Monday, February 15, 2010

I believe

Gus Gus is a member of my running group. He was about 50 pounds overweight when we started running about two months ago. Since then he never lets me off the hook. Whether it's raining, 'cold' outside or getting dark, he's always calling at my gate asking to go running. He doesn't care if I'm hungover or tired or just don't feel like running. And since I met Gus Gus, I don't either.

He and I have been running six days a week (I give him Sunday off so he can go to church) for the past two months and he is the only student that hasn't missed a day. Most kids show up for 2 or 3 running sessions a week, but not Gus Gus.

We look ridiculous running together down the main highway in St. Vincent, but he doesn't seem to notice. He's short and noticeably overweight. I am tall and noticeably white. People yell and laugh at us. They shout 'fat man' and 'whitey' around every corner we turn. And finally one day I asked Gus Gus if it hurt his feelings when people called him 'fat man'. And, to my surprise, he said it did. He said it 'made his heart hurt', which in turn hurt mine. So whenever people shout 'run fat man run' at him, I have started saying 'shut up! he's not fat!' Every time I said this, Gus Gus would get the biggest smile on his face. And now, every time someone shouts 'run white girl run' he says 'shut up! she's not white!' We both run with big smiles on our faces now.

I have been wanting to write about Gus Gus for a while now. There's always that one thing that gets you up in the morning, the one thing that makes you keep going. Gus Gus is my thing. And today, I have never been happier or more willing to get out of bed. It was our two month mark. Two months ago I bought a scale and weighed Gus Gus and me. Two months ago Gus Gus was 200 pounds. Today Gus Gus is 182. Today Gus Gus tried on an old pair of jeans and they fit. Today Gus Gus walked taller than I have ever seen him. Today was a great day.

'The world is a fine place and worth fighting for'--Ernest Hemingway

Thursday, February 4, 2010

We're gonna show this town how to kiss the stars

As I read through my blog posts, I realized I haven't really written much about my job or what I'm actually doing in St. Vincent. So, I will try and describe it the best way I can. Here it goes...

My job is amazingly challenging and funny and forever changing. My main assignment is remedial reading, which I do from 8-12 everyday. I teach 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders phonics and 5th graders comprehension. Then in the afternoons I teach volleyball and in two weeks I will also be teaching a film class. In the evenings I have a running group. I also do work for the AIDS Secretariat and Marion House in town.

However, I have to say that my favorite part of my job is working with my kids. They have become such a big part of my life it is almost embarrassing and I'm well aware that it is a little pathetic. One afternoon after I took my kids running, two of the boys came into my house for a drink of water. Before we started drinking, one of the boys said we had to cheers. The other boy shouted 'Yes! Let's cheers to being best friends!' And without hesitation, I held my water up in the air and clinked my glass against theirs while shouting 'Best friends forever!' with them. It wasn't until after they left that an embarrassing truth came to my attention: I am best friends with 8 year old boys. I looked around the room and saw their artwork covering every inch of white space on my walls. They fill up every weekend and spare minute I have. I talk to them on the phone more than I do people my own age. If my nose starts to look concave and I start referring to St. Vincent as NeverLand..please send someone to come get me.

Twice a week I have fifth graders for comprehension lessons. I handmade them journals (and by handmade I mean I stapled copy paper together..very creative) and have them write in them daily. One of the assignments was to write what you would do if you were Prime Minister. Here is exactly what one kid wrote:

If I was Prime Minister I will help pure people and sent money to Haiti. I will bult house for pure people. And send the People to America to get jop. And bult a library for People ho is interested. And I will bult a house for Neely.

I'm pretty sure building a house for me wouldn't be on any of my friends' agendas if they became President. I guess being best friends with eight year olds isn't so bad after all...

'I'm really going to miss you when you go back in 2012'- Gus Gus