Jul 11, 2015

measured in souls

(it is evident through this post that my inclination is towards writing, not photography. nevertheless, i've included pictures because even a bad one speaks a thousand words.)

2. michael 

the next part of the lesson is devoted to writing about our ambitions. "what do you want to be when you grow up?" we ask michael. he remains quiet for a while. a hint of a smile appears on his face, quickly blossoming into a bashful grin. he looks down at the table and pushes up his spectacles shyly. "ask ilya," he laughs. "no, say it yourself! come on." after more encouragement, he bashfully reveals that he wants to be an architect. our little boy spends the next fifteen minutes poring over his exercise book, imagining himself thirty years down the road, designing houses and malls and museums. when the hour is up, our chinese volunteers take over for art class. they are architecture majors, so we tell them about michael's dream. the girls bring out sheets of drawing block and a few sharp pencils and get to work. for the next two hours, they meticulously show michael how to draw a building in 3d. lines that converge at a vanishing point, shapes, shading. he does not look up from his work even when his siblings arrive. soon it is four o' clock, then five. he rolls up his drawing block and tucks it into his bag. the children play in the common area while waiting for their parents to arrive. michael sits around for a while, watching them gather in circles over uno or the 200-piece puzzle. then he retreats to a corner and takes out his drawing block and pencil again.

3. lukman

lukman jokingly imitates an american accent, then laughs at himself and waves his hand in front of his face, as if shooing the embarrassment away. he comes every day on his white motorbike, even though he's seventeen and barely takes classes here anymore; it's just a second home to him. today i watch him teach a class of children some simple mathematics, not because he's supposed to, just because he might as well. he's just as witty and comfortable with the children as he is with the volunteers. after class, he and his friend take us around on their bikes. we go to lukman's mum's roadside snack stall. just one thousand rupiah for a stick of meatballs or a risol! we buy lots. his mum sneaks in an extra timpan for each of us. lukman tells us that he's been with the center for five years now. perhaps, he says, after he graduates from university, he'll come back as a local volunteer.

4. gabriel 

a blackout descends without warning just as computer class is about to start, so there's an abrupt change in plans. the kids are sent back outside to classroom 2. they look at me expectantly. it always pays to have activity ideas in your back pocket for times like these. i get out a few packets of loom bands from home: white, electric blue, orange. demonstrate how to do the first few loops. little gabriel is playing catch with his younger brother in the grass, but his eyes catch sight of the colorful bands. he takes a seat in the front row, eager to learn, too. his brother comes over for a while, and gabriel teaches him how it's done; but he soon loses interest and goes off into the field again. gabriel shrugs it off, and makes one bracelet with all three colors. he lets me finish it off with the clasp and put it on his wrist for him. then he makes another one, faster now. finishes it off all by himself - he doesn't need to be shown twice - and calls his brother over. holds his brother's hand and stretches the bracelet to get it through. and then he makes a third one, a different pattern. summons his brother again. gently slips it onto his other wrist this time. his brother presents both wrists with glee. gabriel is delighted. "now you have two! and i have one." they giggle.

(yes, the child on the left is a boy, not a girl! confusing, i know. but since when were haircuts ever meant to be gendered?)

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