We took to the streets to let the working boys know the shop at the school was open to fix their shoe boxes and build new ones if needed. Of course they all wanted new ones. Their hands were black from polish and their faces aged beyond their years, some as young as six. Two Bolivianos for a shine, eight to make a dollar. They came in small groups, some dragging a younger sister in tow. One boy complained that he had just gotten beaten up by some bigger boys because they saw a gringo hand out twenty Bolivianos for the shine. The Gringo thinks he is helping, but it only led to an ass kicking out of envy. The kids have hard lives. Some nights when I was out late I saw the ones from Nanta at twelve at night selling candy in the bars and streets. Some say their mothers won’t let them in the house until they have sold the whole box, but who knows.
The bus drivers went on strike the week before, blocking the major roads with the buses. At rush hour in the mornings they blocked other major roads with their bodies. At one intersection I watched a truckload of riot police get out and push the group back to the sidewalks. When they got back into the truck the crowd went back to blocking the street. A taxi came up to the crowd and tried to talk his way through, and they just let the air out of his tires. For once there was little pollution in the streets from the buses. I was happy for the strike.
The boys came to the shop all wanting to be first to build the shoe boxes. I made a list of their names and we started building. The kids here are like a pack of raccoons. They can’t keep from hitting one another. I gave them one warning—none of that crap in the shop If it happens again they are out. They listened. We worked on, and more kids came all wanting to be first and all saying they were carpenters and giving advice. I was exhausted and overwhelmed. I closed up the shop and went upstairs to use the bathroom. The door to the infirmary opened and Andros was there looking worse than I felt. He and Marcelo had just spent the last four hours working through lunch on a boys backside who had scabies. I felt like an ass for my problems in the shop. They work every day on the kids. Lice, flies, infections all over their bodies. The problems of poverty. Marcelo never complains, always a smile and laughter. I had to dig deeper in myself to find patience.
I went to a tourist cafe to buy an English speaking book, in need of some literature. A football game was on the TV—Germany versus Argentina. Three German men were watching the game. When an Argentine player tripped a German, one of the men watching raised his hand for the yellow card. When the card was raised they cheered. What a contrast I thought. I see these kids every day in the lunch line scrapping for every inch. It does not matter how big or small, if someone gives them grief, they go for them. The girls pull the boys’ hair, they grab sticks and brooms and smack the boys. Fair is clearly not in their game, and there is no referee to make their lives right. They have to make that fight on their own. Argentine 1 Germany 0.