In gym class we usually end up playing volleyball or soccer. I’m awful at volleyball, as I am at all sports. Usually after a few minutes one of the little kids will tug on my hand and drag me to the way back corner of the court where I can do the least damage (“Meees, you stand here”). Being older and taller than these kids has no advantage in volleyball, because you still have to actually make contact with the ball and get it to go in the direction you want. And despite my advanced age, I still scream and run away whenever the ball comes near me. I am a volleyball team’s worst nightmare.
I’ve found that soccer however, is a different story, because I’m tall enough to be faster than most nine year olds, and definitely weigh more, so in order to get the ball I just charge at it and the kids who’ve learned that I will knock them over now just take a step back. It’s really ridiculous how hard I’m playing, but the fact is, me at 30 trying as hard as I can….I’m about as good as any 9 year old out there….and maybe not as good as some of the 12 year olds…but I keep up… I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I’m literally tackling these kids and knocking them down because I am trying to live the athletic youth I never got to have…and the kids, they confuse my mania with skill, and they pick me first for their teams (and/or possibly to avoid being slide tackled by letting me be on the opposing side?). ….So I don’t mean to brag but, frankly, I’m basically the best player on this soccer team of 9 year olds.
It’s a little like that scene out of Dumb and Dumber where the girl playfully throws a snowball at Jeff Daniels, and then he basically slams one in her face. I’m like way to serious about it. It would be so cool to be a real athlete.
Adrian comes to class today with his nose bleeding and informs me that some 10 year old beat him up. Adrian’s an adorable 8 year old with a major case of ADHD… if some kid beat him up, he probably deserved it, but it still makes me mad.
– Where is this kid? What happened?
– He’s gone. It’s no big deal.
– Yes it is. Why did he do this to you?
– I owed him money.
– Yeah, I owed him money.
– Money? What the hell do you owe someone money for? You’re eight! Did you go to some kinda 10 year old loan shark to get candy money, or what?
– It was money for lunch. For my brother. He was hungry
I pull him in to give him a hug so he can’t see that I’m crying.
One of the other volunteers here is this six foot tall model. She’s been a good buddy of mine since I arrived, but the contrast between the two of us walking down the street is always amusing. Today in art class one little girl looks back and forth between the two of us, “You are beautiful, and you are precious,” she says. Guess who got which adjective. Precious? Really now!
Same art class. We are making geisha style paper fans with dragons on them. Darwin asks: “What color are the dragons in America?” Dear lord, could you be cuter?
– In America, we call them “Republicans.” Can you say that? Re-pub-li-cans.
– That sounds scary.
– Oh they are.
More of the same art class. It’s the model/art director’s last class with the kids after four months of working with them. She keeps telling them that it’s her last day but it doesn’t really register. “They don’t care,” she tells me. But really that’s not it. It’s that they really don’t understand. In their lives, people don’t leave. You are born in the same place where you will live, raise your own children, and die. No one leaves. They don’t really have a concept of what it means to leave, to be gone forever. Towards the end of class the kids start asking questions. Her Spanish is not as good, so I translate some of it:
– Will you be back on Tuesday?
– No. I won’t. I’m leaving for good.
– On Sunday then?
– No, sweetie. Sorry. I’m going back toAmerica.
– For ever?
– For ever.
Their little faces start to crumble.
– But you mean you won’t visit? – 10 year old Gabriel asks. The way he says it breaks my heart, and I start to cry before I can translate it for her. I walk away a little bit and wipe my eyes.
– Mees, are you crying?
– No! —- Yes.
I tell her what they’re saying and then we are both crying. They all gather around to give her a big hug, and then they tell her not to leave yet because they have a surprise for her. They make us both wait outside with our eyes closed. After a few minutes of running around they let us back into the classroom. They’ve apparently pooled their resources to buy crackers and juice and throw a goodbye party for her. The two of us try to hide the tears. It’s really the cutest thing. They tell her that they’re going to give a little goodbye speech for her, and that they want her email and Facebook because one of the kids has a computer at school and he can send messages to her.
As the kids are finally leaving at the end of class I hear Darwin say to Frankie: “When I get bigger I will go toAmerica and visit her.”
This week’s installment of Combi adventures:
1. Combi crashes into mototaxi. Door to Combi is ripped off and goes tumbling down the street. (Clearly this is not the first loss of this particular door.) Driver and cobrador eventually retrieve it and the passengers all assist in tying the thing back on with rope.
2. The sideview mirror on Combi A, crashes through Combi B’s open door, and directly into the 12 year old cobrador’s chest, sending him flying to the ground. Chaos ensues, Peruvians screaming at the driver of Combi A. 12 year old cobrador looks barely shaken. Standard work day fare.
3. A huge Combi up to Zone S empties out before we’re even more than halfway there. There are only 2 voluntarios on the Combi now, and it’s not worth the driver’s gas money to cart us up there. Better to kick us off here and head back down. One volunteer says “Hey, you can’t do that…oh, wait…I forgot where I was for a minute…”
4. I am late for class in a packed Combi. We’re headed through the intersection but suddenly reverse course and begin backing up. The driver backs up about 100 feet and pulls up alongside a lady selling mandarins. What better time to do a little light grocery shopping? “2 kilos, please,” he yells, “And do you have any potatoes?” Oh perfect. Other passengers decide that if we’re stopped anyway, we might as well all shop. Oh the hell with it, I lean out the window and buy one for myself….when inRome just accept that you’re always going to be late and enjoy your damn orange.