Monday, August 26, 2013

It's a Baby!

So, the baby wait is over and all is well with the teen mom and the unsuspecting infant who, unknown to him, was born in the wrong place like so many others.  Every time I take out my tattered passport upon entering an airport I think what a difference that document has made in my life.  After a range of due dates from July 30th to September 27th the baby found the courage to face life as an yet another impoverished, fatherless Guatemalan on Thursday, August 22nd 2013.

The baby's name is Liam and something that I cannot pronounce and none of his relatives are able to spell it for me. Changes are still possible as he doesn't yet have a birth certificate. I understand his reluctance in opening his eyes. To be determined is whether his father's name will be added to the birth certificate.  To add his name acknowledges paternity and also leaves the sperm donor vulnerable to support demands (Estela's choice of course).  To leave that space blank with all that implies is not that uncommon in the region.  No one will bat an eye. Diego who, at 10, wants to learn to write computer code has a blank space on his birth certificate too. 

Estela is less than thrilled about finding herself with yet another child which is the harsh reality.  She gets teary eyed and says "I never wanted any more kids" which is the lament of many, many poor Guatemalan women.  Denis and Astrid are trying to ignore the whole thing though I think all three will warm up and adapt when Liam first smiles at them.

The new mother continues to study at a feverish rate (even requesting printouts from the internet five days after a Cesarian) and with any luck (and a lot of help from her mother) will gain her "bachillerato" (high school diploma) in another year.  With that in hand from a respected private school her job prospects will be greatly enhanced and, hopefully, then, she and Liam will be launched.

Denis continues to show enthusiasm for his studies and actually has a plan which involves learning how to be a mechanic and then working as one while he studies to be an engineer.  He is working on non-school days as an apprentice mechanic with a mechanic recommended by my occasional driver, Vinicio.  Vinicio is a rare, honest decent Guatemalan gentleman who has taken an interest in Denis.  So, three days a week Denis spends his days away from his estrogen loaded house in a man's world.  Good for him.  He loves it and recently stepped right up when a tire on my car was hopelessly flat.  Like men all over the world he declined to read the instructions so we eventually had to call in some reinforcements which helped him to get the job done.

Astrid, 13 and pushing 21, is on vacation from school as her school is on the US schedule. She is looking forward to doing ninth grade in (hopefully) the US on an exchange program.  She and Diego both go for English tutoring most afternoons and they have become great buddies.  Recently, I took Astrid to Lake Átitlan for a few days with the provision that we only speak English.  Though she had seen the lake once before when she was about 6 or 7 she was pretty dazzled and mentioned wanting to stay for a month.

The expectation in all of the private schools is that there is a computer at home possibly even with Internet access.  The older kids have an old beat up desktop with "Khan on a Stick" (courtesy of on it so they can watch the Khan Academy math and science videos offline.  The younger kids don't even have a television much less a computer at home.

Thus, with the help of some cheap refurbished laptops I have more or less turned my house into a cyber café.  The laptops have the kids' names written in masking tape on top.  They use the Khan Academy website in English and when they need an assist in Spanish know how to switch to the offline videos.  Diego just took one home for two weeks while I was out of the country.  His is loaded with KA Lite, the offline version of the Khan Academy website.  He is charged with the responsibility of helping his little brother, Cristofer, with KA Lite.  Cristofer, 6, is not yet in first grade but is already a math whiz.

Mishelle, 5, prefers an iPad for her tiny fingers but recently got into playing some offline educational games from World Possible with her brothers.  She had to use both hands to drag letters into place but I was pleasantly surprised that she could read the words, translate the words and then drag the letters into place.  Bravo to her school, Oxford Bilingual Educational Institute and Maria Montessori.

                                                        As for "papa" we recently had a meeting with a psychologist to discuss where papa is and why.  Cristofer acknowledged that "he is in jail" and offered, when asked why, "I think he is a robber".  He admitted that one schoolmate had asked him if his father was in jail and that he had told him "yes, it is true but don't tell anyone because it is a secret."  We told the two that they could just say that their father had gone away, that he had taken a trip.  "He is in Spain," Cristofer offered.

"Papa" was the furthest thing from their mind on a recent trip to the Pacific coast.  The journey included a 12 kilometer drive off road through a large farm.  The five (not the pregnant teen) hung out of the car windows marveling at the sugar came, cattle, pigs, chicken, geese and more along the way.  On his first ever view of the ocean Cristofer said "wow, where did it come from?"  Good question.

Marielos (mom #2) seems to be finally letting go of "papa."  She has a new cell phone number and no longer answers the old one.  Hispanics everywhere end relationships by tossing their sim chips in the trash and changing their cell phone numbers.  Marielos expressed a fair amount of disgust when I told her that Alex had, once again, called my house asking for money.  Estela told him that I wasn't home.  Marielos has been given her first ever job cleaning at Cris and Mishelle's school.  I credit that ego boost and the work with the psychologist in getting her closer and closer to trashing that old cell phone chip.