Sunday, June 27, 2010

Rest in Peace, MJ

Time flies when you're having fun I guess.

Things are going great with the girls. The eight I primarily work with because they have so much difficulty (academically and behaviorly) in school are inching ahead. Their teachers have been noticing changes and a few are completely caught up in several subjects. They're controling themselves better in class, taking responsibility for their work, and expressing themselves in much healthier ways. It feels great to have been a part of that. The women here in charge of seeing that the girls get their chores done, wash their clothes, get from here to there on time, etc have asked me to try my hand at applying similar methods to their chores and responsibilities in the hogar with these eight and possibly a few others. It's interesting to be able to show some of the people here that a little positive attention, well planned rewards and consequences, and helping the girls to think through their decisions and emotions (before or after, depending) goes a really long way. Realistically I'm working with the eight most difficult grade-schoolers in the hogar and things are improving. I hope no one ever gives up on any of these girls, they're wonderful and have the capacity to show that to everyone! Not to mention how obviously better they feel about themselves now that they're doing better in school and expressing themselves in healthier ways. Don't get me wrong, it's still really tough some days. First graders throwing two hour screaming tantrums, fourth graders breaking pencils and throwing flashcards, girls directly refusing to participate in anything for the day...or week. But things really are improving and it's so exciting for all of us. It's really tough though, to see the girls make such improvements, to become so darn lovable, and have no one take a real interest. Some girls have family that never comes to see them but they still say things like "I'm going to save my division test to show my dad!" or "I'm going to keep practicing this book and read it to my aunt!" But they spend day after day in the same room with me and I realize that, in some cases, I'm filling that role for them too. And one day I'll be gone also. Ouch.

This week has been a great one. Jerica, the volunteer who was finishing up her year as I arrived, came back to visit and brought two of her friends. They're a blast to have around. We made cheesesteaks for the sisters a few days ago, which was hilllarious. Wednesday and Thursday we celebrated Dia de Saun Juan Baptista, the primary festival in Itocta, so the school and church and field between the two was filled with vendors and carnival games and trampolines and fooseball tables. We had about five masses over the course of two days (an unheard of amount for a community that has no permanent priest), and danced danced danced as different bands and dance troups came through to perform. I also learned that "well, I have to get back to my daughters" doesn't startle drunk men (even from Holland) as much as your average Joe, unfortunately.

The next day I went to dance class at night and as we were warming up my teacher stormed in to the room and yelled "Go change! We're going to the Michael Jackson concert!" Everyone left running and squealing to the dressing rooms and a few minutes later we were in La Plaza de Banderas, which was filled with people who had come to, as the banners around the city declared, "pay homage to the king." A few groups performed tributes to Michael Jackson until finally THE MJ impersonator of Bolivia came out to perform. Well, really just dance around and occasionally forget to move his mouth to the music. It was a blast to spend some time outside of class with my friends and hillarious to watch them sing along to music they didn't understand at all. I translated a few things but I think after translating Billy Jean we decided the music was kind of more fun when you didn't understand it. It may be helpful to add here that the people in my studio are absolutely MJ fanatics. When he died, they did an entire tribute show downtown. The last show they had, a few months ago, was half jazz half Michael Jackson and their program gives a long introduction which begins by announcing the impact of "one incredible man" who "was criticized by some but adored by many," whose "choreograph was precise and awe-inspiring" and whose "videos were small works of art." It ends the suspense simply by announcing "we are speaking, obviously, of Michael Jackson." Naturally. So I spent a great night with some friends in the city, listening to them sing along to songs they didn't understand and pretending to be deeply sympathetic to their, aparently, still fairly raw grief.

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