Wednesday, August 31, 2011

3 + V = 4 brothers

It is unique in the history of the rescue house to have four siblings under our protection at one time. The local authority finally got its act together and shortly after lunch today a social worker - sharply dressed and ever so polite - arrived unceremoniously in a taxi with a present for our three older brothers: V.

Just turned 8, he is closest in age (and personality) to R, but although he is some three years younger that his nearest sibling, he is bigger than him and this only goes to highlight R’s stunted growth.

The pieces of the puzzle which make up these brothers’ complicated histories over the last year are falling into place as each furnishes a little more detail of what must seem in their eyes to be One Great Escape: running away from home one-by-one, surviving separately on the street and then (in the case of E and V) being picked-up by the police and interned in a state-run children’s home (from which E escaped and we subsequent rescued from the street). V was the only one left, but we knew where he was and finally the transfer was effected today. 

Now V is where he should be: with his brothers. One step closer to reintegration back home.

Just to get on

Tavris: Your obedience work and city work both consider the network of social rules that constrain us. In the galaxy of factors that make up a city’s atmosphere, for example, which do you think are the most important?

Milgram: Clearly, the degree of moral and social involvement people have with each other, and the way this is limited by the objective circumstances of city life. There are so many people and events to cope with that you must simply disregard many possible imputs, just to get on. If you live on a country road you can say hello to each of the occasional persons who passes by: but obviously you can’t do this on Fifth Avenue.

As a measure of social involvement for instance, we are now studying the response to a lost child in a big city and small town. A child of nine asks people to help him call his home. The graduate students report a strong difference between city and town dwellers: in the city, many more people refused to extend help to the nine-year-old.

I like the problem because there is no more meaningful measure of the quality of a culture than the manner in which it treats its children.

Psychology Today, June 1974

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Oh doctor, I’m in trouble

A plain-clothed man appeared in the corridor and walked between the waiting patients. Stethoscope slung nonchalantly around his neck and with his headphones on, he asked the receptionist to buzz him out.

Was he a doctor? I wondered. Was he my doctor? Maybe he was just popping out to do an informal home visit, I thought, rather generously. But no, he reappeared after a couple of minutes and I, together with the others waiting in the reception area, were subjected to a wave of stale cigarette smoke as he passed by.

With his Italianate looks (dark complexion, greased-back hair, open shirt), I was secretly praying that this was not the “Dr Silvio” that was scrawled on the piece of paper clenched in my right hand. I recalled a story my friend Tony once shared about a visit to an Italian hospital not too long ago. He needed a jab in the arm and the doctor diligently administered the required injection with one hand, while balancing a cigarette in the other.

He closed his surgery door. Nothing to indicate a name, except for a rather disconcerting list of medical specialties:



I was here due to a relapse of the flu. I had resolved to fight it off without recourse to real drugs, but by this time I had maxed-out my extra strength ibuprofen and I thought of plundering the medicine cabinet of the house for something, anything that might make talking, eating or - heck - breathing possible without it feeling like my tonsils were being sandpapered. I had even entertained accepting the offer of antibiotics from a colleague, but before I could say the words drug resistant superbug I found myself pencilling-in the appointment with said Dr Silvio.

The lawyer in me began dissecting the now-omnipresent (even in the Third World) “Mission Statement,” which I assume was posted in the waiting area to reassure naturally anxious patients that they are in caring, competent hands. All I could notice was the inclusion of spaces before the commas (and not after), which grated me.
Bill Nighy, Front Row (BBC Radio 4, 23rd August, 2011)

Anyway, after all the self-righteous sermonising about the perils of doctors who dish-out antibiotics like candy, all I wanted was something to stop the pain and, within minutes, I was trotting off to the farmácia to get my antibiotics fix.

Ah, all is well in world.

Friday, August 26, 2011

No need for alarm

Rats in the rafters wake me at 04.00, 05.00, 06.00.
It must be almost Spring.

Monday, August 22, 2011

A day for dads: afterthought

“The most important thing for children is not what we surround them with: the activities, the material things, the entertainment and the attention, so to speak. What they really need is someone for them.”

Mick Pease, Substitute Families for Abandoned Children

Friday, August 19, 2011

A day for dads

It was Father’s Day last weekend (Dad, does it still count if it’s here and not...there?) and an envelope marked Pai?! is thrust into my hand by E. I open and read a carefully penned letter giving thanks for everything I’ve done for him and for bringing him to the rescue house. I guess at school they were asked to write something for their dad and he chose me.

Later at church I sat cringing as the well-meaning pastor set aside a chunk of the service to praise the importance of fatherhood. I had brought the boys, of course - seven of them. They’d been so well behaved until then (with only the occassional punch or kick, met with a scowl by yours truly), but my heart sank as a young girl took to the stage and sang a teary-eyed ode to All Fathers Everywhere. I extended an arm and side-hugged W, but still his head hung limp and he stared at the back of the chair in front of him as if solace was somehow carved into the wood panelling.

Finally, he rested his head on my shoulder and I knew at that point that although I could never be a father to the boys, I could be something very close. With no need to cringe.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Where Children Sleep

click picture to see extracts
(thanks Sonya for the link)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Oh, those heady years

During the vacation season, the Paulista may take his family by train to a seashore or mountain resort or to Rio for carnival...

If he chooses, he may go by air over one of the three busy airlines serving the city

...or by automobile, over a four lane highway

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Travel Tips

Driving home from school

I told everyone in class that you were my dad.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Young Ones


Let’s get to work

“A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest — and poverty will come on you like a bandit.”