Jackie is almost twenty-one and her son, Liam, was four in August. Jackie continues to work as a teaching assistant at the Antigua Green School. Liam is in his third year in the school's Montessori "baby" program. In January he will move up to kinder. As Liam finishes school at 12:30 and his mother needs to stay all day Jackie has a financial arrangement with a chicken bus driver who picks the boy up every day and sees him safely to his village where he is collected by a woman who looks after him in the afternoons. He might well be the youngest solo chicken bus rider in the country. Liam thinks coming to my house is akin to going to Disneyland (which he likely has never heard of). He points my house out to everyone on the chicken bus, "Tía Joan house," and has even entertained the passengers by telling them that "Tía Joan can swim under water." Yes, she can. Liam's mom works all week and attends university classes all day Saturday. She is in her third year of university studies to become a professional teacher and is first in her class. No, I don't see much of her.
|Liam and his best friend, Bridget.|
Denis, soon 20, has been working full-time since graduating from high school. The lure of money. When he is not working he is at the gym bulking up. He passes by my house most Saturday afternoons to use my scale and my Internet. Clearly he thinks a weight gain is a positive thing. Gladly, he has discovered that he is working too many hours for too little money and with the encouragement of a friend talks about taking the entrance exams to the University of San Carlos.
I guess it was bound to happen but now that Denis is more or less an adult his sleazy father is asking, even demanding, that he come to see him in prison. Denis continues to decline the invitation. As Alex has shown no interest in his daughters one can only conclude that his interest in Denis is about weaving him into his web of nastiness. The assumption is that Alex has money stashed somewhere. Why would one engage in kidnapping if not for profit? He likely sees Denis as the most vulnerable and the one most likely to help him recover his resources with little or no risk of loss. Recently Denis ran into a sister of his father's at a gas station and she told him "your father says if you don't go see him he will take care of you when he gets out." Given that Alex will probably be in his eighties if he gets out alive it wasn't a great threat. But still not a nice memory of his father.
In addition, Denis is now being taunted at the gym by deliquentes who haven't forgotten Alex's criminal history and have made the usual assumption that, yes, there is money stashed somewhere and Denis is the most likely person to know where it is. Denis said he would go to a different gym but both his mother and I are encouraging him to take the university exams and go to Guatemala City, get an apartment with his friend and a job and enjoy the university. Time to get out of town.
And then there is Astrid. Eighteen years old, mother of a eighteen month old, and an almost straight A student in English at the Antigua International School. While she is (sort of) old enough to be a parent she was not, this past summer, old enough to have a proper job. She tried to get a summer job with a call center and they wanted her but couldn't take her as she was not yet eighteen. So, she spent her summer vacation volunteering for WINGS (www.wingsguate.org) counseling students about the trials and tribulations of unprotected teen age sex. One week she addressed a group of three hundred. Many young girls are taking her aside and asking for help and she is taking them to WINGS for the services they provide. The director of her school told me "we are very proud of Astrid." Astrid wants to go to medical school when she graduates in another year and a half.
|Beyker and his mum, future doctor|
Diego, fifteen, has taken charge of his own education it would seem. He is teaching himself to write computer code and edit videos by watching YouTube videos. Recently he was recognized by the Internet Society as one of "25under25." This was a global competition to identify twenty-five people under the age of twenty-five who use the Internet in innovative ways to make a difference. Diego was recognized for his volunteer work with Mundo Posible (www.worldpossible.org) in deploying online educational resources to rural schools that do not have Internet. In September Diego and his "chaperone," Tía Joan, were flown to Los Angeles for a celebration and networking event with the other twenty-four awardees. Diego now has friends like himself all over the world. He routinely chats online with Mary in Kampala, Uganda.
Recently Diego attended a "Tech for Change" conference in Guatemala City. One of the speakers was Luis von Ahn, the Guatemalan developer of reCAPTCHA and Duolingo. Diego came away saying that he was going to create something even greater than Duolingo. No doubt he will.
|Diego and his new international pals. Mary is on the far right in red.|
The Guatemalan-Irish twins Mishell, now nine, and Cristofer, ten, continue to flourish and are rarely apart though this past year they were in different classrooms. Mishell is taller than her older brother and loves working with an English tutor. Cristofer has opted for working on Duolingo. He hasn't yet given up his baseball cap.
|Cristofer doing his daily routine on Duolingo to improve his English.|
|Mishell graduated from lower elementary to 4th grade in upper elementary.|
|Liam in his pre-school graduation outfit|
|Cristofer enjoying the surf and warm water.|
|John acting as lifeguard.|
|L to R: Astrid, 18, Denis, 19, Cris, 10, Beyker, 18 months, Mishell, 9, Liam 4, Jackie, 21, Diego, 15.|