Kids Field Note: “Jhoann” by Kerry
Although I teach English to university students every day, twice a week I tutor a group of younger kids. I asked one of my most dedicated students, Jhoann, to sit down with me and chat about his life as a kid in Colombia. He’s such a friendly and nice guy, and excited to be a part of the Reach the World experience. Jhoann lives in a beautiful conjunto, or housing development, where all the houses are connected. It is a gated community so kids are free to run around and play with their friends. It also has a tennis court and pool! Sounds like a vacation to me! Jhoann is the oldest child in his family. He lives with his parents and two little sisters, Laura and Isabela.
Jhoann sure does love to eat! He starts his day every morning with a cup of coffee, and he’s only 11! Does that seem strange to you? Here drinking coffee with warm milk is very common for children as young as four years old. It’s definitely a cultural difference between Colombia and Massachusetts, where I grew up. With his breakfast he also has an arepa (a delicious corn patty) with cheese and fruit. He doesn’t have too much time to eat though, because his school begins at 6:30 am! Unless he wants to wake up before 5:00 am, or miss the carpool to school and be late, he can’t spend a whole lot of time on breakfast.
In Colombia, lunch is the most important meal of the day. Jhoann arrives home from school at about 1:00 pm, and is usually very hungry and ready to eat by then. He generally starts the meal with some soup, and then eats meat for the main course with potatoes, yucca, beans and a salad. His favorite meals for lunch are either chicken and rice, or pasta with cheese. Don’t forget about dessert! It’s very hot in the afternoon, and he cools down at the pool with some ice cream. Dinner is lighter for Colombians than in the United States, because the Colombians eat such a big lunch. A sandwich or some eggs mixed with tomato, onion and cheese are the most common comidas, or meals.
At home, Jhoann helps out his parents by washing the dishes and making his bed every morning. He is also asked to look after his sisters sometimes. This can be the most challenging “chore” because the girls are ages five and seven, and Jhoann says they can act a little crazy sometimes! Jhoann’s father owns a fruit selling business, and his mother assists with the accounting. This is such an awesome job, because Jhoann’s house is always filled with the best and most exciting fruits! Whenever I visit his house I always leave with some fruit in my bag.
Jhoann speaks Spanish, just like Nicolás and most of my friends here, but he is also learning English with me! The most common names of his classmates, Jhoann told me, are “Paola” and “Sofia” for girls, and “Andrés” and “Rafael” for boys. Do you have any friends in New York with those names? What about the English versions, like “Paula”, “Sophia”, “Andrew” and “Raphael”? At school Jhoann studies many different subjects including English, Social Sciences, Spanish Language Arts, Pre-Algebra (Math), General Sciences, Physical Education and Music. He loves the Music class, because he is learning how to play the piano. Right now he is practicing “Swan Lake” by a Russian composer, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Homework for Jhoann is usually not too bad, because he works hard in school to understand what he is being taught. He almost never needs anyone’s help and finishes everything in about an hour. After homework Jhoann dedicates his afternoons to fun by the pool! He loves playing tag or “Hide and Go Seek” with his neighbors (they always make the teams: Boys vs. Girls).
On the weekends Jhoann is training tennis, and occasionally plays in games and tournaments. He is very disciplined when it comes to conditioning for tennis: He is determined to be the best player he can be. His favorite famous person is, not surprisingly, Roger Federer, one of the most famous tennis players in the world. He follows the Swiss player’s progress religiously. Jhoann enjoys listening to music in English, specifically music by the famous Beatles. I think it’s so great to meet a young person in Colombia, who listens to classic music from the 1960s when my parents were growing up!
When Jhoann grows up, he would ideally like to be a tennis champion. If that doesn’t work out, he wants to study business and then work for an international company that would allow him to travel all around the world. That way he could go to Italy, a country he has always dreamed of visiting. He wants to see Rome’s architecture with the world’s best piece of pizza in one hand and a cone of gelato in the other! Have you ever tried gelato? It’s really delicious Italian ice cream.
He watches many American TV programs from the United States, and thinks that the U.S. is a country where kids are smart and have a lot of fun. He has also heard that in America people drive cars that are too big for the roads. He wants to know from you all where you would want to travel if you could go anywhere, and why would you choose that country! Would you want to visit Colombia?