Monday, May 30, 2011

‘The past is not what it was’ - G.K.Chesterton

“While taking photos has become a way to mark almost any moment, there is often an unnoticed tradeoff. Photography is so easy that the camera threatens to replace the eyeball. Our cameras are so advanced that looking at what you are photographing has become strictly optional.”

Slate, 18 January, 2011

‘Did you ever stop to think, and forget to start again?’ - Winnie the Pooh

The bed remains unmade, the face has that shiny unwashed look. Pains in my lower intestine. What’s my gut feeling? Blagh.

Leaning over to hush M in church, he recoils and asks if I had brushed my teeth. Not for three days, I reply. Ew.

I find my phone (which I was convinced had been stolen a week ago) in the folds of my bed sheets. Phew.

I am told - again - not to use my free time within the walls of the rescue house, nor go to the streets when I should be relaxing. But this work (just like my old work) is about relationship above all else. One has to build trust. One must demonstrate care. We simply don’t have sufficient help to effect this without using rest times.

By way of illustration, our two most challenging boys right now are direct referrals from the care system here in São Paulo. They are both street kids, but our first contact with them was through a phone call from the authorities. Being placed and choosing a place to go are two very different things and although all are treated with the same love and respect, I do not believe it is an accident that current disciplinary issues with each of them are coincidental.

Mine is not some twisted work ethic (you can ask my old colleagues about that!), but at times overtime is needed. This is my choice, my decision. As Kierkegaard said, there are no solutions, only decisions.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Something like a phenomenon

We returned this week for R’s brother. A promise I had made, even though there is always a risk that sibling feelings are not always reciprocated: one will not inevitably follow the other’s path and leave the street. Sometimes, it appears, blood is not thicker than water. But in this instance (by God’s inexplicable grace), this was not the case.

In spite of my endless failings, Renilson and I have become a rather effective team. After a lacuna of almost six months, we are once again confronted by new groups of young children (often more girls than boys) on the streets. By way of example, our new brothers (R + W) have never met our older ones (G + M) - sorry about the initials - because they arrived on the street, the same transit terminal only fifteen minutes from the house, only a month ago. Enough time for smokes, weed and glue, but not the harder stuff.

W is unusually quiet for his age, with serious eyes that often get locked in a frozen gaze. A smile (captured above) and high-pitched giggle when tickled on the ribs are precious rarities. Whatever happened to this brave young man? We have some clues already from R (with whom he left home). All that to come. For now, reuniting him with his younger brother at the house was like a Kodak Moment™, and one that I will hold onto when I contemplate the value of my service, my contribution.

And so, once again, the complex dynamic of the rescue house alters, as pecking orders change and new friendships (such as they can be called) are forged in an often troubled and volatile context.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Magnificent Ruin

If anything, you should probably be a little harder on yourself.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

‘Why must we proclaim so loudly and with such intensity what we are, what we want, and what we do not want?’ – Nietzsche

Time to catch up


R (10) and D (13)

Friday marked a somewhat hectic end to the working week. Renilson and I returned to the streets to get R (his brother, W, we are hoping to retrieve tomorrow). We befriended both siblings - who have been sleeping rough on the street for just over a month - earlier in the week and have been visiting them daily. The snippets of information gleaned about their difficult family context will no doubt become clearer over the next week.

D comes to us after living on the streets for four months. One of eleven brothers and sisters, none of whom remain at home.

Welcome additions to the mix!

Thursday, May 19, 2011


The box of lego is open again, after being closed for some time. It’s great having younger kids around. On the streets earlier this week, we came across a nine year old and his brother and will be looking to take them in over the next few weeks.

rictus grin? check!
no brain? check!

How I feel sometimes.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The first day of the rest of my life
Back to school for M and G. The first time in goodness knows how long.

So he has no family?
Ah, he’s living in a home. A...HOME.
You’re not his family.

Could his teacher have been more patronizing or derogatory to a boy who was understandably nervous on his first day?

Notwithstanding the insensitivities, I felt a father’s pride as I first dropped M off and then later collected him. Looking out keenly from the collected riff-raff of class members, he finally recognized me amongst the mothers and beamed in my direction.

At 11, M is almost completely illiterate. He is unable to recognize or differentiate between numbers or letters, and is only just able to scratch out his name on a piece of paper. It will be interesting to see how he measures up to his classmates, who - one assumes - have had the benefit of at least five years of schooling.

The good thing is, despite the nerves, M enjoyed his first day, made some friends and even took to his teacher.

Later, this dialogue could be overheard:

M: It’s just for one day, right?
R: No, you need to go back tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that.

I fear it’s going to be a long year.

Day 1, Year 4

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Sibling speech

“That’s your dad!” G exclaims to his brother, pointing at a dishevelled old man by the side of the road.

I don’t know,” M says, with a shrug of the shoulders.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A bloody business

She added: “It is a bloody business being in a family; a bloody business having a child and a really bloody business, as we know, being a child. It is a truly murderous business giving birth: it is a violent place to go.”

Tilda Swinton (quoted in The Guardian, 12th May 2011)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Wishful thinking

the beam reads “50 crianças” (50 children)...

...but perhaps it should be 49?
“If your family is still intact, if you’re still very much in love, if you’re still communicating, still supportive, still laughing and playing together, you’re an exception rather than the rule. Our tired, tragic society needs you.”

Charles Swindoll, Growing Wise in Family Life

Monday, May 9, 2011

1948 (Brazil was way behind)

Nosebleeds and toothaches

I hear the wail of what sounds like a demented siren. Rounding the corner of the house (from where the sound is originating), I see Frederico - the house cat - being swung round and round by his back legs.

It is reassuring to know that M is developing like a typical ten year old. As G’s younger brother, he has been on the street since he was seven. To put that last statement into context (to try to comprehend what that might actually mean), I have to imagine one of my nephews separated from the family and trying to fend for himself, alone.

Far more stubborn and playful than his older sibling and plagued by nosebleeds and paralysing toothaches, it was not easy to release the prise of the street’s fingers from around him, but released (for now) he is, and reunited with his brother with whom he has - not unsurprisingly - a somewhat perfunctory relationship.

Welcome, M!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Computer says no

will they amend Street View™ too?