September 30, 2009

High tide, Low tide

This week started with a crazy Monday.

Work was awesome at the clinic- I am starting to balance the work in the office with hanging our with the patients. I have been learning how to play dominos and have been holding my own at checkers. I am really starting to get to know them, hear their stories, where they are from, learn about their families, what they did for a living, and how they came here. I have been laughing a lot there- old men are inherently funny.

As I was walking back to my house after work, a couple of kids ran up to me telling me that they saw me on TV. Yes, two months in, and I have already been on Ecuatorian TV. The main channel in Guayaqiul had a story on Damien House on the 8am news, and I had about 10 seconds on air, talking with one of my new friends. For the rest of the day, several neighbors came up to me and shared the news. At Semillas- the same thing. It seemed that everyone saw that clip except for me! You could say I walked around the rest of the day, with a bit of a grin on my face.

That grin was wiped off of my face pretty quickly, at Semillas, when Lupita came running over to me during recess, with Abraham (4 year old children who comes everyday with a big smile) craddled in her arms like David Hasselhoth coming out of the surf. Blood was everywhere.
Let me first describe Abraham, older sister Carmen (9yrs), and older Brother Luis(6yrs). Every day for work, when I am about 30 yards from Semillas. The two boys come running at me, full speed, arms literally wide open, with smiles cheek to cheek. They take a leap of faith and demand to be lifted in the air. Their smiles never break. They do this everyday, it never get old for them. This literally happen every time I pass by their house, even at night. I plan to spend 5 minutes on my way past their house. Then, when I need to leave, they sit on my feet, one on each leg, then I walk , step by step, with two children having laughung. After one helps me pry another off, along with their sister, they yell RUN!!! and I literally have to run away from them. They are the happiest kids, and the craziest I have ever met.

Back to the story....

Abraham fell off the swingset and split his head wide open. We laid him on a table in our outdoor classroom to clean the wound. We had water are cotton balls. He was screaming for about 5 minutes until he calmed down, and the blood had stopped flowing. His ScoobyDoo shirt and shorts were drenched in blood. It was a long five minutes.

After the immediate emergency was over, his older brother and sister came in the room (6,9 yrs). The faces will filled with worry. The whole family started crying. We tried to calm them down, after all, the blood had stopped- the worst part was over.

It was only the begining. The worst part was yet to come. The worried look on their faces was not over the well being of their younger brother, but about the parents. Papi va me paga. Over and over again. They were going to get hit for this accident. All of them.

There is really nothing you can say to a child. I was frozen with fear. I couldnt say a word. It was not going to be OK. I could not tell them that it would be alight. I had no control. I sat there for another 15 minutes, feeding them water, holding their hands, in silence. Lupita went home to wash the white shirt that turned red.

Not having any idea what would happen to them, a couple of us walked to their house to explain the situation to the parents. We walked across the dirt road holding hands, we would be there for supprt, and as we got closer to their house, the grips tightened with fear.

The father was lying on the hammock in their cane house. Chickens, chicks, dogs, and cats were scurrying around the room. Lupita, the other volunteer and another older Ecuadorian, my buddy Tyrone, explained what happened- then they left. I didnt get a word in by this point, and I felt I had a lot to say. Surely if I talk to the father, man to man, he would calm down and not hit his three children for this, surely. After all, it was an accident.

When I was alone with the children and parents. I got about a sentence in before the father pleaded his case to me. He was young. He explained to me that his kids were loco. They bother him all the time. They are high maintanance and just run around and play all the time. They dont listen. He kept eye contact the whole time as he complained to me about how difficult his children were.

When I finally got a chance to speak, I started complimenting his kids. Translated - I love to have you kids at Semillas. They is very nice, kind, friendly. happy. Carmen very smart at lesson today. Very inteligent. Very nice kids you have. I love having your kids at our program. Very nice kids. Very kind. Very happy. I dont speak well, sorry, i wish I speak better, i cant explain.

My broken Spanish went on for a while. When it finally ran out, the father, knowing exactly why I was there, then showed me his whip. It looked like two King Cobra tails put together, about a yard in length.

No estoy en acceurdo- I said. He replied, Solo dos veces.

I asked the fathers name, Daniel?! Yo tambien!!! A firm handshake and then he broke his first smile. I went back to my compliments. Surely the more I complimented the children, the easier he would take it upon his children with the cobra tails. If I compliment enough, I thought, he might not even use it. I must have repeated myself this time, but I did not want to leave. The children were looking up to me, eating their bananas that we give out at the end of the day. They were worried, but calmed down at this point. I saw a couple of smiles when I said that the oldest daughter was smart. I continued, the boys are young, they are growing, I was loco as a child too, they will be smart como their sister. I really like having your kids at Semillas....

Then the father walked me out. I left and it was a very pensive walk home. Did I do anything to help these kids out? A very pensive shower. I tried lying to myself, surely those compliments did something. I had to move on from what had just happend-I was in a rush because I was invited to a play in Guayquil, with my coworker and other volunteer, but really, friends at Damien House.

The three of us were all dressed up and the evening was great. I got picked up, and we talked about me being on TV. They couldnt believe that a kid, who just started speaking Spanish, who had been in the country for 2 months, was on TV and speaking Spanish to a patient at Damien House. I guess it is pretty funny. When went out after the play, that I couldnt understand, and I had my first hamburger in 2 months. Words cannot describe it.

After I went home, I couldnt stop thinking about Abraham. When the blood had stopped, I asked him if he wanted to go home, and be with his mother who was home. He said no. He didnt want to go home. His mother wouldnt react like mine. Instead of comfort, there would be consequences. I couldnt stop thinking about the situation.

I am so grateful for the home I was born in.


Gisele said...

What a tough situation!! I can't wait to hear about the outcome!
Some kids have to deal with such horrific experiences. It's especially hard when they have fear about their homes. We adults do not always realize our impact on children. You did the best you could. Remember, you can only control your behavior, you can not control others. Like in the USA, parents all over the world would benefit from lessons on parenting. Abraham's dad is probably doing the best he can. It makes you wonder, what might happen if more young parents were given support and intervention.
On the positive side, I bet you will always remember this situation and hopefully it will impact your parenting when you have kids of your own.
By the way, you were not so "loco" as a kid. But noone there has to know that!
I love you so much! Mom

Yvette said...

Hey Dan,
What a great story. You are all heart and God bless you for all the good you are doing. Keep up the wonderful spirit. Surely there are days when it is most difficult to do so!
love you, Aunt Yvette

Brian said...

Dan - what a vivid story you tell. I think you handled the situation incredibly well. It's all about perspective, and sometimes people just have none, and need someone to recalibrate their mindset. Sounds like you did just that...good stuff.

On another note, I'm getting VERY excited about our trip to see you. This morning I received my final round of vaccines - Yellow Fever and Hep A - so according to the doctor I AM READY TO GO. (She also lectured me on all the things I cannot eat, drink, etc...when I said "not even lettuce on a sandwich?" she replied, "WHAT DID I SAY!? NO SALAD...AT ALL!" She's also concerned you aren't on malaria prevention pills...that's another story.)

Take care and keep up the amazing work.