Saturday, July 30, 2011

Derek the brother

A new family has been coming in to the El Cocal center recently. The mother is a good-natured woman, easy to smile and very laid back. At first she only brought her little girl, Elena, with her. Elena is a four-year-old little diva. She is smart and precocious, but also in need of a lot of attention. She is very vocal about her four-year-old little life and all the things in it. Her mother, Allyson, drops her off out front in the community center then goes to take the adult English classes in the back. Allyson has been coming every day and her English is really improving. It´s amazing to see. She did an interview with me just the other day, and I was very impressed with her increasing vocabulary and her devotion to learning the language.

I must admit, though, my favorite person in the family is Derek, a very serious eight-year-old little boy. He didn´t come with his mother and sister at first. The second day after they started coming, I saw him hanging by the fence, watching the other kids doing the day´s activity. I beckoned him in, and he sat shyly in the seat farthest away from the other children. I suppose with Elena as a sister it can sometimes be hard to get a word in edgewise, so maybe he´s stopped trying. While Elena made every effort to get my attention by dancing, jumping, and speaking very loudly, I sat next to Derek and listened to him tell me about the time he saw a shark on the beach, and the time he saw a snake in his house. I also listened to him recite (in order) the English numbers one through ten. All the kids have them memorized in order, but most don´t know them individually. If you ask them what seven is, they count on their fingers “one, two, three, four, five, six, seven” before telling you proudly “siete!” To them “one two three four five six seven eight nine ten” is just a foreign-sounding song.

Derek asked me what the numbers were after ten, and I carefully wrote eleven through twenty out for him on a piece of binder paper. We sat in (relative, because Elena was still there) silence for a few moments. Derek smiled at me and murmured at how pretty Elena´s drawing was that she´d waved over at us. He seems to take his responsibility as a big brother very seriously. I don´t really know why I like Derek that much. I suppose maybe he just reminds me of myself, which is a selfish reason. Then again, much of my work here seems to be about discovering myself again and again in the people of El Cocal.