So…let me start with one anecdote before I transition into the real story for this update. I went to one of my Escojo Mi Vida group meetings yesterday, and it was just too much fun not to share. I currently have three functioning Escojo Mi Vida groups, and let’s be honest, I’m not really planning on starting any more. That’s enough for me, on top of everything else I’ve got going on. One of the groups is only 7 people. It’s a small group, but they’re a hoot. Everytime we get together, we end up laughing so hard and having a rowdy good time. We get through the charlas, the teens are extremely attentive and participate well. They ask great questions, and have such little “verguenza”. These guys and gals ask questions about sex that I don’t know if I’d even be comfortable asking my friends back home. And they genuinely trust me that I have the answers. Sometimes, I feel like my powers of molding these 15 and 16 year-olds’ sex lives is a little uncanny. But hey, as long as I’m providing healthy advice, there’s no harm…right?
Regardless, we ended up having this particular meeting at one of the members’ houses because it is located a little bit closer to La Culata, and with the rain every afternoon, Yanelys and I wanted to be able to make it back home if it looked like rain.
We got together, and this week was actually just a working meeting to prepare a presentation for the “Taller de Orientacion” that I’ve been planning for a while. This particular group is in charge of running the charla, “What is Escojo?” (I’ve placed other groups in charge of themes such as “HIV/AIDS” and “Values/Decision Making”). So we were all chilling around a table in Milaidy’s enramada when Kilvania started asking me about my christmas plans. I explained that since this was really only my second christmas ever, I’d be spending it with my family in La Culata before heading back to New York for New Years with my American family. This led to a lengthy discussion about Judaism. All of the group’s members were fascinated, and for the first time since I’ve been in this country, amazingly receptive, knowledgeable and understanding about the concept of someone having a different religion. We ended the discussion with a smooth transition into places of the world that we’d like to explore and our favorite hair products to use…(I use none. In fact they nearly died when I informed them that I wash my hair with a simple bar of soap).
So yeah, I just love my youth groups…when we’re doing work and when we’re just hanging out. Will it be weird when I head back to the states and seek out groups of 15 year olds to hang out with? I’m pretty sure people get arrested, or at least put on watch for that kind of thing.
So the real story in this update…probably would also get me put on a watch-list back in New York. Today I had yet another installment of “Chicos Superman” my male youth group in La Culata for boys between the ages of 9 and 14. These guys are unruly, and usually end up making me tear some of my hair out by the end of our meetings. As I think I mentioned in an earlier update, we watch episodes of Planet Earth and talk about environmentalism during our meetings because that’s about the only thing that they seem to get interested in.
We were watching “Jungles” today, marveling at flesh-eating fungi, giant trees, elephants, dancing birds and gorillas. I had a moment. The group huddled on my cement floor (the boys lost chair privileges after a previous incident), in the dark since the electricity went out and the house was all closed up since it was raining. On my left side, I had a 9 year-old boy cuddled up in my arms, and on my lap a 10 year-old. One was holding my hand and the other was stroking my hair. I sat surrounded by 7 other little boys, all glued to the computer screen, straining to hear the narrator as motorcycles and roosters made a ruckus outside. I had to remind myself where I was 16 months ago, and where I’m at now. Some tears came to my eyes. I smiled. And then I focused on the gorillas again.
It was pretty nice.