The Bridge sent out its monthly newsletter today. As I read the tale of four boys, I remembered a moment from the International Living conference. When I got to the part about driving, I said, "There are Costa Ricans who have never ever been in a car. Many who have never been in a personal car other than a taxi."

For those of us from developed nations, this is a wild enough statement. Particularly when you are in Costa Rica, have never been deep in the campo but have driven around San José, seen the Hummers (oh, yes), the Ferrari dealership… well, I could tell from the blank stares, there were listeners who thought I was exaggerating. Who? ME?

Well, not only have these four boys never been in a car…

Dani, Erik, Erasmo, and Ronualdo came to The Bridge fresh from the jungle as their parents moved closer to Puerto Viejo. They hadn’t seen or heard Spanish [the Bribri speak their own language – there are seven native languages here besides Spanish], and hadn’t been around English, written or spoken. They hadn’t been around “others” – the name assigned to non-indigenous people.

All are attending First Grade in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. The boys faced a difficult situation at home – along with the language barriers, their parents are both illiterate. There is no homework help available at home.

Their father initially wasn’t sure, but is following through on schooling the boys. They’d never ridden in cars. They’ve never seen themselves in mirrors. It’s about a 40-minute walk from their home to ours, and another 20 minutes from here to school.

Since they’ve never before held a pencil, they needed to go back to very basic levels before any writing or drawing of anything could be done.

Despite the obstacles, they dove right in.

According to their teachers, their performance and attendance are good. Homework_at_the_bridgeThey are often found here at The Bridge, working on homework assignments. In spite of the obstacles, they’re forging ahead – there is a parent-teacher conference coming up, and we’ll keep you posted!

At first, they were tentative, watching to see who else was here before coming into the yard. As time went on, they started to relax, and played a game. They’d start to talk with Nanci in Bribri, knowing that she didn’t know the language. At some point, with a little impish glint in their eyes, they’d switch to a language they’d just made up for the fun of it.

Nanci started to play it right back to them. I played dumb. Until one day, that is, when they used the “language” on me. I looked at them in surprise, then, in mock seriousness, answered one of their “statements” with “CUM CHAT KA HA” (hoping that this meant absolutely nothing in Bribri) They reacted, looked at each other with that little boy look, nudging each other a little bit, saying something in Bribri which meant (we presume) “he KNOWS!”

After an initial period of uncertainty, they’ve been nothing but fun around here.
– written by Barry Stevens, from the Thanksgiving 2007 newsletter

I look at my boys and am grateful for all we have. And I’m going to remind them how much they want to learn… we take SO much for granted. Our day at the Bridge is still with me, hard to shake off all that love, the caring, their commitment to the tasks at hand! If you’ve a mind to, you can donate a little something here. Gracias!

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