Despite the familiar faces at Puerto Alegria, there are 16 new boys at the home who all come from near the Peruvian-Colmbian-Brazilian border. These boys come from the villages near Caballococha and Cuchillococha and arrived to Puerto Alegria in May.
This has added another level of multiculturalism to the home because many of these boys did not learn Spanish as their first language – and a small handful barely speak it at all. These boys were raised speaking Tikuna (more about that here), which is a complicated native language. So when I translate game instructions or commentary before meals from Spanish to English for the volunteer teams and boys, a brave new Tikuna translates from Spanish to Tikuna for for the rest of the group.
As these new boys are slowly learning Spanish, they continue to communicate amongst themselves in Tikuna. Over the past few weeks, I have learned some basic phrases from some of the more vocal boys and have even learned the words to a song we sing in Spanish before meals here, “Demos Gracias” (We Give Thanks), and I have been welcomed into the fold with my own name in Tikuna – “Pa-ka” (which is pronounced, paa-kay). Here are two videos of one of the older Tikuna boys singing “Demos Gracias” in Tikuna and then again in Spanish.
Taxcü ni a cuega. (Ta-koo knee ah qu-eh-gaa) – What is your name?
Choxega ni a Kate. (Cho-ega knee ah Kate) – My name is Kate.
Since last August, there have been a few additions to the Casa Girasoles Puerto Alegria home.
With its unique location, Puerto Alegria is the most multicultural home that Scripture Union operates. While the majority of the boys here are from Iquitos, Belén and the surrounding areas, a handful are from farther away.
A few years ago, three brothers from Brazil came to Iquitos with their mother. Their father had traveled by boat for 5 days from their small town in Brazil in search of work in the “big city.” After months of not hearing from her man, the mother came with her three boys to Iquitos to see what he was up to. Upon their arrival, she found him living with another woman, supporting her and not caring about the family he left in Brazil. The mother had nothing to do but find her own work in Iquitos. What she found did not pay much and she couldn’t take care of her three boys. Along the way she came across Gene, who, at the time, was the house parent of Puerto Alegria, and asked him to take care of her three boys until she was able to herself. They came to live in Puerto Alegria with the other abandoned boys, not speaking very much Spanish.
More recently, about 3 months ago, a group of 7 boys from the region of Caballococha, at the border between Peru and Brazil, have come to live in Puerto Alegria. From Caballococha, it is 3 days by boat, traveling all day and all night.
These 7 boys make up just a small part of the multiculturalism of Puerto Alegria. When they arrived, they did not speak Spanish very well (and some still do not). Their first language is Tikuna, one of the most difficult languages in the world.
Little by little, I have been learning a few phrases and important words from both Dairo (12) and his younger brother, Waldair (10). I don’t know how the words and phrases are spelled, just a pronunciation guide (of mixed Spanish and English pronunciations) for how to say it.
“Ta-ku ni a cue-ga.” What is your name?
“Joe-aa ganee Kate” My name is Kate
Every once in a while, I will catch a few of the 7 who speak Tikuna talking together, of course in Tikuna. It’s very interesting to watch them since they are so animated with their conversations. It is not just because they are happy, or excited about something, it is because they are speaking a language they understand – they do not have to think about it.
I understand how they feel. I am by far no expert in Spanish. Yes, I studied it in college and I have lived abroad for an extended period, but I am still lacking in my ability to recreate my “English-speaking personality” into Spanish. Jokes just do not make sense, and some things just don’t translate despite how hard I try or how many times I explain it. I lose a bit of my personality and gain something different in Spanish.
After a few days of lessons with Dairo, I asked him to sing a song for me that he learned at home. He was a little hesitant at first, and shy about singing while I recorded, but he finally overcame all of that. Here he is singing Demos Gracias al Señor in Tikuna.