Monday, February 26, 2007

Which lambs to sacrifice?

I look at these kids and they amaze me. Not just their youth, energy, intensity, but their possibility. They are all adorable, yet all have an element of mischief to them, even if as subtle as sneaking an extra dessert at dinner or drinking a can of Red Bull behind our backs. They all speak at least two languages fluently; some three, others four, five. Their worlds of privilege will be paved with francs and euros and yen until they are old enough to ease into a highly paid position thanks to family connections and will marry well and raise more kids with as much as they had, though they'll say the kids are better off than they ever were.

We had our own little UN on this trip. Swiss, German, Italian, Bulgarian, Latvian, Swedish, French, Japanese, Taiwanese, Russian and American kids, playing together in a way that could teach adults a lesson or two. You can tell just by the clothes where the kids are from; the Eastern Europeans in tattered, patch-covered jeans and fuzzy old sweaters, the Italian in tight jeans and oversized tops, the Swiss and Swedes in Armani jeans and D&G tops, carrying leather man-bags. They have begun to notice and synthesize differences in class, attitude, wealth, upbringing. This, at around age 12, is when they begin to lose their innocence.

Sometimes they are immune to the perils of the world; they would rather just play football or go into the shops. Other times they will come out with comments full of fleeting hatred or mistrust, likely repeated comments overheard via adults, television, or some other source. These kids don't have opinions, not yet. They're still struggling with their identities, with fitting in, with the changes of adolescence. They are silly, awkward, and lovely, and it is a terrible responsibility to teach them how to listen to their instincts, ignore their backgrounds, embrace each other.

We spent a few days climbing on 2000-year-old rocks, remnants of fallen temples in Seliunte and Segesta and Agrigento's Valley of the Temples. We were lucky to learn of their stories and their legacy. The kids asked questions adults just wouldn't think about: How did you decide which god to worship if you already had everything you wanted? Where were the bathrooms in the temples? What were their shoes made of, considering the hard stone floors they always walked on? How did they decide which lamb to sacrifice?

This last pic is from the gorgeous Taormina, with Mt. Etna in the background. Heavenly!

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