Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Touch Wood ... Everything is Going Well Right Now.

At the moment, no one is pregnant (fingers crossed) and everyone seems to be doing well in school. Astrid is starting to sound like an American when she speaks English.  Denis, who was once written off by two different schools, produced the best grades of anyone, an 88 point average.  Astrid was trying to earn a smart phone with all eighties but missed by one 78.  She is now more determined than ever. Mishelle, six in a couple of weeks, is swimming from one end of the pool to the other while her older brother, Cris, seven, is not yet quite as brave.  Mishelle will start the first grade in January but has already demonstrated her reading skills in both Spanish and English at a recent parent event at school.

Mishelle, 5, and Astrid, 14, at a fund raising event in March.

Diego's grades weren't bad considering that he is only in year two of learning English and also in his second year of being in a decent school.  His lowest grade was 47 in science but when asked what his favorite subject was he cited science.  When I questioned how he got his lowest grade in his favorite subject he reminded me that the science class was all in English.  We all now laugh when we hear someone say "quĂ© dijo?" (what did she or he say) as they struggle with English and I am certain I won't live long enough to really master Spanish.

Diego, 11, trying out a water slide.

Cris recently got to go on an overnight camping trip with fellow students and teachers.  The group hiked into a camping area on the side of the volcano Agua and toasted marshmallows and told stories over the campfire.  One teacher made huevos rancheros for the group for breakfast. Mishelle is already looking forward to going next year.

Very pleased with themselves after jumping off the deep end
and swimming to their instructors.

My biggest challenge at the moment is to get Guatemalan passports for Denis and Astrid.  As they are still minors it is required that both parents be present at the passport office in Guatemala City.  Since "papa" remains unavailable and after three visits and three denials we are a bit stumped.  I have paid an attorney to draw up a document which Alex signed revoking his parental rights and giving the two permission to have passports and travel.  Clearly, what is missing is the necessary bribe.  This is Guatemala after all.  The last attempt resulted in Estela being challenged by the hombre behind the counter who snarled at her "how do I know that you are not going to take the children away from their father?"  Their father the convicted kidnapper and rapist who shows little if any interest in his children. The father whom the children have no interest in ever seeing again.

It is likely I will have to engage my own immigration attorney who will be able to make us all an appointment with the head of immigration and also knows which palms to grease to get these kids passports so that they can see a bit of the world.

Jackie, the 18-year old mother, has learned a very, very hard lesson.  Her fatherless son is now seven months old and is adored by his aunt and uncle and grandmother.  He is robust, healthy and appropriately curious.  Jackie tends to Liam and also her studies and that is about all that her life is about at age 18.  She will not get pregnant again anytime soon unless the required (to continue school) IUD should fail.  She is on track to graduate from high school this fall, the first in her family.  And hopefully shortly after that she will be gainfully employed and will be able to support her son.

A very curious Liam, 8 months, with his Aunt Astrid.

Most days I think these six kids will have a chance to leapfrog out of poverty but other days I worry that I am setting them up for a future that may not exist in their country.  Am I bringing them along to believe in the "American dream" which does not exist in Guatemala (and is declining in the US) or will Guatemala move forward, poco and poco and meet them halfway?  They are all in better than average schools and are speaking English at varying levels. Their decent schools assume that they have internet and computers and printers at home.  The 1 or so% seem totally ignorant of the fact that internet scarcely exists in the villages where these kids live on the other side of the digital divide.

Astrid and Diego have shown a lot of interest in music so I schlepped a keyboard from the US on a recent trip.  The two started Saturday music classes in Antigua and seem to be making great progress. Denis, much to my surprise, had signed up for guitar classes at a nearby community center.  He didn't even have a guitar but I managed to borrow one from some friends.  One afternoon I came into the house and heard someone playing scales on the keyboard, in different keys even.  I assumed that it was either Astrid or Diego practicing but I found Denis instead.  He proudly demonstrated his skill at playing scales in different keys.  Puzzled, I asked him how he had learned to do that.  He turned around and showed me his laptop sitting on a nearby bed running an instructional YouTube video.

The real miracle is that all of these kids are starting to think for themselves and I thank all of their schools for that.  Creative thinking is a skill not enjoyed by the majority in Guatemala, certainly not by those working in the immigration department.

For those of you who have asked for a flow chart of who belongs to whom below is the best I can do within the blog format.

Jackie, 18. father is Alex, mother is Estela .... she is the mother of Liam, 8 months, father ??????
Denis, 17, father is Alex, mother is Estela
Astrid, 14, father is Alex, mother is Estela

Diego, 11, father is a mystery man, mother is Marielos
Cristofer, 7, father is Alex, mother is Marielos
Mishelle, 5, father is Alex, mother is Marielos

There are at least a couple of others whom Alex has fathered.  Gladly, I do not know their mothers.  In spite of what Marielos thinks Alex did have a vasectomy when she was pregnant with Mishelle and another woman was also pregnant with another one born a month after Mishelle. Yes, rabbits.