Nate and I have been on a Jon and Kate Plus 8 kick lately. We don’t have cable, but every once in awhile we catch an episode or two online. For those who don’t watch, during the opening credits, Kate says something about how, with two sets of multiples, she could “very well lose her mind.” Today I felt Kate’s pain.
(JuanPi, Nate, Danni, and me)
Granted, we didn’t have multiples, and we had lots of help, but after taking seven, non-English-speaking kids between the ages of 4 and 9 to the bowling alley today, I can see why Kate says she’s on the verge of losing it!
We got to the babies’ home around 9:00 a.m., and the kids were all so excited to get going that they literally grabbed our hands and pulled us out the door. As it turns out, they were so speedy that we got to the bowling alley about twenty minutes before it actually opened. So, Edwin (our translator), William (our driver who is oh-so-much more than just a “driver”), the seven kids, and the two of us rode the elevators and escalators and did some laps around the adjacent mall. Finally, at 10:00 we were able to get into the lanes. From then on, it was controlled chaos. The kids wanted to bowl, but there was also an arcade temptingly close. Nate gave them each one token, which amounted to about 30 seconds of game time. No matter, they were happy to spend their time pretending to play. I love kids’ ability to use their imaginations!
I have to say that my favorite part of the actual bowling experience was watching Chabelita and Cristel “bowl.” These girls are both about four years old, and the balls seriously weighed more than they did. They may be little, but there was no way they were going to be left out of the fun! The adults would help them push their balls and then we’d all not-so-patiently wait for the balls to make it down the lane.
(Sweet little Cristel struttin’ her stuff at the bowling alley)
Despite their reckless enthusiasm, there were (thankfully) no smashed fingers or toes, only one kid (Alejandra) tried to run down the lane to retrieve a ball, and we managed to keep only one ball on the lane at a time…for the most part, at least. 🙂
About a half hour after we started bowling, the Buckner interns showed up at the bowling alley. They played with the kids and helped us make sure we didn’t send the kiddos home with empty bellies.
(The lovely Buckner interns….minus the boys)
Their timing was perfect. They brought fresh energy and 8 extra pairs of eyes, which is exactly what we needed!
After bowling, the adults went upstairs to grab some food at the food court while the kids continued their reign of terror at the Pollo Campero (like KFC) play area.
(Los ninos waiting patiently for ice cream)
All kidding aside, these kids are incredible. I’m amazed to see how much they care for and look out for one another. One time, I came out of the bathroom with the three girls and Estuardo (who is the big brother of the group) ran to us and frantically asked where Danni was. He seemed more than a little relieved to hear that he was safely with Nate. Later, with only a little persuasion, the bigger kids were sweet enough to share their juice drinks with the younger girls (Cristel and Chabelita) who were equally hot and thirsty but had finished their own drinks.
We’re definitely looking forward to our next outing with the kids (on Friday the Ramseiers are coming with us to take the kids to either the zoo or museum), but we’re also glad that we have tomorrow to recoup and regroup.
After lunch, we switched gears completely. While at the bowling alley, we found out that our time at SG would have to be pushed up because the boys had a “civic activity” at 3:00. As it turns out, the activity was actually a week long seminar on domestic violence, and I don’t think the people in charge were too thrilled with our interruption. However, God’s timing was perfect. We got to SG right as all THIRTY SEVEN boys (twice as many as were there in March) were finishing up lunch, which means they were all conveniently corralled into one room. Also, since the seminar was on violence, the police were there. I’m fairly certain that their presence played a role in keeping these boys seated and calm. Lastly, since the seminar was such a big deal, the director of at least three government orphanages (San Gabriel, Eliza Martinez, and Manchen) was there. He gave us his email address and told us to contact him directly the next time we wanted to come, so he could put us on the official schedule. Wow, it sounds like he is the man to know!
(Edwin and one of the new boys at San Gabriel)
Even though we only had less than an hour with the boys, we somehow managed to get all of our Foreign eXchange things taken care of. When Nate told the boys we had watches for each of them, they literally cheered. And in exchange for our gifts and letters, they gave us some terrific artwork to bring back to the Foreign eXchange amigos. Nate told them all that we would put their pictures on our refrigerators.
As the boys were leaving to go back to their seminar, Nate got to talk with the orphanage director and his right-hand man, Juan Carlos. I could tell you a few of the stories, but I think it would be better if I turned it over to Nate so that he could tell you in his own words:
The road up to San Gabriel has finally been paved, and I heard from Juan Carlos that it’s in preparation for moving all the children from the state-run homes up to San Gabriel. Apparently, it sounds like a good idea to move a bunch of females (including young mothers) to the same compound as the juvenile delinquents and special needs boys. I’m not quite sure what to make of this yet, but it could be good since they would be able to pool resources to better provide for them all.
The leadership changed within the Government structure that oversees all of the state-run homes. They told me they are going to teach the kids to farm pigs and crops, butcher the meat, and continue with the bread bakery. Juan Carlos has plans to work with people in the area to teach them real life skills and rehabilitate them into society. This sounds like a tall order, but in the last 3 months since we’ve been there, they seem to have gotten the boys of San Gabriel under much better control! The gate to the compound was wide open when we arrived and the boys all sat quietly at the table when we opened our huge duffel bag and pulled out gifts. It was pretty unbelievable. Although, like Rachael mentioned, the fact that there were police in the room with loaded weapons may have had something to do with it!
Juan expressed a specific need for shoes and clothes, citing the budgetary constraints of working within the federal government as a problem of cheap quality/early wear out. I am excited to think about how we can creatively come up with solutions to these problem! I told him that we probably know enough people to take care of 60 pairs of shoes and clothes.
The leadership gave us phone numbers and email addresses for the people in charge of both Eliza Martinez and San Gabriel with explicit instructions to contact them for info and scheduling! And then one of the translators used the office phone to call ahead to E.M. and check on how many boys will be there tomorrow. 67. Making a total of 103 boys. So we wrote some extra letters tonight by hand:) Hopefully we brought enough extra watches!
Lord willing, we’ll give away the rest of our Foreign eXchange gifts and letters tomorrow!