Monday, August 20, 2007

Fris-being there

So last week I found an old Aerobie frisbee at the Peace Corps house in Santa Rosa, and because such things are there for the taking, I took it, figuring that it would be fun to toss around in San Manuel. (Charlie had said that it was, in fact, one of the best community integration tools he had come across.)

Coming back to San Manuel, then, I happened upon a group of about 10 kids, all of whom live right close to me. On Thursday afternoon, they all wanted me to teach them English, so they ran home and got pencils and paper and I went over basic family members, names of months and days and numbers 1-20. So on Saturday, they are looking to play (in fact, they interrupt my late-afternoon jumprope routine, but it was OK). Some of them occupy themselves playing with my jumprope (just a piece of rope I got at a hardware store in Santa Rosa) and I run into my house to grab the Aerobie. We throw it around the street and because the houses are right there and only one story high, it lands on the roof and in a tree a couple times, but we have a long stick and are able to fish it out without too much trouble.

On Sunday afternoon, they prevail upon me once again to come out and play. There are some more kids there than the previous afternoon, but whatever. We're throwing it back and forth and I tell them several times to throw it gentle and low, not hard and high, because it will sail off halfway to El Salvador (50 miles away) if they're not careful. Some kid throws it too hard and it goes onto the neighbor's roof, and I yell "¡No lo tiren fuerte!" Then another one tosses it and it lands in my other neighbor's yard, and it's not a big deal because it's right there, but the throw was too hard and too high for my liking, and I repeat myself re: keeping it low and gentle.

Eventually--and this is just too easy to predict, isn't it?--some kid (big enough to give it a decent throw but small enough/dumb enough not to realize that it can be lost) throws it too hard and loses it. It starts out flying reasonably straight, but then it curves over to the left and the wind carries it over my neighbor's roof and... it falls somewhere. We scour the area for at least a half hour but don't find anything. Some of the others start asking how much it costs, and guessing that a new Aerobie retails around $15, I say it would cost at least 250 Lempiras to replace. The heavy-handed culprit (he can't be more than 8 years old) has retreated to his house. The other kids and I go over and ask him to come out and look for it, and they tell him that it will cost him Lps 250 if we can't find it. His mother (or some female relative) says that since there were a bunch of them playing, they should all pay to replace it, which sort of makes sense except it doesn't. At this point I start feeling a bit awkward, first, because I don't "do" kids and this whole interaction with them (they are between 5 and 13) has been really uncharacteristic of me and my time in San Manuel to date. Secondly, there is the whole dynamic of the (presumably) rich outsider gringo coming over to bully and harass the local kid who, stupidly but surely without any malicious intent, lost my Aerobie. Lps 250 or $10-15 is not that much money in the scheme of things but for families here (and especially kids) that's money they don't just throw around on stupid stuff like a replacement frisbee. So that's at a standstill for now and I could go all passive-aggressive on them and send over a bill for Lps 250 but that all remains to be seen. I'd really just prefer we just found the frisbee and I'd make them go up to the soccer field where there are no obvious traps when they want to throw it around in the future.

So the loser comes out and we look for another 20 minutes but it's getting dark and nobody has found it. Then some of the kids tell me that they saw someone, somewhere down where we were looking haciendose sucio (making himself dirty) and probably hiding something. (When I don't understand at first, they follow up and say he was haciendo pupú.) They're all talking over one another and I eventually discern them saying that they think some one of them was hiding the frisbee to come get later, to an uncertain end but for sure not helping in the communal effort. After more discussion, they identify the culprit as Merlin (pronounced differently but the same name as King Arthur's wizard; what are the parents here thinking?) who, it seems, has a reputation for being a picaro, i.e., a sticky-fingered character always looking to rip people off. But I don't have any proof and the other kids are not sure themselves, and I am tired and don't want to get bullying this 12 year old who may or may not have stolen and hidden anything.

Easy come, easy go, they say, but this is a stupid shame and after two days where I was really enjoying hanging out with these 10-15 kids, it's left a bitter taste in my mouth, especially the prospect of one of them stealing from me and preventing the rest of his peers from enjoying who knows how many hours of good frisbee-tossing fun. Moral of the story: I am so glad I do not have kids.

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Blogger Linda said...

Another instance where applying the "Will it matter in 5 years?" rule would be helpful.

11:17 AM  

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