Saturday 18 March
For the second time this week, I found myself responsible for looking after a room full of children playing with scissors.
The second occasion was on Saturday, when Interfaith Glasgow was hosting its monthly weekend club event for refugees, asylum seekers and new migrants. The children, ranging in age from one to 12, were making Mother's Day cards, and I was making sure no one was getting hurt.
For the second time this week, I realised how little I knew of what to expect from children. Suggesting that children fold over sheets of A4 paper to make a card, I watched them create beautiful bouquets of flowers out of cellophane. Encouraging children to write 'Happy Mother's Day', I returned to see that they had written a poem.
Throughout most of the three-hour event, I was on my toes, going from child to child – observing, supporting and monitoring. I got to speak to many children from different areas of Glasgow and the world, and learn the favourite colours of each of their mothers.
Yet, it was when a young girl pulled me aside that I realised how little I knew the children individually. She told me that she was going to get new glasses next Tuesday and was a bit nervous. She said that she had had glasses before, but that she had been too shy to wear them in school. We talked about this for a while. I told her that I was prescribed glasses when I was in primary seven, but that I had refused to wear them because I didn't like how they looked on me. The girl told me that she had thought the same at first, but that she likes her new ones much more. She said that many more children in her class wore glasses now. She reassured me that it will definitely be better this time – her new glasses are blue.
Sunday 19 March
The next day, my new flatmate finally moved in. My other two flatmates and I had been waiting for him to move in for many weeks, and our home is now slowly becoming complete.
For weeks, we have tried to make our flat feel like as much of a home as possible. We have put up maps of Glasgow, Skye and Loch Lomond. We have bought fairy lights (unfortunately solar-powered), that we hope will light up our home once the sun starts to shine a bit more reliably. We have designed and printed out posters with quotes from our favourite Norwegian TV show.
We learned on Sunday that the most efficient way to make a flat feel like a home is to fill up the hallway with bookshelves, suitcases, boxes of books, a whiteboard, and a much-loved guitar. Propped up against our holiday photographs pinned on the wall, it almost looked like we were well-established.
In our flat of four, none of us are from the UK, let alone from this area of Glasgow. We have all made Scotland our home, but still go away for holidays and mispronounce Glaswegian street names. We are excited to move in together, and perhaps over-decorate.
At some stage, I start to wonder if we are contributing to gentrification of the area. We are not moving in with lots of money to spend – three of us have yet to start work – but we are demanding goods and services that may not commonly have been in high demand in the area (such as organic oat milk). Although we are not moving in with a wealth of economic capital, we're bringing social and cultural capital with us from more affluent areas of the UK and Europe. Is this gentrification?
When we first moved in a few months ago, we spotted a lonely hipster cafe in the otherwise overlooked square. The place had recently opened up, and the man running it was ecstatic. There is so much development in the area! They're building new flats behind the supermarket. New people are moving in. We learnt that this is a so-called up-and-coming area.
We went away for Christmas. When we came back, the cafe had closed down.
Tuesday 21 March
Browsing through the news, I read that a court in the Indian state of Uttarakhand has decided to grant the Ganges River and its tributary Yamuna the same legal rights as a person.
The two rivers are considered sacred by millions of people, and by granting the two rivers the same rights and responsibilities as human beings, the judgement intends to protect the river from further damage and pollution. The decision is highly significant in terms of law, as it is only the second country after New Zealand to grant a river the legal status of a person.
In both cases, the reasons behind the decision are due to cultural and spiritual beliefs as well as environmental protection. With the new legal rulings, people are encouraged to reflect on the importance of the respective rivers, and to take greater care in ensuring that the rivers are not further degraded. The symbolism of the ruling is powerful.
Yet, it is unclear what the practical implications of the judgement may be. Will the companies currently dumping waste into the rivers be sentenced? Will money be invested to redevelop water and sewage systems?
Reading about the ruling, I come to think of Bolivia's Law of Mother Earth, or Pachamama.
It was adopted in 2010 and gives all of nature equal right to humans. It was legally unprecedented, and it became world news. The ruling served as an important victory for environmental activists as well as for indigenous rights activists.
However, the same Bolivian government that enshrined the Law of Mother Earth also increased the country's environmentally harmful gas industry in order to pay for other reforms. Two step forwards, one step back.
I am impressed by India's new ruling, and intrigued as to what will follow. But this time I'm sceptical.