This is Shaquille. He is a boy from the village here, and he’s one of Hans’ two best friends. Shaquille is a sinewy boy of 13, with little hard biceps and a washboard stomach, able to do things with his body that amaze. He is a wiz with a football, and by that I mean a soccer ball, and he’s been teaching Hans juggling moves with names like the Ronaldinho Elastico. The bicycle. The rainbow. The Maradona.
The children of this village spend most of their time outside. Their mothers spend most of their time inside. The fathers are flat out absent. It has taken some getting used to, this absentia of parents. Michalia, who is 4 turning 5 soon, is always on her own. I’ve never seen her mother at the beach. Last year was the same thing, but it made more sense, since her Mom was in the hospital in St. Vincent, recovering from a gun shot wound to the foot that she received when trying to keep – with the help of a machette – the local policeman “Froggy” from entering her house. Froggy wanted to come in because he suspected that stolen merchandise was inside, for there had been a rash of burglaries of the vacation rental houses nearby (including the one I am sitting in right now). Froggy didn’t want to hurt her (he probably went to school with her back in the day), he just wanted to stop her from trying to hit him with a lethal weapon.
Anyway, back to the kids. When you rise with the sun, there is a lot of day to fill. And when your mother is not shuttling you from here to there in the family car (because she doesn’t own a car), you make your own fun. The boys here play a lot of barefoot soccer (on the beach and in the vacant lot), cricket with pieces of wood and a tennis ball (also on the beach), a game called Run Dodge that is a lot like baseball, Hide and Seek, and Tag. The older ones play Dominos and cards and a game with a chess board that is called Draft that is a cross between Pac Man and checkers. Of course, there is swimming and jumping in the water and back flips and front flips into the waves. Shaquille is very good at the flips, and so he was happy to do one off the dock at Jack’s, so I could take the above picture.
Sometimes they just sit on the stoop outside of Petra’s tiny store, and talk and throw stones and watch the little little children run in the street.
Shaquille’s day on Monday, when he goes back to school, will look like this. He will rise before 6 so he can eat the cut up apples, sugar, a “drop of oil” and salt he has made the night before for breakfast. At 6 he leaves his house so he can walk to the bus stop 15 minutes away from the village. The “dollar van” will careen into town and he will catch the 1-hour ferry boat into St. Vincent. He takes another van to get to the ferry dock to school. By 8 am, school will start and he’ll do that until 3, and then make his way back home the way he came. He’ll be home by 6 pm. I know he did this last year, at 12, as well.
Boy, do our kids have it good.