Last night, around , I was sitting at my kitchen table reading some articles on the
At this exciting point in my evening two men came two the door and started speaking Spanish. After introductions and brief formalities I soon became lost and said, “No hablo mucho espanol,” (I don’t speak much Spanish). One of the men excitedly responded, in English, “I’m an American!” They told me they just moved in across the street and were having trouble getting internet. So, invited them in and told them how I got my internet. They asked what I’m doing here and I had a chance to explain my work with the kids a bit; to which they were very receptive.
Their story is quite interesting. One man, Carlos, is a massage therapist who works with professional athletes. He asked if I was a baseball fan and told me that his nephew, Jesse, is a writer for mlb.com and is also staying across the street. I then explained my interest in both journalism and sports. Carlos then brought Jesse over and the three of us chatted while they used my internet.
It turns out they are living across the street with one of Carlos’ clients, Vicente Padilla, a pitcher for the Texas Rangers. So, yes, one of my new neighbors is a professional baseball player. After talking here for a bit they asked me if I wanted to meet Vicente. Of course I did, so we walked over to his house and I had a chance to say hi.
I really enjoyed talking with Jesse and Carlos. Jesse provided me with some helpful advice on succeeding in journalism and told me some interesting stories about his work. They were both supportive of my work here and told me they would introduce me to Vicente’s assistant, who runs his foundation, before I leave on Friday. They said there is a chance Vicente might want to help out, since he is Nicaraguan, too.
Today was pretty much a continuation of yesterday in terms of emotion; both good and bad, gifts, good times, lots of hugs, and a photo shoot. I met with Carlos before lunch to teach him how to use the digital camera I am leaving with him. We also separated the school supplies we bought last week at the market by family before heading out to meet everyone and pass them out.
Our lunch was very wonderful. The kids, realizing it was our last trip to Pollo Campero, were even more energetic than usual. I would guess that I received upwards of 150 hugs today and only slightly fewer requests for the biggest chicken breast or more soda. There was some drama between the two moms who are twins, with one initially refusing to come, but after awhile everybody calmed down and enjoyed themselves. The kids gave me gifts for Nefret and Emily. I think it’s so cute how the girls put so much time into making beautiful pictures and letters for them.
During lunch one of the mothers told me that the older kids can’t use the notebooks we bought for them. I saw her point, as the notebooks were small and seemed more appropriate for younger kids. So, after lunch I bought 24 High School Musical notebooks for the older kids. I told the kids I would bring other notebooks tomorrow but decided to surprise them this afternoon. By the reception the notebooks received one would think I gave them each a new bike or something.
After handing out the notebooks I walked to the bus stop along with 5 of the kids. We were joking and hanging out when I heard someone ask, in English, “Hey man, how’ve you been?” I turned to see a man who I met a long time ago, maybe in early November, across the street in front of Metrocentro. At the time he introduced himself to me as an activist trying to collect money to stop the eviction of people from an HIV/AIDS patient house. In November I thought that he was a bit odd, and was further warned when the kids told me not to talk with him. Today I got the impression that he might be a drug addict by the way he carried himself and spoke.
Within seconds of his arrival the kids told me, loud enough for him to hear, that he was a robber and further implored me to stop talking with him. The man, understandably, didn’t like what the kids had to say and they started exchanging verbal barbs. I didn’t know what to say so I just repeated, “No!” at an ever-increasing volume. The man started to walk away but turned back and kicked Ninoska, who was leading the insult attack. She quickly picked up a small rock and threw it at him as he tried to run away. Not really thinking, just reacting, I, by this point screaming, “NO!” ran in between the man and the kids trying to diffuse the situation.
The man then picked up a rock and cocked his arm to throw it at Ninoska. I knew that he wouldn’t throw the rock at me so I stayed between the two of them while walking towards the man. He threw the rock, thankfully missing Ninoska. She then fired another one back at him, also missing. By this point I reached him and grabbed his shoulders, yelling at him to drop the rock. He did so and, uttering some not-so-nice words, turned and left.
One girl, Winny, was crying when I got back to the group of kids. I think she, like me, was pretty shaken up by the situation. I never really felt in danger, as the scrap virtually consisted of a pebble-throwing exhibition, but the fact that this guy would mess with the kids bothered me. I’m sorry that this event was our final memory of our day together, but I think that the good times we had earlier in the day were special enough to outweigh the bad.
Tomorrow we’re throwing a HUGE bash at the Fun House. It will undoubtedly be ridiculous. I can’t wait to tell you all about it.