Pirahnas in the pool

Janne shares a story from her work in Iquitos:
Yesterday, after the morning-program finished at La Restinga, some of the kids asked me to come with them and play on the boulevard (the street along the river, where the people congregate to wander at night). The summer vacation program has now officially started, and there are lots of new kids, so I had such a fantastic time getting to know and running around with this group of five heartbreakesrs. As the day got hotter, we went over to the big fountain with a small pool around it, and the kids screamed of joy as they threw off their shirts and jumped in. (I don't think it's normally allowed to play in the water, but the kids said that because there's a gringa (white woman) with them, the police wouldn't say anything. They were right. Sad, but true.)

Anyway, midway through a role game of tourists and sharks, one of the boys stopped in his tracks, and, a little paler than before, he turned to me and said: "Oh no.... Here comes the piranhas." I turned and looked, and recognized them immediately. Piranhas is the common way of referring to the rougher streetkids that live off of shining shoes, getting money from tourists, and stealing (not all streetkids steel, but those who do, or a suspected of doing so, are often referred to by this name). The leader of the gang, let's call him Jose, has been coming to La Restinga off and on for a long time, but is still living on the streets. His life could be so entirely different if he could choose La Restinga over the streets, but for an adrenaline-seeking group of young boys, leaving your friends on the streets in favor of a life of safety and rules is not always an easy thing.. Jose, especially, is really rough around the edges, and as he and his friends jumped into the pool, the dynamics changed instantaneously. The "piranhas" shoved the other kids away, grabbed the ball they had been playing with, and started their own game.

Read more: Janne in Perú

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