For four days I went nowhere without being encompassed by a tangled mass of arms and legs and hugs and kisses and shouts of children ranging from 3 to 14 years old. Welcome to 13.5! I stayed with Tatiana, Gerald, and Maycol, three precious children from my English class. Everyday, they play with their extended family members who happen to ALL live in barrio 13.5, so my homestay brought back memories of growing up around my very large and noisy and wonderful extended family. Every morning the children walked to the local Catholic school while I stayed home with their mothers. In the afternoons, madness ensued upon the chavalos return. These children play with an unmatched enthusiasm.
From tree-climbing and mandarina-picking to pickup games of baseball and soccer, these kids don't stop. I was especially touched when they wanted to play Memory with Spanish and English words, something we often do in Kid’s English to practice vocabulary. Tatiana cut out squares of paper and wrote the spanish vocabulary while I wrote the english...pretty soon, all the cousins were learning how to say gecko, shark, dog, and duck (we're studying animals in kid's english). I can't claim that keeping the pace with such a lively bunch of youngsters didn't absolutely wear me out, but I will say that being around so much joy and energy perked up my mood and helped me focus on the good in life. For a week, it was like I could go back to being a kid again, surrounded by family and laughter and silly arguments and lots of gallo pinto.
In addition to taking me back, this week was a chance to get an inner look into the daily life of members of the local community. From sunrise to bedtime, I experienced life through the eyes of 13.5, a life which entailed cousins, playtime, clothes washing on the pila, singing our respective national anthems, and very cold bucket showers when the water ran low.
Jan Margaret Rogers