So we were informed last weekend that we'd be going on retreat this weekend, as the kids are gone for three days and we are all in need of a break. This is lovely news.
I'm a creature of habit, so I hate being thrown out of routine, and the Anniversary did just that. Usually we had it timed so that our needs for water, snacks, hygienic supplies, etc., would last through two weeks, so that on weekends off we had the opportunity to go to the store and restock. However, with the Aniversario, we're now on a schedule wherein we'll be needing to restock on weekends wherein the kids don't go home. But, as this is one of my bigger complaints, you can tell that life is fairly good.
Last week was tough, just because of how much I practiced for the dance that we did as the three volunteers. It was a combination of a Hula (I did Poi balls), country line dancing, and the final refrain of "Beat It" (as a crowd-pleaser). I was practicing for so many hours to get the Poi routine down...I came home after breakfast and practiced. I came to the apartment after work and practiced. I practiced a little after lunch, too. Then I'd practice after afternoon work. Then I'd practice in the evenings, too. I practiced too much, it would appear, and was too uptight about it: as soon as I calmed down a little bit, was less rigid with the rhythm, and had a good rest backing me up, I did much, much better. But...the best preparation doesn't ensure a flawless performance. If I had Hawaiian heritage it would be greatly ashamed right now. I will say that the flag-snag was NOT entirely my fault...we hadn't figured that into the performance. The other error definitely was. Oh, well!
The Aniversario itself was awesome: lots of people, LOTS of good food, and it was cool to see all the products the Ciudad had on sale, too.
I will talk disproportionately about chickens here. They make up half of my day, after all. I sometimes wonder why Biblical imagery doesn't use chickens for its descriptions of the people of Israel or the Church. Chickens are, I think, far dumber than sheep. Then again, "The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want. He makes me to lie in verdant pastures," is a far more poetic line than, "The Lord is my famer, there is nothing I shall want. He makes me to wander in peckable terrain...Yea, though I wander in the shadow of the cage of the egg collector, I fear no evil...you have given me ample cornmeal lovingly in the face of those who peck me, etc." Sheep, though dumb, evoke a far more beautiful landscape when raised in a free-range environment. The other day we tried moving the chickens from their cages to an enclosed area where they could roam a little more freely. We tried putting them in crates, but they escaped. We tried putting them in other crates, but they escaped those. So we put them in bags. They escaped from these as well, but with less frequency.
It's actually very good that I work with chickens in the morning. They teach me how much patience I need to have to work with any creature. Like when the chickens escaped, they were smart enough to run directly underneath their cages which is where all their excrement resides and where humans are unlikely to follow. But occasionally as they wandered through their self-made mire, pecking for traces of something that'd be edible (gross), I could hear them squawk in dismay as the mire became deeper than they anticipated and they sank into it farther than their legs. At the end of the whole process, I definitely looked at a few of them and thought, "May you drown in your own excrement and may it serve you right, o dumbest of God's creatures." Clearly Franciscan spirituality is having a positive impact on my life.
But seriously, patience. My immediate instinct is to react angrily, sometimes to throw chickens (this only happens in the morning when I work with chickens. I have never wanted to throw a chicken at one of the kids), or to make snide comments. My still-limited Spanish is making the snide comments stay at a minimum, which is beautiful, because I don't think the kids are ready for my sarcasm. Besides, it'd eventually just undermine my authority, because I'd become known as the dude who says really nasty thing and has authority even though nobody really likes or respects him. That's not my role to play. I realized that today while working with the kids. Yesterday, while finishing up some work in the viña, Hno. Polo asked that we pull weeds with the remaining hour that we had. I conveyed the message, and the kids said, "Okay," and continued sitting in the shade. I started pulling weeds. Fifteen minutes later, I look over at them, still happily in the shade, with me clearly there and working and watching them, and finally said, "So, if there's a shortage of weeds here, feel free to go to the bigger vineyard, but if you see a couple, pick em up for goodness' sake, and show me that you're not as lazy as Hno. Polo keeps accusing you of being." So my snide comments are building up, which is bad, and I felt bad for accusing them of being lazy on a hot day.
One of my big frustrations and weaknesses, I think, is that some things just make sense for me. I'll understand fairly quickly, and it's hard for me to comprehend that others don't understand, and if I do comprehend that, WHY they don't understand. The big challenge for me is asking that question without arrogance, ego, superiority, or disdain. I don't know why that's so hard to do, but it is. Dude, I'm extremely patronizing and I never realized it. So this is a lame way to apologize, but if I've been unbearably (or even bearably) arrogant to you, I apologize and hope you'll bear with me if I do it in the future, because goodness knows this is hard. Sure, I can think about their experiences and lives and think, "Yeah, it makes sense that they don't get this or that they're slow on the uptake or that they have attention problems," but how I react is a totally different story.
Today was a little better and a little worse. I was getting upset because the kids were choosing the fast way over the good way of laying fertilizer in the vineyard. When a kid asked me how things were, I immediately replied, "Ja, claro que no bién. De hecho, mal. Hay muchos espacios, muchos partes de los surcos sin guano, y hay que llenar espacios vacíos en más o menos cada surco." "Definitely not good. Bad, in fact. There're a lot of spaces, lots of these tilled lines don't have fertilizer, and we're going to need to fill in spaces in pretty much every row." I said it pretty snappishly. I wasn't put off that they weren't following directions: today was the last day of afternoon work this week and I wanted it to be done. And I didn't want to look like I wasn't being a good supervisor. So yeah, I was taking the work too personally, and so my anger had nothing to do with the kids. Dang it. Again. So I followed up by saying, "You know, it's manageable, but just pass the word on to be a little more careful and deliberate, please. I'll take care of stuff here if you guys move on to the next vineyard." Small gesture for being in such a foul mood, but it's a start.
But see, then I got angry again when Walther and Wilson started playing. They always play when they're together. They're very athletic and so I can understand having energy, but...dang it, we have to finish this this afternoon, there's plenty of work to do, it's not too hot, and why can't you be as good workers as you were in the other vineyard? They didn't answer because I didn't ask. It's a very different life than that to which I'm accustomed, so I supposed when you have fun is different, too...but when I saw them later after I'd hauled sacks of manure for them to fill (note: hauling the sacks is much harder than pouring them out, in my opinion), and they were huddled around much as a similar group was two days before, I asked them a little too sharply why they were just sitting around when there was work to be done that really, actually HAD to be done today (as they'll be gone tomorrow and the whole weekend and we were kinda late in fertilizing the vines). Poco a poco, pienso. Slowly but surely, I'll learn patience, if I can give myself the chance to breath before reacting and learn to cut myself out of the equation, as I very rarely belong in it with as much emphasis as I give myself (consciously or unconsciously).
Self-honesty is a terrific thing. Painful sometimes, but...well...worth it. I'm missing Esto Vir a bit right now.
Three small stories. First one happened tonight:
-A kid at my dinner table asked me about Paris Hilton, and if I thought she was beautiful. I responded, "No, because ever since Scott Nye said she reminded him of a pterodactyl, I can't think of anything other than how accurate a description that is. Plus, the whole adult film portion of her life choices really is a turnoff." The kid was very surprised to hear that she'd been in adult films. He then voiced his desire to be an adult film actor. I have yet to determine the proper course of action to quell this desire.
-Monday, while moving chickens, Berra (one of the older guys) was holding a sack into which I was placing hens. He dropped the sack and was going to pick it up when a hen leaped out and sprinted away. There was a pause as we considered said chicken, and afterward, he said, "Sh..." (but he said the whole word. I'm now not sure who's reading my blog, and I don't want parents mad at me. Though after the story about adult films, maybe this is a moot point). Berra had never spoken any English to me before. He has yet to say anything else in English aside from "Finished" when our work in the morning is done. I want to now how he learned that.
-So after my description of people I find attractive here in Perú, I feel it necessary to say that I'm really not feeling in the mood to pursue anything of a romantic nature (much to the astonishment and puzzlement of the kids in San Juan). That being said...
One of my kids has a sister who is my age. He introduced me to her at the beginning of September, so I deem it appropriate to greet her when I see her. At the Aniversario, I was talking with Bradish (the 12-year-old who looks 8 who is now my godson) and his family when she and her family walk by. I nod to her younger brother and then to her and smile. She smiles back, but then she keeps looking at me. Then keeps looking at me. She does not freaking stop looking at me as she walks along. Perhaps people more adept at social interactions would have picked up that the changed expression was one of flirtatious interest long before I did, but I think we all know that I sort of fall into situations and take a while to realize what's going on. I swear, I wouldn't know I was drowning until I was about to die. Anyway, so after finally realizing she was looking at me with interest (the longish hair and beard aren't repelling enough. THAT's why I've been working with chickens! To complete the woman-repelling ensemble!), I successfully avoided her the rest of the day.
Sometimes I have to wonder if the chickens are smarter than I am.
"I shall strike the Farmer and the chickens will scatter. But it'll actually be significant, even though the chickens scatter at pretty much everything."...yeah, definitely better off with sheep.