Monday, June 17, 2013

Round and Round We Go

So, now I have a very pregnant child wandering in and out of my house.  Jackie has resisted all attempts to get her to consider adoption.  She remains determined to keep her baby and be a single mother without resources at age 17. When asked how she might get to the hospital when the baby arrives at the end of September she shrugs her shoulders.  Yet another very clear example of the amazing ability of the poor to not think past their next meal. I have agreed to see Jackie through her last year of high school albeit at a reduced level of both attention and cost.  She will be required to keep her grades up and also to figure out childcare for when she needs to report to her home schooling program to take exams.  She and her offspring will fall off of my payroll when she finishes high school. "No children while still a child" is the rule she broke.

Estela remains less than thrilled about the impending grandchild (and is very worried that given Jackie's size there might be two) which she knows she will have to support.  She says that Jackie will have to take the "chicken bus" to the hospital if the baby comes during the day time.  Imagine being in labor in an overcrowded chicken bus, though I would guess there will be a vast amount of experience available.  Imagine going through life saying that you were born on a chicken bus. As there is no bus service at night said baby, or babies, might have to rely on the volunteer firemen who often don't answer the phone at night.  Given the number of babies one sees everywhere I suppose it gets worked out somehow.

Astrid, on the other hand is scouring websites that offer foreign exchange opportunities for high schoolers.  She was stunned to find out that it would be possible to go to the US legally with such a program.  Just yesterday upon finishing with her math tutor she announced "I love math" and went on to say that her very new found love of math had opened up other career paths so, maybe architecture, but still maybe veterinarian. We went to a party the other night honoring said veterinarian and Astrid was subjected to a tirade about her father from a man clearly lacking in sensitivity. She took it in stride.

Future exchange student wearing new shoes.
Astrid had a bad day last week when a fellow student asked her loudly in the lunchroom why she only had one pair of jeans and one pair of shoes.  The offending student was silenced by her own friends and Astrid's ever increasing group of friends came to her defense.  It still stung however and she asked me why the girl would have done that.  I told her that the girl was likely jealous of the number of friends Astrid has. I suggested that, if it happened again, Astrid should give the girl a hug and tell her that she was sorry that it bothered her that she only had one pair of shoes but that her mother was a single parent with three kids who couldn't afford to buy her more shoes.

Denis who studies endlessly recently asked, one Saturday, if he could go in the car with me to pick up the younger kids at school. He clearly wanted to talk. He told me of a meeting with the director of his home schooling program and said he had decided to get his "bachillerato" (high school diploma, a big achievement) then take a one year course to become a mechanic. After that he planned to work as a mechanic while he studied either engineering or architecture and further he wanted to open a restaurant offering local food (the latter likely a dream of his mothers).  A somewhat ambitious plan for a kid who, just a year ago, was completely demoralized after flunking out of school and was certain that he had no future.  When I first met Denis as a six or seven year old he expressed interest in engineering or architecture.  It is nice to see those dreams resurface as his self-esteem recovers.

My current task is to find Denis a position as an apprentice with a mechanic as part of his home schooling regime.  The first person I asked turned him down because of the sins of his father, some of which were perpetrated in the mans neighborhood. It is very sad that these kids will be haunted forever by the misdeeds of their father.  They will have to work so much harder than others to prove themselves worthy.  My occasional driver, Vinicio who, having lost his own son in a motorcycle accident, has taken an interest in Denis and called today with the name of a mechanic who will let Denis work with him. 

Diego just wants to learn.  English, robotics, math ... he is not fussy.  I set him up with a refurbished laptop, the Khan Academy and "Scratch," the MIT software that teaches kids how to program and he is in heaven.  I have him testing offline versions of the Khan Academy and more that may well be used in rural areas in Central America where there is no internet access. He is carrying a heavy burden however, feeling responsible for his mother and his younger siblings. Poor kids here have a very real fear of starving to death if they see that a parent, often their only parent is not working.  Such is the case with Diego's mother right now. 

Diego and Astrid teaching themselves computer code using "Scratch."
Marielos is getting a well-earned dose of "tough love.  She borrowed some money and, looking me right in the eye, assured me that she could pay it back at a rate of Q500 ($65) per month. Fairly quickly I learned that it was all a lie and that she not only had no money to pay me she has a yet unknown quantity of debts to the kind of loan sharks who break knee caps and worse. As so often happens here help turned up when it was needed in the form of a very capable psychologist named Olga. Olga is working with Marielos (and also Diego) to get her to give up on Alex whom she still mourns and to understand that she will get no further help from me if she tells one more lie about anything. 

You might ask how in the world can she continue to carry on about a guy who has committed heinous crimes and left an unknown number of fatherless children to fend for themselves? The short answer is a total lack of self-esteem and the master psychopath tells her exactly what she wants to hear to keep her coming to visit him bringing food and money that she can ill afford.  I suspect he is the source of the debts that she cannot pay. Stay tuned. I will find out.

The highlight of their day was riding in the back of the car.
Los chiquitos (the littlest ones), Cris and Mishelle, remain delightfully oblivious to the drama swirling around them.  Both are thriving in the safe haven that is their school chattering away in a mix of Spanish and English.  Saturdays, rather than standing around in the market, while their mother now helps family members having lost her own shop due to lack of money for inventory, they all go to English classes then spend the rest of the day at my house being somewhat normal kids in spite of it all.

Cris had thrown up his lunch so his clothes were in the washer.  Denis was outside washing cars.

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