Astoria

Behind me in the Ditmars Boulevard Starbucks (ahem), a high school teacher is befriending an old Turkish man in what seems to be one of those voluntary programs that Americans do so well. He doesn’t say much as she chats about her students.

‘I teach history. Grades 9-12 now, so big kids this time. I have this one kid, he’s from Sierra Leone. He saw his father being shot. He saw his brother getting his arm chopped off. He was brought to a camp and forced to be a soldier. He escaped with only the clothes on his back. Took him a month, running through the middle of nowhere, to reach a village where he could get to a UN refugee camp. And he’s fifteen years old. He’s the sweetest kid. He works so hard. Speaks five or six languages. He wants to be an archaeologist. We take him to the Natural History Museum. A sweet kid.’
‘They’re not the best students, a lot of ‘em. But they’re good kids.’