Other than the lack of sleep, I’ve really enjoyed this week’s schedule. Early on, we had a few crazy days taking care of Foreign eXchange business, but since then we’ve been able to relax and enjoy ourselves. Take today, for instance. Today was busy, but also highly relational. Nate and I try to put relationships ahead of tasks, but it’s hard when you have tasks to accomplish and not much time in which to accomplish them. It was nice to not have an agenda today at Eliza Martinez. We arrived this afternoon with just a whiffle ball, a bat, and a few small gifts for the workers. Of course, I was nervous. Even though we had Edwin (our translator) and William (our driver) with us, we were still outnumbered 15 to 1. Nate and William got roped into a game of soccer, while Edwin and I “played” baseball with about 20 of the boys. We never did get a real game going, but the boys (both “normal” and those with special needs) seemed to enjoy blasting the ball. And I do mean blasting. I think the plastic bat lasted about a half hour before it started to crack. Eventually, it broke completely, but the boys played on with their little half bat. (Note to self: bring stronger bats next time! Not too strong [we don’t want any injuries—accidental or otherwise!], but stronger than the ones we had today.)
While we were playing, I noticed a boy wearing one of the soccer shirts we brought them last October. When we first got out of the bus, Jeferson ran up to me to show me he was wearing the watch the Spears had given him. I noticed Hugo carrying around his blue pencil box from the last trip, now filled with pencils and other things he needs for school.
Later, Edwin left me on my own with some of the boys. When we visited Eliza Martinez on our first trip, I could have sworn that I would never get to know any of the boys personally or even learn their names. It was neat to be able to talk with boys I remember from the past. Boys like Isaias, Hugo, Rudy, Tomas, Oraldo, Tito, Jorge, David, and Alfredo. Some of the older boys wanted my help learning English. They know how to say phrases like, “I love you” and “How are you?” but they don’t know the meaning. “Que significa?” they ask. Not surprisingly, the majority of their English vocabulary is colorful enough to make a sailor blush. I asked them how they learned those words. From movies? “No, on the streets,” they say. It’s definitely an interesting use of my Teaching English as a Second Language license!
One final note from Eliza Martinez: Edwin and William had the opportunity to talk with one of the male workers while we were waiting for the kids. They told us later that this man used to work at a “Phase 2” home. Phase 2 homes are for kids 18 and older, and they’re one step away from prison. This man was glad he got moved to Eliza Martinez because the kids at the other home are rough. Chances are good that whatever you think “rough” means, it’s far from reality. One of the teachers at this home was recently killed….by the students. They cut off his head and tore out his eyes. They never found his heart, because the students ate it.
Whoa. That’ll take your breath away.
I started today’s blog with Eliza Martinez, because it’s been on my mind this evening. However, our day actually started at the babies’ home. Like this afternoon, this morning was highly relational. We had some activities planned for the kids, but no real agenda. Nate made the wise decision to start the morning with some foot races across the lawn. These kids have tons of energy, and he figured it couldn’t hurt to burn some of it off before we tried to settle them down to play games or read or whatever. Shortly thereafter, we sat the kids down and gave them the bags of clothes we brought. Surprisingly, the biggest hit in the clothing department was soccer shirts from the Vigo County Youth Soccer League. Most of the soccer shirts went to EM and SG, but before we left, I found some in a tote that were too small for the big boys.
Little Cristel is such a girly-girl. She loved every piece of clothing she saw, and she couldn’t wait to try them on. She stripped down to her diaper as soon as she saw that there was a pair of “pantalones” (well, overalls, actually) in her bag, and changed right then and there.
Estuardo was convinced that one of the polos with a pink stripe was for “mujeres” (women). I told him Nate wore pink shirts; that may or may not have helped.
While the big kids were sifting through their clothing piles, Nate looked over and noticed that Mili was looking down and tugging at her own shirt. She looked so sad! She didn’t want to be left out. Thanks to Nate’s grandma (“Grammie”) and a few other professional garage sale shoppers, we had clothes for all of the kids.
We also brought tiny soccer balls to hide around the lawn. Like Easter eggs, they open and you can fill them with candy or other treats. The hunt part of the activity was awesome. Each big kid found his or her six eggs…even little Cristel. However, it was not wise on my part to fill the balls with chocolate candy. Summer heat + chocolate = not a good situation.
While Nate played soccer with some of the kids (in their new jerseys, of course), Daniel and Cristel played with my hair. I tried teaching them to braid, but it’s hard to demonstrate on yourself and my Spanish hair vocabulary is definitely lacking in that area. One of the nannies told us that Daniel actually wants to be a barber when he grows up!
A personal highlight of the morning was sitting on the lawn and reading to Ale, Danni, JuanPi, and Jose. For my birthday this year, Nate got me some Spanish children’s books. Isn’t that a funny gift? Yet also sweet and thoughtful, since it shows that he knows 1.) how much I love the kids in Guatemala and 2.) how important words and stories are to me!
Unfortunately, if you were reading closely, you may have noticed that Estuardo was not included in the above mentioned reading group. While we were sitting on the lawn, we were talking with Edwin and William about our schedule for the next two days. Since we’re going to Antigua tomorrow and the volcano on Monday, today was our last day with the babies. Edwin was translating this news to William, and Estuardo overheard. A few minutes later, he went into the house crying. I wish you all knew Estuardo. If you did, you’d realize just how terrible this made us feel. Estuardo is an old soul. He’s the big brother figure of the group. He translates into sign language for Jose. He looks out for the babies. He knows some English. He also understands that John and Emily are JuanPi’s parents and that JuanPi will be leaving them soon. He also knows that he doesn’t have a mommy and daddy like JuanPi, and he’s taking it pretty hard.
Emily has been telling us stories about how difficult things have been for Estuardo lately, and one of our goals for this trip was to help him feel loved and let him know how much we care for him and his “siblings.” We didn’t get any alone time with Estuardo, but we had more time with him, in general, than any other trip. His tears told us that our week was good in that we were able to show him love, but they also reminds us that there is a hole in his heart. The unconditional and unending love of a mommy and daddy is missing from his life.
Nate followed Estuardo back to a little couch in the laundry room and tried to comfort him while he cried. He told him that we would come back soon, and that he was sorry that he was sad. Edwin came back later and helped Nate have a deeper conversation. I don’t know all of the details, but Nate talked to Estuardo about how waiting for people and feeling sad when they leave is a painful part of growing up. He assured him that it’s okay to be sad, but there’s hope in knowing that we’ll see the people we love again. Some people we’ll see again in this life. We’ll see others, like the grandfather Nate lost a few years ago, again in heaven. Edwin told me later that it was a really great conversation.
The other kids saw Estuardo’s tears, but they didn’t take our departure quite as badly as he did. I saw Jose ask Estuardo in sign language if Nate and I were Estuardo’s mommy and daddy. Poor Estuardo had to sign through his tears that we were not. Juan Pablo came up to me and gave me a picture to give to “Papi.” Later, I saw one small tear roll down his cheek and heard him tell Edwin that he wanted to go to the United States, too. I’m thankful that he is already so attached to John and Emily, but I’m also so, so sorry that he’s not home with them like he needs to be.
Before we left for the final time, we gave them goodie bags with fake hair and jewelry (for the girls, from Jody) and Spiderman puzzles and games for the boys. It helped us make a relatively painless and speedy exit.
Our final words to them were that we’d come back in the fall when they are on vacation from school. That is one promise I don’t intend to break.