We walked a long time to get there. The tricked out school bus, complete with rims, speakers blasting that constant Latin beat, and a “propiedad de cristo” sticker traversing the tinted windshield, brought us as far as it could. We walked the length of the sunset, saying “Adios!” to people we passed along the way; apparently, it’s not insulting or confusing to say “see ya” randomly to a passerby. We got there after dark, and we were deep into the… Well, everything: the mountains, the forest, the dirt roads. The kids heard Austin chatting with one of the “tias” (aunt) and screamed from within the bunk house, “Aoosten!!” They ran out to meet him, jumping all over him, and when there wasn’t room on Austin’s limbs, they jumped on me, smiling and laughing. I had never been so immediately accepted in all my life.
Then Austin put his foot down. They were doing work on the older boys’ house; so all 22 boys, ages 5 to 15, were running around and screaming, and hitting each other with their mattresses. And Austin didn’t like what he saw. He tried to gather them for the evening prayer, but they couldn’t handle it. Austin stormed into his bedroom and came out with cookies. “Well, I brought cookies to give everyone, but it looks like only ones who are behaving can have one.” Everyone calmed down, hoping that even if they were naughty, maybe Austin didn’t notice. Christian, the perennial sweetheart, got one; Osman and Franklin didn’t. Then it was bedtime, at 8 o’clock. It took several interventions from Austin, but they eventually went to sleep. The next morning the kids woke up promptly at 5. Four boys were lined up out the window, peering in at me with their big brown eyes.
And since then I’ve become a walking jungle gym. The kids have been extra rowdy, not knowing how to handle Austin’s exit today. It will be quite a culture shock for Austin; from 8 straight months of living among these boys as an interim father, where the only time keeping device he’s needed is the call to meals and sundown, to the States, where clocks are ubiquitous and life is air-conditioned and fast.
Pray for him; he’s saying goodbye as I write this.
Sent from my iPhone