Tuesday, 30 March 2010

A Vignette

It's Semana Santa (Easter)this weekend, so everything is shutting, people are leaving Bogota and things are all quite festive here. Except maybe the weather which is having a strop.
Other stroppy types today are the Refugio kids. I walked in this morning to find the front door pane broken, and all the staff donning plastic gloves and face masks in preparation for a search. Apparently, nearly the entire group of about 12 of them had gone on a bit of a rampage during the night. They set off the fire extinguishers, broke the door, trashed the computers and smuggled in drugs and arms, which is what the staff were about to go searching for.
One of the ring leaders, apparently, was Elena.
It was such a strange situation to walk in on! All these kids I've been getting to know over the last few months suddenly revealed an unpredictable streak so common of the psychological and trauma they have endured. I imagine if I knew I had a terminal illness or had been prostituting since the age of 8, I wouldn't worry too much about going a little crazy every now and again. But I felt terrible for the staff. They are with the kids day in and day out, they do activities and psychotherapy sessions with them, give affection and essentially offer them a future which is not selling their bodies and risking their lives. The disrespect of the behaviour was sickening, partly because it was still understandable. However, the main group sat around looking quite smug, brazen in their numbers, and called out to me as I walked past. They ate their free food and talked and laughed amidst the costly destruction of the night before.

I didn't teach them all today, obviously, and couldn't really make eye-contact with them. I just sat with Andres and Juliett (who hadn't been involved in the chaos) and continued with the public speaking workshop I was going to do with them all. I gave them the brownies I had made for Elena's birthday and we actually had a great session. I was so relieved that Andres wasn't involved in it. He has no concept of malice or judgment, just an innate sense fairness and an even-keeled temperament. It worked well to have a more private lesson with them too because I could give them more attention.

Situations like these make you realise what a luxury self-criticism is. Timothy has been having some trouble with some real hopeless cases; liars, manipulators and those who essentially want rescuing but are prepared to put zero effort into improving their lives. Their situations are just so mentally and physically squalid that they have no capacity for the self-evaluation that brings about self-control, responsibility and improvement. It´s hard enough to work on and improve some undesirable personality trait if you are well off and not suffering from mental trauma, but everything is magnified here to a tempestuous scale and just explodes occasionally, relentlessly reiterating how broken so many of them are. I don't mean to sound judgmental or smug, I just have so much respect for those who continue to try, because the highs and lows are exhausting, stressful and sometimes horribly demoralizing.

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