Recently all of the children received their grades and Diego's were among the worst, which was quite a surprise as there is no question that he is quite bright. The teacher delivering the grades reported that he did not do his homework, did not participate in class and did not ask questions. Diego reported that he got very nervous when taking the exams, most of which he failed. Diego's math tutor, who found him an enthusiastic math student, was as puzzled as I was.
|Diego, better at soccer than academics?|
As I had, in the past, seen Diego have a meltdown when it was suggested that he was not performing to standard, rather than get stern with him I probed a bit. I suspected that feeling responsible for his mother and siblings at the tender age of twelve had left him with a fear of failure that was getting in his way. I called in the psychologist who had, a year or so ago, tried to work with Diego's mother, Marielos. That relationship had ended when we all realized that Marielos was constantly lying to the psychologist in an attempt to manipulate things in her favor.
It took Olga, the psychologist only two sessions to discover that Diego was having trouble concentrating at school because he had been told that his grandmother who owned the home that nine of them live in was going to sell it to pay debts. Probably in an attempt to manipulate me Diego had been told that they would have to live in the street. Once Marielos discovered that Olga was working with Diego she started calling Olga in yet another attempt to twist things into economic gain for herself. Olga and I quickly concluded that Marielos, likely directed by Alex in prison, would stop at nothing and was using her own child in yet another attempt to get money out of me.
Olga and I both assured Diego that he was not ever going to live on the streets, that if the family home was sold we would then deal with the problem. I reminded him that Estela had offered to take the children if it came to that. A text message conversation with Gladys, Marielos's older sister, confirmed that the house would be sold to pay debts. Gladly, she said that this was not my problem and the family was grateful for the help I was giving the children. She added that they would all likely move into her house.
The ugly truth is that, as long as Alex lives, he will continue to scheme and use Marielos as his messenger. She is not smart enough to see what he is doing. When one scheme fails he simply develops a new one. She denies that there is an ongoing relationship but this country being a small town she has been seen at the prison on a regular basis on Wednesdays when her kids are at school and have been told that she is working in the market.
No doubt Alex has convinced her that he can go free only if she succeeds in extracting funds from me. After all this is Guatemala. Thus she holds me responsible for this lovely fellow convicted of kidnapping, rape, extortion and murder remaining in prison. If she were to succeed in stockpiling enough money for him to buy his freedom I have no doubt that this now very hardened felon would be gone from her life forever. I suspect that she is turning whatever paltry earnings she makes over to Alex rather than supporting her own children.
Most recently she talked her younger sister into trying to extract money from me ostensibly to help pay the mortgage payment for the about to be sold house. I declined as one must here or it will never, ever end. Only school expenses. Nothing more. Gladly, the sister whom I quite like apologized profusely for asking and said that she understood. Maybe she does but probably not.
|Demonstration in front of the National Palace May 16, 2015|
Speaking of kidnapping on a more upbeat note a recent corruption scheme involving the highest levels of the Guatemalan government led to massive demonstrations yesterday around the country and even around the world against the ongoing corruption and lack of justice in the country. The vice-president has already resigned and the demonstrations yesterday called for the president to also resign. An estimated 60,000 turned out for the demonstration in Guatemala City undeterred by pouring rain. I made some signs and explained corruption to everyone at lunch and the younger kids agreed to go and participate in the Antigua demonstration. Today there is a lot of hope in Guatemala.
|Soon they will know what they were demonstrating against.|
And even more upbeat news is that Astrid, along with Tia Joan, flies to San Francisco on June 7th for what will be not only her first plane ride but an almost three-month stay in the United States. She has a very expensive passport as it was necessary to make a "contribution" to the now shaky government as her father, whose rights were paramount, was unavailable to grant his permission. Getting a ten-year visa to visit the United States was a walk in the park in comparison. The embassy didn't even ask about her father.
Astrid will spend six weeks with a family in Portland, Oregon who rented my Antigua house some years ago and have a daughter the same age whom Astrid used to play with. She will then move on to my family in Reno, Nevada and mid-August I will collect her and bring her back to Guatemala via New York City and Washington, DC in time to start the ninth grade at the Antigua International School. She wants to go to the beach, ride in an elevator, visit the World Trade Center museum and a whole lot more.
|Astrid, front and center, spending a few days translating for visiting students.|
Denis, 18, will go with Tia Joan to visit a former math teacher in Peru during his mid-year vacation at the end of June. Several days in Arequipa and, of course, on to Cusco and Macchu Pichu before returning to Guatemala.
So earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, brilliant sunshine, occasional torrential rains, manipulative parents, corruption and all. There isn't anything I would trade it for. Look at that smile on Cristofer's face and that after losing a soccer game.