Thursday, January 29, 2009


Here is the church in the main plaza in Cusco. If you look to the right you can see writing on the mountain that says something about Peru, I haven´t quite gotten the whole thing yet.

These are the people I spend most of my free time with. Dave from Australia and Laura from Michigan. I did her the great disservice in a past post of saying she is from Minnesota. She is from the UP in Michigan. I have loved almost every Michigander I have ever known and she is no exception. Also Dave is great and I feel like I am learning yet another foreign language.

Here we are in outside games class. They are playing a form of dodgeball, and of course, being "profe" and not quite knowing the rules, I was one of the first ones "out".

Here I am with Adear, not that you can see him because I was tickling him, but he is my most challenging and delightful kid at the school. I actually kicked him not only out of class yesterday, but out of school. We are doing English classes and our group has been given "family members" to learn and do a presentation on on Friday. All the kids have been drawing representations of people - grandma, mother, sister, etc. but Aldear just wanted to draw a fire truck. So we compromised and decided that grandpa could be a fireman and there could be a fire truck on the page. Well, he wouldn´t draw grandpa, only the fire truck. So the next day (yesterday) we finally had a fight about him drawing grandpa. If he would draw grandpa larger than an inch tall, he could keep working on his fire truck. This went on for a while, at least five different conversations and I finally told him that he could either draw grandpa or leave class, that if he colored on his fire truck one more time before working on grandpa, that he would have to leave class. He looked me straight in the eyes and colored on his fire truck. So I picked him up and took him out of class and we talked about it again. "you have two choice, either to go inside and work on grandpa, or go home." Well, much to my surprise he decided to go home. Then I felt aweful. But it really seemed like the only thing left. Remember that he is just a shit every chance he gets. So I was pleased to see him back in school today and made a point of telling him I was glad he was there and that I wasn´t mad at him.
He behaved much better today. I went over to him at one point and he was working on the firetruck and not grandpa so I took off my watch and told him that he had seven minutes - until the big hand was on the 10 to work on the firetruck, then he needed to draw grandpa, and he immediately drew grandpa, colors and all and came over and showed me and asked if he could work on the fire truck now. I was really proud of us both. So there is a story of me and Aldear.

Here is Aldear and the fire truck and grandpa. I think it turned out rather well, all things considered.

I wish I could feel comfortable taking the camera to the jail. As it turns out, I am really enjoying the jail. I think it has to do with loving an underdog. Loving someone who doesn´t know how to be trusted and loved. Until going to the jail, I would have thought it was the kids at the school. But that is not the case. At first, I hated it. I just wanted out. All I could see was the yelling and hitting and kicking and biting and pushing and all the violence and horrible things. But over the course of the week, you learn to see the backdrop to it. The kids that have just been abandoned or are orphans and are there because there is no where else to go. There is a kid who has been there three weeks and he is young and shy and sweet but he is just there because of being abandoned and his family is in a small rural town and they don´t know where he is so they can´t come get him from the jail and they wont release him until his family comes to get him. We are trying to work this out for him, but the police are just being kind of buttheads about it. It is so sad to see him there, knowing he should be out. Then there are kids, especially girls, who don´t want out, that things are so bad for them at home, they would rather be in the relative safety of the jail. And that safety is relative, let me tell you. But I guess at least they aren´t being raped in jail. Mostly. That´s hard to wrap your head around, cause jail sucks. That it would be better than home is amazing to me.

The other kinds of things I am seeing is that the kids really actually take care of each other. Even though they punch each other in the process. For example with breakfast, there is a big fight about the cast off bread they get every morning, establishing alpha dog status. But once that is established, the older kids made sure that the younger kids get enough to eat and such. It´s just a big show at first.

Also today a little kid was dropped off, no older than three. He exhibited all the classic signs of autism and couldn´t speak and mostly didn´t engage with anyone. But if you took the trouble to even clap hands with him and say "hola" over and over, he would just giggle and giggle. But he would also climb up onto the top bunks and over to the windows and places dangerous for him. The other kids, while not engaging him or being sweet in any way, would always go get him and keep him out of harm´s way and make sure he had food. So even in the middle of this really shitty situation they find themselves in, they are so human and so good that I am falling in love. More and more each day.


  1. Hey darlin. I noticed that you called it specifically JAIL several times. But the kids aren't criminals (yet) are they? Is it more like a reform hall or juvenal detention center or is it literally, actually a jail. Armed guards, cells and such. At any rate you look incredibly happy and that makes ME happy! Keep up the good work and I LOVE YOU!!!

  2. Well, it's all a little different here. Maybe more like a juvenal detention center, though they call it jail. Some of the kids are just abandoned and stuck there til something else can be figured out and some of them have been picked up for stealing or prostitution or fighting. But they are all mixed up together. The kids are in a corner all together in two rooms and the adults are in a different part.There are armed guards outside the rooms that the kids share and they are definitely not allowed to the answer is that I guess I don't know.

  3. I am so proud of you, MJ. What an incredible experience. You know your friends and life will always welcome you back if and when you need it. In the meantime, you are making connection and hopefully improving some lives...if only for a while. I love reading your progress and look forward to hearing more. What an exciting story!