Thoughts from the Roof

I’ve found myself on the roofs of buildings quite often over the last few months. The view from Auntie Alice’s roof was great, and I loved to watch life in Ghana from that vantage point. Here in Huánuco, the space to do laundry at my host mom’s house is on the roof. Saturday mornings find me scrubbing socks and shirts by hand and then hanging them out to dry. While I’ll certainly be happy to see some washing machines and dryers in the spring, I enjoy the quiet time on the roof every Saturday.

In the midst of the suds and jamming to the Peruvian music blasting from the soccer field next door, I can’t help but make a few observations. Huánuco is built in a valley, and the Andes Mountains wrap all around this little town. Built on the sides of these mountains are small, simple houses. Almost haphazardly, they make their way up, carving a small space out of the green landscape. Some are colorfully painted with political slogans; while others are just the earthen brown of the bricks of which they are made. At night, a few of these houses can be spotted by their small lights, but not the majority. Indoor plumbing is an unknown luxury. The rates of crime, alcoholism and abuse are high, and they are linked to the poverty in which the owners of these homes live.

These are the neighborhoods most of the kids at the shelter call home. Their houses are on the side of the mountains, a steep and winding journey away from where I do my laundry every Saturday. As I washed my clothes this weekend, I thought about how important it was to make that realization.

To a certain extent, kids are kids no matter where you are. It would be impossible to determine the difference between a thirteen year old’s eye roll in the States and the ones I see on a weekly basis. I’ve settled an argument over whose turn it was to wash the dishes and who had to sweep the floor. But, even in the midst of this universal “kidness”, I can’t forget the closest I’ve ever gotten to these kids’ lives is on the roof doing laundry. I’ve read about women walking to wells to get water for their families. I’ve thought about how difficult it would be to study without lights after the sun went down. But, that’s never been my life. Not having those experiences, but rather having a completely different set of experiences, shapes how I see the world. It impacts how I solve problems and how I generally go about my day. In the same sense, the way these kids have grown up influences how they see the world. Keeping in mind that we’re coming from two different perspectives is important. I’ve caught myself thinking more times than I care to admit, “If they’d just do it this way, it would be so much easier.” However, it’s important to remember that I’m just beginning to get a sense of what life is like, while the kids have known it since the day they were born. It’s definitely a work in progress. Thankfully, I have a few more weekends in Peru left to think on the roof and then go into communities.

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