Last week I brought three of my best (or as some volunteers decided; least evil) muchachos to the Brigada Verde conference. They were all either 11 or 12 years old and had never really traveled outside of the barrio or Constanza. It didn’t really hit me how different our worlds are until we met up with the other volunteers participating in the conference at a mall in Santiago. The kids I brought had never been in a mall and very clearly had never seen an escalator before. This was made clear by the fact that as the other kids sat patiently at the tables in the food court my muchachos were doing laps on the escalators. I limited them to five laps because anything more than that I consider excessive. They were full of questions as we walked through the mall; they asked me if this mall was what America was like. I told them, yeah, pretty much.
When we got to the site I realized that this was the first time the muchachos had been away from home and their families for more than a few hours. By the time we got to the camp they had each told me to call their mom and to tell them they were ok and see how the family was. I tried calling each of the three moms but none of the phone calls went through. I am pretty sure the moms just made up phone numbers to call. It also must have been one of the first times these kids had been in an “all you can eat” type of setting because the three of them ate more than their 15 and 16 year old counterparts by a couple of plates each meal. At one point one of the other volunteers asked me, “those kids are eating so much, do you not feed these children?” I responded by reminding her that they are not my children and actually they usually end up eating half my food anyway (which makes you feel warm and fuzzy the first 10 times but after a while gets pretty annoying. Last night I was eating an egg and a knock-off croissant (they call it “shrimp bread”) for dinner and one of the muchachos climbed up to my window to yell “Cristofer comparte!” Which translates to “Christopher, share!” It was the Naked Kid and I told him a few days ago that I am not going to share with him anymore because when I gave him a cup of soda he didn’t share any of it with his older brother like I told him, so let me eat my “shrimp bread” and egg in peace).
As for other firsts, I think they discovered girls at the conference because Joel caught them trying to spy on the girl’s cabin through the keyhole. He put them in “time out” probably for the first time in their lives (versus being hit with a shoe, known as the pow pow) and we discussed who was going to be the bad cop. I, for the first time, didn’t have to be bad cop and the muchachos were lectured briefly why they have to respect other people’s privacy. After sitting in time out for twenty minutes I told them that they could go to bed, at about 10 PM, which was probably a first because they usually stay up playing outside until about 11 PM, in front of my house.
On the way back we got a free ride from a Peace Corps vehicle and were sitting in the back of a Toyota Land Cruiser that had the cool military style seating where we face each other and sit along the sides. Because the trip back home was a bit of a trek we left fairly early (around 11 AM) and because we paid for lunch breakfast and a snack for Sunday, the kids were given all three of these meals before 11 AM. The road back was curvy and the driver was speeding like he was in a hurry. 2 of my three muchachos threw up and 1 of Malia’s two muchachos threw up. Her kid filled a shopping bag. Being around vomit in a tightly packed van on a 5 hour road trip, not a first.