the teachers inside. I don't think anyone noticed me though, all the teachers were taking a break and loudly chatting. Hindu teachers in their bindis, Muslim teachers in their scarves and prayer caps, Christian teachers in their skirts and trousers.
On a quiet bannister I passed an Arabic teacher. He'd taken to wearing a long white beard when I'd been in high school 10 years ago, but now he also wore a thick rosary around his neck and a prayer cap. He was a really nice person and called every kid "child".
The rest of the time that morning I spent silently drifting about my old school like a shadow, subconciously taking back a world that had been my real home, a place I ran to to get away from my own home, to be free, to be myself. I'd lost my way in the world outside of it. What a relief life still went on here the way I remembered it. Outside is a world where people are growing increasingly divided over their differences. But here, that hatred didn't make sense. Children from all backgrounds fit in, the schoolgirl wearing a scarf, fullsleeves, full pants, or any combination of the three (if at all) didn't feel any different from the girl who purposely hemmed the skirt of her uniform shorter than required and pushed her socks down to her shoes. Everyone had the same issues - exams, parental pressure, crushes, and gossip. It didn't mean anything if you happened to look different. It never stood in your way. It meant nothing. You were just a kid.