My youngest sister was born when I was 12-years-old. It was a rainy February day that I remember with striking clarity. My parents sent the rest of us to school that morning, despite my mother’s induction, and I could barely focus on my studies. By the end of the day, though, I had a warm baby to hold and snuggle. It was love at first sight.
She’s a beautiful 19-year-old college student now. Although two inches taller than me, I like to think she looks up to me in some ways. I’m old enough to be respected, but not so much older that I’m parental.
Ok. I’m parental, but I’m fine with that.
There are things I want for her. I want her to live away from home to develop a sense of independence. I would like her to finish school before pursuing her relationship and family goals. I would love to see her travel and learn more about this big world of ours. I want her to expand her mind. That’s not too much to ask, is it? I consider this the average “middle-class fantasy.”
One of CdA’s students is a similar age. She is sweet, loving, and funny – - a delightful woman, overall. She manages to stay in university and earn good grades, while her home life deteriorates beyond her control. If she was my sister, I would tell her to find a friend to live with, to come stay with me, or to get a small apartment close to school.
Those in poverty don’t have those sort of choices, though. When people do stick together, blood ties completely outweigh friendships. Translated, this means our student has two real scenarios to choose from: remain in her familial home, or get married and move into the home of her husband. Neither of these are particularly ideal choices, but what else can she do?
In these situations, I try to think about what decision I would make. I’d love to think that I could find a way to manuever around the constructs of poverty, but that isn’t realistic. I’m resourceful, but you can only be resourceful when you have resources. Not in Jinotega, that’s for sure. I’d like to say I would make some drastic move, but global thinking doesn’t happen when you worry about your day-to-day existence. How could you even make a move without an income?
When it comes down to it, ‘choice’ is perhaps the biggest factor I see separating those in the ‘developing world’ from those of us in better circumstances. As a single, educated, and (thus far) child-less woman in the U.S., I have infinitely more choices than even the most successful of our students. It’s important for CdA to continue to improve the choices in Jinotega, so that our girls can continue to improve their lives and the lives of the generations they will mother. I think we’re doing a pretty darn good job of it so far.
As for our student, I feel she will make the right decision for her and that she will lead a happy, fruitful life.