Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Growing up

My kids are entering a pool at Laguna de Boracay, our resort for our Spring Break. We're in the Philippines for a second time in two years. The kids are pretending to be dolphins. They are playing well together - for the moment. They're just like any other kids, right?

That depends on how you look at it. Many of their classmates from Green Bay will spend all of their growing up years in one community, or one state, or at least one country. They'll grow up seeing tons of American TV and commercials and magazines, be exposed to a culture that tells them to see the world and themselves in a certain way. Friday night football will be important. And cheeseburgers. And Packers. Body image. A "good job". Money. A big screen tv.

At this point my kids at 8 and 10 have traveled to 3 countries and lived in 2 others (or 3 depending on which kids we're talking about). They're beginning to think that rice is preferable to mashed potatoes. That black hair and dark eyes is just as common as blond hair and blue eyes. And that riding a subway and living on the 15th floor is just fine. They go to a school with students who come and go, with friends who come and go, in a country that is and isn't their's. They're learning that education is valued differently by their classmates here than in GB. That

("Oh my God! There's a dead frog in here!" screams one of them. They are united in a common purpose now - to get the frog out of the pool. Turns out it is alive.)

Then there are the children here in Boracay. I'm only going on observation, but I may be correct in saying that school isn't a given. Boys are walking along the beach in the morning on a weekday. Children too young to be in school or on their own appear with their parents in the shops and stores. I doubt there's any childcare available in this economy. It's likely that grandma is still working all day and unable to take care of them. Two sons of the pool attendant watch my children play in the beautiful clear water. About dusk each night (perhaps after school and supper?) kids come out to the beach to sell handmade jewelry "at a good price". Their day doesn't end until 9 or 10 PM. They learn to speak bits of other languages out of necessity. Kids here meet people from all over the world; okay, they don't really meet us. They see us and observe us try to support their families by selling to us, then return to their homes behind bamboo fences where the chickens, roosters, and goats roam freely.

The book I'm reading, Bel Canto, has child soldiers in it from some unknown Central American nation. These young men are working for three generals who have taken a bunch of hostages at the Vice President's home. They've never seen a working television, have dirty clothes on and know how to shoot guns. Yes, it's a fiction book, but we both know this IS life for child soldiers in developing nations.

The kids are done with their swim and asking about lunch. Requests include beef bouillon, mashed potatoes, spaghetti, and fruit, and stir fry. Must be time to go.

Growing up continues.

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