The Golden Tiger
Sofia, Age 11, Basque Country, Spain

I ride on a bike. It is not my bike, it is a friend's. I cycle up and down the hill, feeling the fresh breeze tickle my face. I hear my friends and their mother talking far behind. I am glad my friend lent me the bike.  My legs are tired, worn out, but I am going downhill now. Cold air is rushing through my hair, weakening my eyes. I cycle down the hill, holding on tight but relaxing. I close my eyes. It has barely been one minute, but I feel much better. The hill is ending, I am slowing down now. The friend that has lent me the bike is running along the pavement, trying to catch up with me. I smile as he gives up, walking slowly, followed by his mother. His sister is on a scooter, and she is not far behind me. I try to cycle faster, as she approaches, and we are soon having a race. But my feet are tired and my muscles aching, so I stop, as we arrive at our destination. Fran, the owner of the bicycle, asks if he could have it back. I nod, as my friendsī mother arrives, walking as she talks on her mobile phone.

We are at the local Sports Center, and there is something going on. As we come nearer to have a look, we see three ambulances, lots of people and tons of children walking into the Sports Center!

'Sukaina!' shouts Ane, Fran's twin sister. She runs into the crowd. Her mother follows, and Fran and I decide to run after them. I am not very sure what she is speaking about, but I soon see; Sukaina, a Saharaui nine-year-old they had adopted during the Summer is there. And so are loads of other children; black children, brown children, noisy children, all from the great Sahara Desert, near Morocco. I met Sukaina last year, as Fran and Ane's family has fostered her twice during Summer. Everyone is talking and shouting, running around and playing. I hear many names; Safala, Karim, Mohammed, Nhordin, Meghad and many many more. Girls and boys run around me, with big smiles and yellowish teeth, round friendly eyes and dark skin that is as beautiful as any flower. I know they have suffered, I can tell. They are thin and small, a few of them have nasty scars, just like a hungry and tired tiger, but they are all the happiest kids I've ever seen! They talk to me, I can barely understand what they are saying, as they laugh and run and look at me and point at me and touch me, always wearing those smiles. They make me smile as well, wanting to share that extreme joy and explosion of adrenaline that runs through their veins as they jump and scream, laughing for ever.

I wonder why they are there. I thought they had gone back to Africa by plain yesterday, but they soon explain, their flight has been delayed, and they slept late at night, in sleeping bags like mice, all crowded up in a small indoor football pitch. But they are happy, they have had lots of fun with the families that have adopted them temporarily during the Summer, they are happy, for they are soon going back home, they are happy, even if they have sometimes had a hard time and felt sad like an old tiger that has been beaten up, they are strong, like the roar of a tiger that shall never give up. They are all fierce golden tigers, deep in their hearts.
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After note: This is a true story about 250 Saharaui children that came to Spain for the holidays and that had to wait day and night to go back home but that shall always have pride and joy in their hearts. For Nhordin, even if I canīt spell your name, I shall always remember your dark eyes and your big smile, and the way you gently asked my name and said goodbye. I hope to see you next year, letīs hope the flight is delayed.

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