Even if you feel certainty, it is an emotion and not a fact.

Father Brendan Flynn, Doubt

Two weeks have already passed here, and I am again cowed by the brutal efficiency of the operation of time.  This is a psychological reality which was first born when “the clocks struck thirteen” on the opening page of Orwell’s opus.  Similarly, it was after reading The Prince that everyday interactions began to imply more or less Machiavellianism, after reading economics that behaviors took on the appearance of economic motivations, et cetera.

To reach the barrios from the city, you ride an old, stale smelling van.  The streets look worse and worse as the journey goes on, until you run out of paved asphalt, and next the sidewalks go and the right angles too, leaving you with more or less straight paths made of packed dirt.  Coming from a city in the United States the colors you miss are green grass and white walls.

Given the poorness of the places we work, the downtime remarkably has the attitude of a Californian vacation.  The first day I got here we made a trip to the beach at Huancacho, where we lounged by the sea, and swam and surfed.  We also take salsa classes, play basketball in the park, haggle at the black market, go clubbing.  We eat Peruvian lunch and dinner at restaurants that partner with our organisation.  Honestly, it’s a good lifestyle.

Once, a kid asked me how much my pen cost.  Cuánto cuesta?  I demurred answering, embarrassed to admit how much I would blow on a pen back in another life.  But in retrospect, I didn’t give enough credit to the children’s ability to digest the realities of their world.

“Do you have any kids?” Sharón asked cheerfully.  Then she continued, “My mom has three kids.  Well, actually she had six kids.  Three of my brothers and sisters have died.”

Laura looks at me.  “That’s normal here,” she says.

Then class went on as usual, both the students and ourselves responding with plasticity to schedules and facts, plain facts which already existed like clockwork.


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