Monday in the life of the illustrator

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I wake up a little after dawn. Of course I haven’t woken myself up; nearby, my mother’s voice is calling me into consciousness. I immediately wash up in the bathroom to clear the great amount of sleep in me. I’m extra tired today after an exhausting weekend and an asado in Flor’s house. The outing in Tigre was fantastic. I was stuffed to high heaven with all kinds of meat and looked at the multiple rowing clubs along the river. It seemed like there was a club for every country; French, American, Swiss and English clubs were just a few of them. I reluctantly change into the many layers of sports clothes that I have to wear today and slowly make it to the breakfast table. It’s the usual meal; porridge with sugar with a glass of milk. I eat it slowly but am prompted on by my father who never fails to be early for the combi. I give my teeth a quick swipe and go down the elevator and step into the fresh morning air.

My father and I walk in a friendly silence until we reach Avenue Libertadores. We are only halfway there when the flow of cars stops. We quicken our pace and by the time we reach the road we only have ten seconds to cross. We decide to risk it and we sprint at the pedestrian crossing. We just about make it. We are out of breath! We then complete the journey to the location where we get the combi and after a couple of invigorating minutes reading the final chapters of The Hunger Games, the combi comes to collect us. I am greeted by a friendly, “hola hola” from the bus driver.

After the sleepy bus journey we reach the school ready to start a full-scheduled day. It starts off with a quick assembly and then rolls into a physical education session. My classmates and I do multiple laps of the pitch and then we have a short game of rugby, where I surprisingly play well enough.When all our energy is spent we go inside to finish off a DIY kite project. I’m looking forward to the day we get to fly them because this project has been going on since I came to the school two months ago. I think it’ll be worth it in the end.

After art we have Somos Uno, or, ‘We Are One’ class, where we are put into groups for helping people who are sad or lonely on the yard at break time. After that class I struggle to get through an all Spanish social studies lesson. I count down the minutes to break while I try to make out what the teacher is saying. I’m getting nowhere though.

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All of a sudden the theme tune for the movie Dances with Wolves plays and the class rushes out onto the yard to try to get a space in the game called ‘Square’ we play every day. I stand back as the stampede of children goes down the stairs because who knows what kind of injuries you’ll get if you get stuck in that mess. After everyone else I take my place in the queue for the game. When my moment of truth comes I step out onto the square in front of me. I last long enough but when the time comes for me to reunite with the back of the line, shouts of ‘Chosa’ fill by ears. Chosa means, ‘to your house’ or ‘go home’. I don’t mind it though because I know that it’s a joke. Then Dances with Wolves plays once again and I go back to class for the second of a double dose of social studies.

After a surprisingly short time, the class ends and I line up to get my lunch. I somehow tell the lady what I would like and I collect a dessert and bring it to my table. After I’m finished, I have a brief chat with my father in a much better mood than in the morning. I have a longer break this time. Today the longer break is inside. Children are scattered across the floor playing with either bottle caps or tennis balls. When Dances with Wolves plays, I go into class to start the English half of the day. After two classes of English, we have religion. There we watch a bit of a movie called, ‘The Mask’. When Dances with Wolves plays this time around, I know that this is the end of the day. I quickly pack up my things and meet up with my dad before getting into the combi. For the journey back to our apartment the rest of the children are hyper, glad that the day is over. When we eventually reach the apartment I flop down on the couch trying to understand the Spanish television program on the television in front of me.

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Nach fánach an áit a bhfaighfeá gliomach!


My friend Gary and I exchanged a quick few words while cycling one Sunday morning in Cork. When I told him I was thinking of going to the Brothers` school in Buenos Aires, he replied that his cousin, Thady O’Brien, had been a Christian Brother in Argentina but that he knew nothing about him. He sped off and we spoke no more about it but I decided to keep an eye out.

It slipped my mind completely especially with the Rugby World Cup and the hype in the school about the Argentinian Top 14 semi-final; Club Newman play CUBA on Saturday. Newman has never won the Argentine Championship so the students are delirious at the prospect of a first national title. They bubble with enthusiasm and pride about `La Barra del Timbal` Newman`s noisy die-hard supporters.

Many mentioned Manolo, a deceased Christian Brother who was the driving force of rugby in Newman and the club’s No 1 fan for many years. He’s pictured on the club’s advertisements for the semi-final. Newman fans told me that the club’s grounds are named after him and display a plaque, written in Irish, in his honour. Br Timothy O Brien, they called him. Timothy? Thady? Manolo? The Brothers confirmed that Gary`s cousin, Thady from Cappamore, was the famous Hermano Manolo, beloved by all in Newman.

Thady came to Argentina in 1962, reluctantly. Steeped in Irish culture, sport and music, he had a great love of the Irish language and was a member of Ógra Éireann. Leaving Ireland was a huge sacrifice for him but he did so, obeying religious superiors. Argentina fitted him like a glove and the Argentines appreciated his quick wit, easy manner and sense of fun. Everybody knew Thady and enjoyed him, soon calling him Manolo, a playful moniker for his Latino ways. His beloved hurling wasn’t to be found locally so he transferred his passion to rugby, becoming a hero for La Barra del Timbal.

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Manolo had a great sense of humour, great faith and a natural way with people. The teachers here still get emotional when you mention him. One teacher showed me his picture that hangs in her home. Another took off her wedding ring and showed me the inscription that Manolo had helped her with, `Mo ghrá thú`. Manolo had prayed with them, laughed with them and taught them Irish; they loved him.

Manolo’s name lives on. My school Blarney Street CBS raised money, with Midleton CBS, for the Centro Hermano Manolo, which provides education for street children in Cochabamba, Bolivia. We`ll visit there in February.

Gary, be very proud of Thady, he’s a legend! Vamos Newman!

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