This blog has nothing to do with the opening paragraph, but I have to tell you what I just ate for dinner: a fried egg, fried cheese, and fried yucca accompanied by Coke. No…really. I kind of grossed out, too! This is a very typical meal here, but I’m definitely craving some vitamins and anticipating a heart attack.
Also, I’ll give you the update on the banana smoothie. This morning it was looking promising. We had one banana left that was nearing the peak time to blend amidst the milky delicious concoction that would soon become a little taste of heaven. However, as I ate lunch with my family today, my host mom placed in front of me that little banana…fried. I didn’t think it was possible either, especially since there are so many other fruits here that are very similar to bananas. But alas…this was my little banana of hope, sitting fried on a plate in front of me. I’m dropping hints…I’ll keep you in the loop of how it’s going!
It was another day at NCUE and everything was going so well. This was my second day working with the kids, but I already have instant friends. Even walking down the streets in Cien Fuegos, kids will run up from behind shouting my name and give me a big hug and start walking with me. The whole community knows we are helping with NCUE, even if they aren’t in the program. I loved walking along and seeing familiar faces avoiding mud puddles and ditches all along this dirt road. The kids are so loving and so giving and only want to be your friend.
I turned the corner to the front of NCUE and saw the line of little green polos waiting anxiously for the gate to be opened. Immediately I was immersed in a sea of hugs and name shouts and a little boy came up to me and gave me an “Aguilucho” bracelet. These kids have such a joy and I am so glad that I get to see their world.
What has really messed with my head though is how both days have started. As soon as we get inside the gates preparing to get into lines, a fight breaks out. I’m not talking about your average “Well, she took my pencil!” fights. These are legitimate fist fights with so much anger behind them you can hear the punches being thrown into the other child’s back. They have started next to me both times and I have had to break them up. Today’s fight was in the homework classroom when the teacher was gone. I was helping a table of boys start their homework (slash learn English words because that is all they want to do) and a fight broke out between two boys at the far table. Also in this classroom with me were about three youth who also help out around NCUE. They didn’t do anything about it. I didn’t want to be the bad guy on literally day two, but I couldn’t let it go on. It is also a lot harder to be serious when you are flustered and can’t get the Spanish words out of your mouth. I know there were a lot of “ey, ey, ey”s. I tried talking to one of the boys after breaking it up to kind of cool his jets and not trust me for the rest of the semester, but he gave me the cold shoulder. (Scarily similar to things I have seen in the United States). I’m left wondering why the youth didn’t do anything about it. Did they not think it was their place to do anything? Were they waiting to see what I would do? Is this just a normal thing that gets left not talked about?
These kids come from really poor backgrounds. I’ve walked their streets, but I have never lived their lives. I’ve never had to worry about not having water or where my next meal will come from. I’ve never had to constantly smell garbage or lose a family member to being run over by a garbage truck while he was working in the dump to try to support his family. I’ve never had to play with trash as my only source of a toy or wash my hair in the middle of the street with a cup of water. These kids are carrying so much in their lives and they come to NCUE for support, love, and safety. NCUE provides a guaranteed snack of milk and bread so these kids know they will have food. The youth are just the kids from the program who grew up. They are carrying just as much, if not more, than these kids. Maybe it is normal for this community so you can justify it, but does it make it right? I take into consideration that these kids have lives that have such a dark lens, but these are NCUE…kids with hope. I hope I grow to understand a bit more about every aspect of this community.
One of the biggest victories I was incredibly blessed to witness today was in the middle of a little boy’s homework. His name is Miguel. Miguel spent a solid 30 minutes drilling me on Spanish and English words. I had to say both alphabets, numbers, seasons, and every other random word he could think of. I also had to make the sound a rooster makes to prove that I understood what he was saying. I may have said the Spanish alphabet a little too fast because I didn’t realize they were still learning it themselves. I was in the fourth grade classroom and just assumed they knew, but again, it is a completely different world out here. Education is completely different here and there are many who are not able to read or write. I think he finally accepted that I was pretty aware of everything they were saying and he reluctantly began his math homework. He was doing subtraction with 3-digit numbers and needed some help. In my very broken Spanish, I did my best to try and help him. It took about 2 problems and he finally understood! I think I used some pretty elementary explanations like “Look! The 2 asks the 0, ‘hey, can I borrow some of you so I can take care of my neighbor below me?’” I know, it sounds lame, but it was all I could think of in Spanish in the moment! 0 was the most difficult because you had to borrow from two places over first, and then take away from it again. That was really hard to get across, but it was SUCH a victory. I can’t tell you how good it felt to see him succeed. One more little boy in that community can subtract three digit numbers. It is a great day indeed.
Every day is great; I mean really, I live on a tropical island in the second happiest country in the world. How could every day not be great?