This morning we had an early start, and I am SO glad that our leader Rachel called our room to wake us up shortly after 8:00am. All four of us were still fast asleep, and likely would have woken just in time to leave for the school! As it was, we were able to get ready and get breakfast at the buffet before climbing into the vans again. I think again of what an idyllic place this is, with the ocean breeze coming in to the tiki hut where we eat, and all the good food that our stomachs can handle. I wonder yet if my kids are getting the lessons yet of this place?
We piled into the vans and set off for the School of Champions. Our mission today was similar to yesterday: to help serve food to the kids who come to the school and to just interact with them. I’m looking forward to seeing the kids!
I was able to talk with my husband this morning for a short time. Since he speaks Spanish fluently, he has been able to ask a lot of questions regarding what goes on here, and give us a good picture. Apparently, when the school year starts, there are about 400 kids that show up at the School of Champions. This school though is a little different from the others, where attendance is not mandatory. At this school the kids can only miss 3 days throughout the year. For their commitment to come to school, they continue to be fed and taught. Pretty simple, it truly is a good scenario, and one that I would hope many would take advantage of. But, as Mark was told, before a month or so is gone, most of those kids have gone away, and only 100 or so are left. There simply is not the discipline here that we are accustomed to in the US, and so many of the kids do not keep coming.
As we drove out to the school, I again took the time to just look around. The first thing I spotted was this huge cruise ship sitting just a short drive outside of our resort. This thing looked glorious parked in the bay, with its water slide on top and all of the wonders you can imagine inside! I am told that the kids who used to work in the dump could see, from the top of the garbage pile, when these huge ships would come in, and it reminds me again of the discrepancy there is here in this city. There are so many “rich” people of this world that come to shop and play in PV, and yet just a short drive away people are living in abject poverty. I wonder which group of people is actually the richer
On our way out to the school I looked at all the buildings we passed. There are of course a ton of small shops on every corner and in every nook. There are even people who just put their wares on their doorstep, including food. What a difference between where I live! Most of the buildings I see are made with cheap masonry: there might be re-bar holding the corners together, but from there it is simply bricks or large stone blocks thrown together in a somewhat organized manner. There seem to be hardly any windows, and I wonder out loud how hot it must get in those places. The windows and doors are just opening created when the building was made, like you would do with Lincoln Logs as a child. Some of them have actual windows or doors in the openings, and some do not. The ones that do not have whatever covering they can find serving as a barrier to the outside world. I see a lot of empty upper floors of buildings, and I also see a lot of upper floors turned into a type of open-air deck. I think it must be their way of escaping the heat, and still having their own private “space”. If you look close as you drive by you can see the hidden courtyards, secure behind a fence, with green potted plants and often, a car or other mode of transportation safely kept inside. These places look well kept, like the owners can put their energy not just into making the means for their family to survive, but also to make their abode as comfortable as possible. I can’t imagine how wealthy you must be to live in a house like that, here in Mexico. I was struck again with the people, the life, and of course the dirt. There are hardly any paved roads where we are going, and if they are paved, it is likely with just stones cemented together. No road is smooth to drive on. There are plenty of speed bumps to keep people driving slowly, but I soon realized that they are made of whatever material is handy: a roll of carpet, a large rope, or just concrete poured in an oblong pile. I find it almost comical, all of the materials that are used, but I guess if I lived here I would want people to slow down and watch where they are going, and keep the dust down!
Soon we pulled into the school, and parked along the side. We were told by our guide that this morning the kids will not really be doing any school-work, because it is the last day of school. We are not sure how many kids will show up, but we get out ready to do whatever we can. Pretty soon, kids start to trickle in for breakfast. It takes me a minute before I realize what their breakfast entails: a small cup of oatmeal served in a plastic cup, and a small cup of some sort of juice. There are left-over sweet breads for later, before they leave. I find out from my husband that the breads that are served the kids are those that can no longer be sold in the stores, because they have gone bad. As we look we again see that there are flies, ants, and even mold on some of the pieces. Yet, the kids are happy to get whatever they can eat, and I look knowing that this may be all that some of these kids get all day.
The passing out of the food is something that this church does every day, and so there really isn’t much that our group can do at this point in time. A few of us go onto the court and start to play soccer. After a while I notice two boys standing off to the side, and so I ask them, “Queres jugar?” which means, “do you want to play?” One of them nods his head yes, and joins the fray. After a bit a few more kids join as soon as they are done with their food, and it is just pure, wonderful chaos! We don’t know who is one whose team, or which way each team is going, but we are having fun. The ball goes flying, and whenever anyone, whichever team, scores a goal, I raise my arms again and yell “GOAL!!!” I’m playing too of course, but I find my main joy coming just in encouraging these kids to play.
After the kids are done with their food we all gather and play a few more games. There is a good mix of boys to girls, probably 30-40 in all, so this works well. We play a game that we brought called “4 Corners,” and then they taught us one of their favorite games called “FootBase.” It took me about 10 minutes to understand Footbase, but once I did, I had a blast! It’s really a mix between baseball and soccer, where two teams are against each other to score points off a kicked soccer ball, and you score points by running the bases before you get tagged out. I have no idea how long we played this game, but it didn’t matter. I didn’t care that I was sweating and hot. I was having a great time, and the smiles on the kids’ faces were just awesome.
As we were getting ready to go, I looked off in the distance and for the first time I noticed the massive hill of dirt that towers over the countryside. Past the hill you can see the towers of the resorts, and beyond that, the ocean. You could just make out people who were walking up the sides of the hill, and see a road that goes up to the top. I took some pictures, from the school looking towards the hill, with some of the shacks that these kids live in in the foreground. It is a picture I do not want to forget.
The hill is the dump.
Apparently, years ago, it was just an open pile of garbage. It is hard to imagine a hill this big being an open garbage dump. I think it looks like a huge boil on the landscape, needing to be excised. A few years back they started to put layers of dirt on the garbage so it could break down better, and not smell as bad. I’m not sure if this is the dump where many of these kids’ parents “work,” but there were people who looked like ants along the side, and I cannot imagine what else they could have been there for. I wonder what it would be like to live in the shadow of that hill your entire life. To be surrounded by other people’s garbage. To not be able to see anything beyond that hill. To know that your future is IN that hill. These kids are no longer allowed to work alongside their parents like in years past, but they are still in many ways tied to that hill. The School of Champions provides a way out for some of them, but I wonder….is it enough? Can they escape from the shadow of this hill?
We started to wrap things up as it was almost time to go. Still, I found time for one more game of basketball with a few of the girls. Even though I couldn’t speak to them, I found it a glorious experience to play. It was me and 3 other girls, and of course there were no rules. 🙂 I found one girl on the other team just grabbing at me at one time, and that’s when I realized how they play! The girl I ended up playing with as a partner was pretty good, and we had a fun time passing to each other to make a basket, and then running madly down the other end to try and stop the other girls from scoring! And yes, I yelled just as loud when they scored as when my team did. 🙂
I took one last look at the hill as we were getting in the vans. My heart ached for the way that these kids live. I want to do so much more, yet feel like my hands are tied. This is not my country, my language, or even my people. I can just love them and have fun, and trust the rest to God.
We drove back through the city, starting with the poor shacks, and then continuing on through the nicer residences. The businesses dot every part of the landscape, some small and some grand. As we go past the hospital I see people standing around, and finally realize that they must have a loved one inside. One guy is on the phone, and I wonder if maybe his wife is in there? We see the cruise ship again, and the massive resorts with free-flowing water and green grass, and soon pull into our resort. We climb out exhausted from the heat, ready to relax before going out again.