Saturday, July 30, 2011

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

See, three

You pick the insects off plants,
no time to think of consequences

Three young brothers (aged 5-8) joined us at the end of last week, and they add a whole new dimension to the house dynamic.

To have two sets of three brothers at the same time is rare, but what is rarer still is to see how both W Snr and W Jnr have somehow awakened and become like older siblings to these newcomers: helping them brush their teeth or make their beds (some, of course, are accustomed to doing this from their previous lives on the street). It is how I wish more of our boys would (in an ideal world!) act more instinctively.

Less me, more us.

With their teethy grins, we welcome brothers (left to right in the photo above) L, C and G. And with the addition of three, the rescue house is nearing capacity for the small team we have.

“There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.” - Mark Twain

I never intended SPD to become a banal accumulation of either popular right-wing opinions or jejune generalizations about the family (or lack of) drawn from my two-and-change years here in São Paulo - to be some kind of Reader’s Digest School of Psychology.

So, please forgive me if my naïve observations grate my more learned readers.

BONUS Maureen Lipman:

Monday, July 25, 2011

‘I know I’m talented, but I wasn’t put here to sing. I was put here to be a wife and a mum and to look after my family.’ – Amy Winehouse

Although every story is different, some things remain the same.

Among the torrid tales the boys share, there is often a unifying theme. It seems that whenever there is abuse, whenever there is a neglect of love or lack of attention by the biological mother, there is something that breaks within the child.

From the boys we talk to on the street and those we care for in the rescue house, there appears to be a certain toleration - for want of a better word - of maltreatment by a male figure within the family unit (father, or, more commonly, mother’s current boyfriend or stepfather, uncle or the like).

When the hand that reared them turns to strike them, however, the only option seems to be to leave. Whether it be led by an older sibling who is a co-victim in the abuse, or single-mindedly and alone.

BONUS David Sedaris:

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The pariah: afterthought

Lice, phew. There I was thinking I had worms. The chances of having both at the same time are now reduced to an acceptably remote possibility.

The pariah

La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc (1928)

The hairdresser clicked-off the shaver, squinted her eyes and leaned into my scalp. Her previous expression of glazed indifference morphed into one of patent disgust - her lips curling as she announced with a voice loud enough to fill the salon “You have...lice!

The shaver dropped from her limp hand and fell to the floor, breaking into several pieces. As she backed slowly away from my chair, I blushed bright crimson under the glare of the eco-friendly bulbs. Why do they always make these places so bright?

Humiliated, pinned into an elevated chair and strapped down by an itchy nylon sheet (the heat under which seemed to be fuelling my redness) I knew at that moment - as the withering expressions of the other clients met mine in the reflection - that I would forever be a pariah in the hairdressing salons of this most unforgiving of cities. As I gawked up at my reflection - hair half-shaved - I not only felt like some kind of tortured Joan of Arc figure, I now looked like one.

It was a nightmare scenario that I was playing over and over in my head ever since I observed W combing through G’s hair, chimpanzee-like. He extracted a particularly large one, raising the beast between thumb and forefinger like a prize.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

From today’s In-Box

Luke – those 2 accidents you saw yesterday by the office weren’t accidents. Those two guys were trying to rob someone who had withdrawn 12k from the Santander next to my office. They were trying to rob the guy and a plain-clothed cop shot and killed them while they were on their bikes… crazy...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

‘It is easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends.’ – Joan Didion

Rearranging photos. Putting them carefully into two little albums and a plastic sleeve in which I have also placed a small toy car on the underside of which I have written the words não te abandonarei, nem te desampararei.

We will return to the street tomorrow evening with a specific purpose: W, L and M. Boys who we have cared for at some point (and for varying periods) over the last year, but sadly chose not to stay. I decided to take some photos to them as both a remembrance of their time with us and also (I hope) a reminder of what life - REAL LIFE - can be like.

And as I consider W in particular - his half-smile looking back at me from the page - I wonder if he even remembers his time here. I bury my head in my hand and cry.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

“Gold hits all time high” (Daily Telegraph)

Fractured (afterthought)

Cloud & Townsend, Boundaries with Kids

Friday, July 15, 2011


A battered arm, a black eye and a cracked rib mark the end of a turbulent week for the team here at the rescue house.

The introduction (and integration) of our last two boys has proven far more difficult than expected. Intra-sibling squabbling might spark an episode (and here was I thinking that a family grouping might usher in a season of calm), while at other times, something as mundane as a quiet game of cards would result in an explosion of violence - something I have not witnessed within these walls for over a year.
“While critics have described him as the world’s most beloved heavy metal entertainer, it took him a while to untangle himself from his creation. ‘For a long time I honestly didn’t know where I began and Alice ended. My friends at the time were Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and I was trying to keep up with them. And I realised when they all died that you didn't have to be your character off stage.’”

Alice Cooper, Desert Island Discs (21st November, 2010)
Sometimes I take for granted the seismic shift which takes place - even on a superficial level - when a boy leaves the street and chooses to come home. Not his proper home or family (yet), but a place where he can begin, again. A place where he relearns (or, perhaps, learns for the first time), how to restrain often primal instincts that have been left unchecked and unrestrained for months or even years while living on the street.

More of a starting, than a finishing school, really.