Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sometimes it snows in April

Who says the tropics have no seasons? Here I was bemoaning our lack of autumn and a tree is shedding its leaves in droves in front of me. 

The sadness (and “sad” because the light diffused through bare branches reminds me of home), is that since the soil is so fertile, the leaves grow back almost as fast as they are shed. 

Sometimes, two at once.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

And why not

Ah, the din

I look down at my hands and at the bite marks left from a confrontation with E earlier in the week.

After three years, living within the walls of the rescue house has begun to take its toll and each passing week seems to prove more difficult than its predecessor. When I am not working, to suppress the near-constant din of ten boundless boys I find myself pressing plugs so hard into my ears it hurts. Sometimes I find myself using sleep as an escape, bedding-down with a book around 7.30pm (flashbacks to angst-ridden exam times).

At times like this I am indebted to the kindness of friends who extend a dinner invitation or - what luxury - the recent opportunity to stay in a spare room in order to preserve my sanity. An undeserved escape, but a welcome one. Thank you!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Children without a childhood

A young teen - already mentally scarred by a mother’s drinking while he was still in utero - is tied to a chair and told repeatedly by his grandmother “NO ONE LOVES YOU.”

Belt marks on a younger brother’s legs.

Marks on a five year old’s back left by a metal bar wielded by his mum.

Strange burns on a ten year old’s shoulder.

A sister who runs off with her stepfather and is now pregnant by him.

The shame of wetting the bed (night after night) as a teenager.

These are some of the stories of our dear boys and their families. Stories sometimes only partly told (and, often, never). Stories that are difficult to listen to, and more difficult to respond to.

How to discern. How to lead. How to love.

So many questions, I’m fed up with using question marks.

Stretch marks

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Parental Guidance

Watching The Passion of The Christ with the boys. A break from the saccharine fantasy of the cartoon crucifix is long overdue.

M: I think I want to cry.
Me: It’s OK to cry if you want to.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday

and then there were ten

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

‘If there were no God, there would be no atheists.’ ~ G.K.Chesterton

Using God and sex to push product are well-worn marketing strategies, but rarely are they combined.

Thumbing through one of the local rags in the doctor’s waiting room this week I stumbled upon advertising gold in Ágape - cirúrgica e bem estar.  

Truly the stars were aligned. Crucifix? Check. Hearts? Check. Girls in lingerie? Check. The audacious company name (meaning God’s love) scored a bonus point in the tastelessness scores.

Strategically positioned, is the suggestion that the scantily-clad ladies are the ones making the entregas em domicílio (home deliveries) or maybe they are just modelling the meias elásticas (elasticated knickers) on offer?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


next stop: typography school

Monday, April 2, 2012

M (episode III)

M makes a welcome return to the house this week. To be honest, I had become somewhat tired of seeing his little dark drugged-out face every time I visited the centre. Unwilling and/or unable to make a decision to return, he had begun to enjoy the attention of exhortations from well-meaning people to leave the street, to put down the plastic bottle of thinner that seemed a semi-permanent attachment to his mouth. M - the hardened little rebel child: exploited and wilfully reckless, with tears this time he implored for one last chance to return to the house of which, he said, he had fond memories. It would be for his third time.

Within a week of arrival however, he had bolted for a third time and I find myself once again racing into the centre of town in the middle of the night to look for him, and (with the help of two friends) find him - alone again, begging.

After every confrontation, after every small disciplinary issue he makes an attempt to run away. After so many years on the street, he is his own master and accustomed to setting his own rules. For him (like so many with no responsibilities or attachments), the way to deal with confrontation is to escape: physically or narcotically. Why confront complicated things like emotions when one can simply run away?

round we go, again
These moments of crisis come like waves, like moments of anger: he zones out and makes a beeline for the perimeter wall to make his escape (he scaled the banana tree last time – no mean feat for a little guy). It’s as if a switch is flicked somewhere deep inside his psyche, or as if invisible hands are pulling him away. And of course, they are.

I have been working with him closely these last few days, explaining how it is a fight, a battle, to stay. I am not sure how much he really understands or takes in, due to the damage done by years of drug abuse, but after one such conversation recently I found him sobbing quietly on his bed, with his head in his pillow. “I just want to see my mum”, he said in a muffled, desperate voice. 
And there he is: the child reveals himself. Not the rebel, not the joker, not even the victim - M, his mother’s son. God willing, he will stay until they are both ready to be reunited.

Today’s Dilemma