What to write about? I’m not sure. There are tons of things that have happened and things that we’ve done in just one week since we have been here. I think I’ll tell you about how things are going with the boys Brad and I are tutoring.
First, Abel is their main tutor and house parent who lives right next to Hogar Esperanza. His Job here entails keeping the boys in line, helping with their home work, making sure they get all their chores done, and a huge part is actually sleeping in the boys apartment 4 nights a week. I would say that Abel, besides Dave, is the best male role model for the boys. Before Brad and I arrived, Abel was here helping the boys and staying the night and every day. Abel also has a 14 month old daughter and a wife. He is a very dedicated man to his job, and as far as I can see, he does an amazing job. I’m told he can be a bit hard on the boys, but if you were trying to keep 11 boys in line all between the ages of 10-20, I’d say you have to be pretty disciplined.
As of right now, Abel is on vacation for two weeks starting November 16th. Abel’s vacation is nothing like vacations in the states. He isn’t going anywhere special that I know of. He simply goes about doing his daily life at home and occasionally stops by the Home to check in or pick something up. He loves these kids, so I’m sure he’s a bit nervous leaving them in the care and discipline of two gringos who know very little spanish and nothing about how each boy typically acts. So, for Brad and I, it’s becoming a big challenge but yet quite the adventure too.
During the time Abel is on vacation, Brad and I will be filling in by alternating days. This means, I take one day and night, and then Brad takes the next day and night. The day starts by waking up at 5am. I’m not much of a morning person, and if allowed, I can sleep till 1pm sometimes. So after I wake up, it’s a task to begin waking all the boys up. Fortunately, there is a great boy named Fernando who is the oldest of all the boys, very responsible, and gives me a hand in waking them up. Some kids want to crawl back into bed about; some just pop out of bed and hit the ground running.
In addition to waking them up, there are two boys who have some problems wetting the bed. Augusto is one of them, and if he seems restless in the middle of the night then it means he should go to the bathroom. My first night staying over, I heard Agusto moving around in his bed, so I tried to get him up to use the bathroom. He got about ten steps and jumped back into bed. That night was accident free. Last night however was not the same as the first. I could hear him moving around and making noises, but it didn’t sound much different from the first night. I was wrong, he wet the bed, and his mattress didn’t have any plastic cover. This is when I started to see how much these guys are more like family and less like roommates. I say this because Agusto is a special needs child and can’t do many things for himself. So, Henri, the boy who sleeps in the bed above Augusto stripped Augusto’s bed sheets and changed Augusto without being asked. This was huge help since I didn’t even know Augusto wet the bed until I tried to make Augusto’s bed, and Henri pointed out that Augusto wet the bed.
The second boy who has a problem wetting the bed is Moises. Moises is really cute and funny, but like some kids his age, he is afraid of the dark. I can relate. I used to sleep with the hall light on and the door cracked until I was about 11. Moises, beacause he is afraid of the dark, will not get up in the middle of the night and go to the bathroom. So, he needs to sleep with a pail next to his bed. So far, I haven’t had any bed wetting experiences with Moises, but Brad has. This is just the beginning of the day, and the next events are brushing their teeth and a bible devotional reading from Fernando while the others either fall asleep or struggle to stay awake. Amazingly, Fernando wakes up about 4:40 and prepares his devotional.Then they get going on their morning chores, where each boy is assigned to a specific task in the apartment. The chores are: washing dishes, cleaning the table. Each room has one person assigned to sweep the floor and tidy up. Someone prepares breakfast, and someone else prepares lunches. Someone cleans the bathroom as well, and each boy is responsible for making their bed and keeping their clothing cabinet tidy. After chores are finished, they all sit down to eat breakfast.
Breakfast usually consists of a bread roll with a hot dog sliced down the middle and a warm blended beverage consisting of milk and fruit. I must say, it’s not bad, and when you get adjusted to the food portions the kids eat, you actually feel content when finished eating. My normal breakfast in the states would consist of two bowls of cereal, or if it’s a weekend, I would make eggs, toast, bacon, coffee, and orange juice. But, currently I’m not really missing american food since I’ve only been here one week. Talk to me in 5 months. When everyone is finishing with breakfast, the school bell at the home rings to let all the kids know they have to be on their way to school at 6:45am. Some leave later, but the majority leave at 6:45. Some kids go to a private Christian school, a few go to public school, and a few stay at the home to be tutored and will be going to school when the next school year starts.
After all the kids are gone, we (Brad, Julia, Lydia, Jesse, and I) head up to Dave’s (the director) office for our daily 8:30am meeting where we go over updates, how things are going, and any new info Dave needs to know about things going on with us. Following the meeting, I usually grab a nap for a bit and then shower up after that. We have free time from 9am till 3pm. Around 3pm is when the kids start coming home from school.
When they get home, they have a half hour to relax. Then it’s prepare what they call lunch. Then they need to get started on their homework or clean their school clothes if they are dirty. Homework here is not given in moderation. They have way more than we get in the states. So if any of the boys fool around and procrastinate on their home work, they will be up late finishing their work.
Home work is pretty challenging for Brad and I to help them with. We usually end up just helping them stay focused on doing their homework since we can’t really understand what they are doing. However, Brad was very successful in helping Roberto on his math home work, and today Avelino need help with his English pronunciation, and we worked on that for an hour or so. A lot of times, they just want you to do their homework for them. I was guilty of this as a kid. I always procrastinated on big papers or projects and then would be up late trying to furiously finish with the help of my mom (ok, more like she did them). Let’s focus on strengths here. To my own credit, I’m not much of a writer but more of a visual person, hence the reason I’m a photographer. But, just like me, these boys have amazing talents of their own. Freddie, probably about 10, one of the most difficult boys the home has taken in, has amazing handwriting. The first time I a saw his work book with writing in it, I automatically assumed someone else did it. Then I saw him write, and I was really impressed. I mean it’s not perfect, but if you know anything about Freddie, it’s that he can’t sit still, and he can be a big pain. The old saying “Never judge a book by its cover” still rings true. Fernando, who is about 20, is an extremely talented artist and loves to share his art with anyone. He’ll talk your ear off, and he always has the biggest smile. He also works at a local hospital and is currently going to art school. These are only two of the boys’ talents I have experienced in the one week I’ve been here.
The boys are pretty much self sufficient, and the older boys typically help the younger boys with homework and staying on task to do their chores. Sometimes my presence is all that is needed. A lot of times, I’ll sit on the couch when they are doing their chores, but there are times when I need to step in and keep someone on task or break up a scuffle.
Speaking of scuffles, a serious one broke out a few nights ago. There is only one computer for 11 boys, and they all love to surf the web. They have something similar to myspace and facebook here in Peru called High5. Last night, while I was out of the apartment, two boys got into a huge fight. One boy who was on his High5 page and doing homework briefly left the computer and another boy sat down at the computer, logged in, and deleted the other boy’s session, which really created a huge problem. Apparently, in addition to loosing his high5 session, he also lost his homework which caused him to have to stay up late and finish his homework on the computer.
Another issue both Brad and I are noticing is the boys are taking advantage of us by staying up late. When we went over the daily schedule with Dave and Abel, we were told that their bed times are from 8:30 for the younger boys and 9:30 for the older boys. Since Brad and I have taken over while Abel is on vacation, the boys are going to bed later each night and leaving the apartment more of a mess. I know for sure that he would never let them get away with these things.
Once we get into bed, the day comes to an end. Each day is kinda similar since they have a pretty regimented schedule. Each day is difficult, challenging, and tiring. With hardship there is also joy, laughter, and love. All these things make up our daily lives and make it worth living. Joy is no better than difficulty, because without difficultly we would never really appreciate or understand joy.
It’s hard to understand our purpose here when we can’t speak spanish. A lot of the time, we are just a presence in the apartment, someone to keep the boys from killing one another and to keep them doing what the are supposed to do. You begin to feel like a night shift security guard. You wonder what the heck you’re doing here. You think that you were more of a benefit to society when you were contributing your trade to someone who needed it or just bringing in a pay check. The truth is, though, most of these boys don’t get enough personal attention and affection. The thing that Dave and Debbie continue to reiterate is that it doesn’t matter if you accomplished much in a day, but, rather, do the kids feel loved? Did you hug them? Did you spend time with them? And, if the answer is yes, then you have done more than you know.
As someone who grew up with both parents, it’s hard to imagine growing up somewhere where you might get to see your family once a year or not at all. I had a lot of help growing up, and I was shown a lot of grace from my parents when I got into some stupid things. I hope that I can do a small fraction for them what my parents have done for me.