Aires Puros

So the children at the school, El Jardín Estrellita (Star Kindergarten), come to class with dirty faces and runny noses. Some of them have shiny hair and some of their hair is so dirty and tousled that it'd fall out if I took a comb to it.

They wash their faces and hands after recess. They each have a hand towel they hang up on their hooks. Then they get their toothbrushes, which the maestras bind together with rubber bands, and line up by height to get the toothpaste from the maestra and then they brush their teeth.

I wouldn't use their toothbrushes to scrub a toilet---that's how frayed they are. And those are the lucky ones. The unlucky ones use a finger because they can't afford a brush at all. One boy's two front teeth are rotting out.

I spend most of my time talking to or helping one or two at a time because the maestras do all the real teaching. Sometimes I read to them, but mostly we just play in small groups; they love to show off their knowledge of animals and colors and the birthdays of everyone in their families.

I button up pinafores (green gingham---a standard Uruguayan uniform) and tie shoelaces. I don't ask about bruises because there's no point in it. The authorities couldn't care less about the kids who live in the sewer.

That's right, *in* the sewer.

betholindo at 8:38 p.m.

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