Just under a month has gone by, and in just one week, I'll be getting used to a new shift as language school ends and begin full-time at Ciudad! I'm excited for that. Language school has been very cool, and I love the teachers and conversation, but it's tiring to be there ever day, and the pollution that you get in your lungs from the transit from San Juan de Miraflores to Miraflores everyday is like smoking a pack of cigarettes (read: I have no idea how bad it is for your lungs, but the comparison seemed appropriate).
I think I've said that I'm working with adolescents aged 13-14 (ish). They're a great group of kids! I think I have finally gotten to the point where I know all their names (and what names they prefer to be called). To be honest, when I first walked in, I kind of thought that maybe I had walked back into my college dorm. They're lively, fun, kind, but won't hesitate to laugh at you, because they have the audacity to tell you that yeah, you're being ridiculous. Right now, my work consists of being with them in the afternoons post-school. I have been put in charge of gardening maintenance and tending to the vineyard, so when the kids work with me in the afternoon, there is a lot of weed-pulling, wire-tightening, and vine-enforcing. Weed-pulling is something I like. When I don't have open wounds, I like getting my hands dirty, and don't mind getting junk under my nails as I root around for...well, the roots. Vines fascinate me. We don't grow grapes to make wine (it's a city of kids, after all), but we eat the grapes. I just like how flexible they are, how you can generally guide them to grow in a certain way that will be more beneficial for it (and for us come harvest time).
The challenge of working with kids is one that I experienced last summer for a week doing Serviceworx with middle-schoolers. They can have great senses of humor, but they genuinely lack maturity, and it's not their fault, because that's just where they are in life. The trick is to remember this so as not to take things personally and jump down to an equal level of immaturity or vindiction in punishment, but at the same time trying to encourage them (both through punishment when necessary) and positive example how to grow into more responsible, more sensitive, more mature people. That's probably why so many people don't like working with adolescents: It requires patience and the equilibrium for reprimand and understanding is so hard to discern (and even harder is adhering to it). So yeah, it's been a challenge.
I work with Hermano Polo, a Capuchin Friar from Arequipa (South of Lima). He's a terrific guy. He plays guitar very well, he's got a pretty good musical ear, he knows how to do a million and one things, his sense of humor is terrific, and his life story is pretty cool, too. Or...what of his life story I could comprehend. He talks pretty quickly. He's trying hard to find the balance I was talking about...and, unsurprisingly, it's challenging. This is not an easy age group to lead. Props to him, though.
But yeah, I'm loving it. We went shopping this weekend. I've never been so excited for yogurt in my life (I was in desperate need of some calcium and milk products).
Note about language school: It can be very frustrating to learn another language. It can be even harder for somebody who likes to know things and hates not knowing things, because you've got to be willing to admit that your English vocabulary won't always help you and that thinking in paragraphs can be detrimental to getting across basic thoughts (especially if you have a lot of SAT and GRE words in those paragraphs). If you like being self-sufficient, it's tough, because a freetranslation.com translation usually won't help you out. I am liking this, tough though it is. When you strip away the intelligence, the fancy words, the knowledge of stuff that nobody else knows, you get a sense of who is there underneath. And, though sometimes it can be hard to look at that person, if you want to adjust happily, you've just got to bite the bullet and trust that people never loved you because you got good grades, because you happened to know the answers to questions, but because of who you were. And, if you're anything like me (who's really the "you" in all of these statements), your friends probably wanted to know you more.
It's hard to believe a month has gone by. Hard to believe that this is life, too, you know? That was kind of ambiguous. But I can't get any more specific. Much love, once again. Much missage, but not the sad kind.