Musings from Miercoles and Jueves – delayed due to my unpredictable illness. Well it’s Mexico so probably not that unpredictable. Just for me. Remember the ceramic tile floor story? Well. Tuesday and Wednesday morning I could hardly walk for the aches in the hips and back and I was worried about doing massage because of the aches in the shoulders. On Wednesday I was relieved only to have only 5 on the schedule unlike the previous days’ eight. Still, I took a lot of siestas to get through the day. Later there was time in the pool which felt marvelous and soothing to my unbelievably aching joints. Andrew is on a mission of pool safety after he resuscitated a boy 3 weeks ago. Lessons are for everyone who must now prove capability in the water. Andrew gave me the most timid because they require the least language interaction and suddenly I was employed each afternoon as swim instructor 101. The word asi comes in handy again and so I could demo everything I wanted the children to try. That is when they weren’t clinging to my neck. Whether from fear or from wanting physical closeness I wasn’t sure.
Wednesday morning I thought the food at the orphanage looked especially undesirable. For this I was immediately ashamed because the boys in Andrew’s section are young and eager and had been up since 6:00 a.m. doing chores. Before breakfast (this is not a Tracey Tall Tale). I was up at 6:00 to be present for this part of their day. I do not know about the piqueños but I met my alarm with Spanish cursing. So far, I know Madre de Dios. It came spontaneously from my mouth once I put my feet down on the miserably hard ceramic tile, no longer beautiful to me. It’s a puzzle to me that I don’t find English first, but Spanish – which I don’t speak. My brain feels foggy this morning. The cafeteria is the old church part of the hacienda where the boys were in various stages of finding the required formation. This is eventually four lines, but for a while is mostly a lot of skinny boys hopping around and rabbit-earing or punching each other.
Finally, with backpacks and smiles and fresh showers on, they quell their eagerness and can be still and tall enough to be called to the breakfast bucket. I think it was something tann-ish inside. Who am I to say that food served in a giant tin bucket isn’t tasty, delicious? I didn’t mind it the first two days and surely I can tough it out for two more since I don’t have to live here? I had planned to walk into town for a little coffee treat, but my reaction of aversion to the food bothered me as I thought I was perhaps behaving a bit like a spoiled gringo. So I told myself, “Not ‘til you get a better attitude and can be happy for what you have. No coffee for you missy.” At lunch the giant bucket o’ food still seemed unpalatable even though this time it was tan-ish with some pasta and I began to suspect that perhaps it wasn’t my attitude that would soon be needing an adjustment…..Sparing you the details, but providing you another teaching moment audience, it is important to be able to say this combination of words: baño rapido. Today is Thursday and of all my symptoms I do not have the aches. That leaves, ….you know.
During morning duties, Andrew helps get his section of boys ready for their day. And while true that some adult supervision is necessary to keep things from disintegrating into Lord of the Flies, the real truth is the boys ages 6 – 10 are awakened at 6:00 a.m. for dorm and body care and do much of it themselves. At once they are hopping around in the showers just off the sleeping area while others push the twenty or so 3-story bunks away from the walls and into the middle of the room. The bunks are steel framed and heavy. The noise is enormous and eclipses the shower chatter for a minute. Soon buckets of water are carried throughout the dorm and the first time I saw what came next I thought they were into shenanigans and in for a sure scolding from sour Karen. Handsfull of water are hastily thrown about the floor until the entire dorm is puddled. Then different boys begin the job of squeegeeing. There is an important visual. The boys are wet from the showers, so towels are discretionary if you are on squeegee or bucket duty. Some wear them as scarves, tying them just so. In other words, thirty-five pre-pubescent boys are industriously moving beds, watering the floor, squeegeeing the floor, finding clothes or meandering about – naked. At some point one of the year-of-service kids will put on music and all of the above is accompanied by Justin Bieber or Spanish pop. The boys who can’t carry the heavy buckets just bend over and push them doggy style. Hilarious. Especially if the music in the background is Gangnam Style and half of them are watering, squeegeeing or dressing while singing-to them random words-, “heeyy, sexy laady”. The squeegee maneuver itself looks like a dance move as it’s a very choreographed motion – these boys mean business and they are rapido squeegee-ers. Here is the step so that you can practice: staying in a crouch so no motion is wasted by having to repeatedly stand and bend, extend the squeegee as far as you can, pull the water towards your feet, at the last second lift your right foot out of the way so that you can squeegee six more inches of concrete until the tool hits your left foot, step to the right one squeegee width, extend the tool as far as you can…….lather rinse repeat down the length of the dorm. Don’t forget to picture this with five or six naked boys in a row.
This morning I was the mujeres of the crème bucket. Everything is in a communal bucket here. This stuff is the communal lotion and dutifully they slather it on before getting dressed. By now some boys are watching dance videos which are the big money finish after chores, some are still cleaning, and some are returning the bunks. Others are hopping around in the side room where all the clothes are kept. Well actually one boy was perched on top of the steel shelves that store most everything. Climbing is a big sport here. Eventually Andrew spotted him and coaxed him down with a dodge ball maneuver that seemed uncommonly harsh to me, but brought hysterical laughter and about 6 other participants all begging to be slammed with the plastic ball. During this additional chaos, I noticed some of the piqueños around a bucket with of course something tan inside. The top layer anyway was tan; fish deeper and you can find the white moist good stuff. Sigh. Some of you know how I hate spooge but this was the one thing Andrew asked of me when I was finally out of my squeegeed-in perch in the big arched window. The boys use morning crème as an art activity and decorate their bodies first – little white dots meticulously placed on their dark skin so they look like some sort of exotic skinny iguana, or make a happy face of crème in a hand and then stamp that face everywhere on legs and arms, write their names, numbers, etc. They cannot reach their own espalda’s and I knew the word because Andrew had written my massage cheat-sheet remember, so into the bucket I dove to give 20 little back massages. Finally, most are dressed and we can sit in front of the TV to watch random music videos that Karen chooses. The boys are having fun; she sits expressionless with the control. Karen is a year-of-service piqueño, meaning she has finished high school and instead of leaving the orphanage, has chosen to stay on for two more years working with younger groups and ensuring that her college education will be funded by NPH. It is hard to imagine her ever having danced or squirmed around having fun like this brood is doing. Fifteen minutes before breakfast and school and I am glad to escape the brutal tile floor. This is my pre-awareness stage that it isn’t the ceramic floor slamming by body. Of course 3 boys are instantly on me and Josue brings me a book to read. So sweet. What a great idea! I love to read to kids. It’s in Spanish.
BUT THE PICTURES AREN’T – HA! Take that Madre de Dios. I recognize the Tortoise and the Hare, The Golden Fish (the one with the harpy wife who makes her husband go back and get more wishes from the magic fish – he doesn’t stand up for his espaldaless self in Mexico either), and Jack and the Beanstalk. Riveting tales all. I do not know why this is so captivating, but several of the boys love my English interspersed with Spanish reading. In print, I can see which Spanish words to use and make a mental note that fairy tales might just be the tutoring method I need. Eventually we all start singing to the music videos instead. The boys know all of the words to any song but do not know enough English to understand what they are saying. The new release by Will.I.Am and Britnney Spears for instance. Picture 35 very serious boys dressed for school, lounging around the floor and on two couches in front of the TV singing word-for-word words they do not understand –
“when you hear this in the club, you gonna turn this shit up, when we up in the club, all eyes on us, all eyes on us, they watchin us, singing oh we oh we oh we oh, you are now now rockin with Will.I.Am and Brittney Bitch”.
That scene itself could be a viral video. It brought a tear to my eye. Because I REALLY REALLY wish that my own children were 6 again and I could do it over. I would never play Raffi and sing about elephants sitting on me or Beluga whales or blueberry pie; instead we would learn all the juicy words to every inappropriate pop song, practice them each morning before our nutritious breakfast and school, where they would go to learn stuff like how to stand in line without hopping around.