I hope you are all well. I won’t do a massive update. Just a keeping up appearances update to let you know what I’ve been up to and apologise for the extremely poor ‘gripe’ poem that I posted last week.
I’ll be quite honest, the stories from the children have been taking their toll on me this week. I interviewed a girl who was violated by her father. I had prepared questions to deal with a straightforward domestic violence case (not that domestic violence is ever straightforward, but it has happened to the majority of the kids in Casa Alianza). We were talking about her experiences and then it came to the question, “So why are you in Casa Alianza?” “I was raped by my father.” There is nothing I could say. A pathetic “sorry” will never quite cut it or change the past or change how she feels about what happened. Unfortunately, that was the only word that came out of my mouth as I came to terms with what had happened. Obviously, I stopped the interview in appropriateness (which I didn’t know was a word until I saw it on the spell check on WordPress). A man asking personal questions on this subject is, well, not done. Instead, she has agreed to do a silent interview. I have written some questions which she can answer in her own time. When I gave her the questions, she skimmed over them, smiled, and said, “Nick, tu gramar en espanol es mal” – “Nick, your Spanish grammar is bad!” She then gave me a big hug. She’s a very charming girl. She’s been in Casa Alianza three months and she loves responsibility. She wants to own her own bakery business. She said, quite understandably, that for the next few years that “boys are on the side.” She’s 17 but behaves more like someone who’s 30. I love having little chats with her and I think she likes being talked to like an adult. The troubles of some kids do stack up their years by a few and make them seem way older. Someone quoted when they saw a picture of a 13 year old boy that he looked like a fully grown man, and there’s a look of sadness in their eyes. This girl will go far. There is something very admirable about her character. She’s angry about what happened, but she doesn’t let it show too much. She said something wonderful the other day. I was teaching her a few English words. I pointed to my nose and asked her what it was. She replied “no se”. If you understand Spanish, you would understand how funny this is. To those who don’t, “No se” (e with an accent, I must add) means “I don’t know.” She did know, she just didn’t pronounce “nose” correctly, it sounded like “no se” which made me a little confused as to what she meant. She also thought “window” meant computer screen. I bet Bill Gates is proud of himself. The faux pas has something of a “beautiful innocence” about it, but it’s something I love about the kids in Casa Alianza.
After this interview, nonetheless, I was left with so many different emotions. Today though, I was hit once again by another story. This isn’t featuring in the book though.
Because I was ill earlier this week, I decided to go in on Saturday to help a few kids who had English exams next week. When I walked in however, I was faced with a screaming kid. He’d been crying for two or three hours, wailing. The staff weren’t doing much and he was irritating the other kids, who were beating him. I went off at them, very angrily, and yes, they dispersed very quickly. He’s from Danli and I don’t really know his story too well, only that he was badly abused and was living on the streets. He’s 12. He doesn’t have too many friends, he’s illiterate, but he does come up and gives me a massive hug everyday, and he seems quite calm and tranquil when he’s near me. This time though, he was inconsolable. I tried to bribe him with sweets, but he began to swing chairs around and throw water at people who came near. I felt completely helpless and I was told just to leave him. It was probably the hardest thing I have ever had to do, emotionally. There were no psychologists in or doctors and I felt he was going to do damage to himself. Later in the day, he was calm and clung on to me for an hour or two describing how he was being bullied, and then what his parents did to him. It left me, well, gasping.
The day didn’t end there. As I was leaving, a girl who was in Casa Alianza was also leaving (she had come to visit). She was very tearful and distressed. She’s a wonderful girl, full of beans and she likes to give me fun digs and poke fun. I enjoy her company and was sad when she left. She’s only 15, but it did worry me when she left Casa Alianza. She is a joker, but she is very scatty and quite insecure and I didn’t think she was quite ready to go back home. Since she left though, she’s probably had the worst period of her life. Her mother and sister were raped and murdered by the Maras, all because her father (who was also murdered) betrayed them. She is living with her cousin who has been punching and kicking her. She says the Maras have told her that they’re going to kill her so she’s absolutely petrified, understandably, and left me very worried about her too. For whatever reason, she can’t go back to Casa Alianza at the moment. She wanted to pray at the Iglesia Dolores (which is an amazing Gothic church) and asked me to accompany her. As she sat to pray, she began to cry and I must admit, I was very close to tears later too. In fact, later on when I went for a drink with Hazel, I couldn’t hold it back. The horrible thing is, there is very little I can do. If she is killed, it’s a horrid waste of such a wonderful personality, and it brings home how troubled society is here, especially if you’re poor, and more so if you’re young and have no family. The impunity and needless killing of such beautiful youth. Back to the church, part of me wanted to adopt her there and then and take her back to England to give her a better life. Not that easy and not very rational, I know. I’m sure my own parents would probably have something to say about it too. The feeling of helplessness is draining though, and it fills me with “ira” – anger in Honduran Spanish. I would love to be Jesus and do everything and it really fucks me off that I can’t.
Not the happiest update, but an update nonetheless.
Thanks for reading.