Everythings going really well here in Arbolito, Im starting to settle into my 2 jobs. But even more so, Im starting to set into the community here.
Last Friday, after Semillas (my afterschool placement) got out, I was invited to Joseph´s house, one of the older kids at my program. When we came to the house there were already some kids juggling a soccer ball outside on the unpaved road. I jumped in the juggling circle and if you screwed up, you had to leave the circle and wait for the next game. I somehow managed to stay in for at least a couple rounds, until two of the younger kids came out with a large spool of netting (used to hold chickens). After they cut the netting with rocks, they handed it to me and asked me to tie one side to their bamboo fence, and the other side, across the dirt road, to the metal cage covering their neighbor´s window. A volleyball net.
The 9 of us played with 3 teams of 3, first team to 5 points wins. The games were so much fun. This kids were screaming words that I couldnt understand and really getting into it. I was just playing, only able to communicate with my phrase ¨bien hecho¨meaning well done and a couple of high 5´s. Despite the unpaved road littered with ash, rocks, and trash. the children were even more inclined to dive or slide for the ball. They liked getting dirty. They like to play hard here. Maybe it was because I was about 7 years older than everyone else, or a couple feet taller, but my team didnt lose. Amazingly, out net only needed to be retied once. As the sun set, I went inside Joseph´s house to meet his family.
Inside the bamboo fence, there is a yard about 9x9, cluttered with laundry lines, dogs, cats, piles of concrete and stone, and everything you could imagine except for grass. I ducked my way into his home where he lives with 2 sisters, a younger brother, and his mother. There home is one room. There are 4 beds, 2 of which are bunked. The kitchen is a table at the foot of the beds and a stove. There is no sink, because there is no running water. They carry it in in giant barrels that are filled weakly by water trucks. The only privacy that is offered is the tapestry blocking off the bathroom. No window screes. There were holes in the tin roof. Mosquito nets hung over every bed. Diplomas hung from the brick walls. The space is small, so as I took my first step in, I could see his whole family. I met most of his siblings at Semillas, so I really only met his mother this night. Maybe it was because I had no other choice, but when I entered the house, I could speak Spanish. I dont know how to explain it, but I just understood what was going on. They only way to describe Joseph´s family is that they are warm. They all have great laughs and were patient with my language. I dont know why, but in their one room house, I felt at home.
I ended up going back to Joseph´s after mass on Sunday to learn how make Secco de Pollo (rice and chicken) with his mother and sister. MEAT. As volunteers, with our $60 a week food allowance (for all to share), we can´t really afford to eat meat. So, needless to say, I was very excited for this meal. Further, I was even more excited to hang out with this family again. Before the food, they insisted I try a couple of fruits that I didnt want to. When in Rome. I helped to cook by chopping up some veggies and stirring the food. The meal was great, but the conversation was better. It was one of those moments that you cant really explain, but I felt so fulfilled. I could just hang out, crack jokes, and meet a family.
I would ask questions about them as they showed me pictures. And then they would ask ¨Whats your home like¨ What do your parents do for work¨ ¨Your have ALL brothers!?¨ ¨Your girlfriend is from Hawaii?! ¨What did you and your friends do during college and for the summers?!¨ Their interest was so genuine and their eyes lit up to hear about my life. And I would try my best to answer the questions, telling them about the woods in NH and how I can only see my neighbors house in the winter, and how much snow there is, and how many trees there and animals there are and about the lake I grew up on during the summers. We spent the afternoon sharing experiences, and after, we watched a movie together. During the movie I was starting to get tired, and I looked around. Everyone was sleeping. It was about 2pm in the afternoon, so I said fuck it, and took a nap with them.
I woke up from the nap, just in time for the end of the movie, and left with Joseph and his buddy Jairon, to lift weights at a gym about a mile away. The gym had equipment from the 70´s and was hotter than hell. They stayed alot longer than I wanted to. But it did cost 50cents to enter, and they wanted to get there moneys worth. The things I took for granted are really starting to pile up now.
It was a great Sunday- I got to meet this wonderful family in my community, eat chicken, and get some excercise. Josephs mother complimented me by saying I was ¨bien tranquilo¨ By having the opportunity to tell my story to them, about my family and culture, I felt like I was meeting my family, just as much as I was meeting theirs.