As I was sitting in the front seat of the van this morning, I realized that, after seven trips, parts of Guatemala have become very familiar to me—the friends we see, the van we ride in, the volcanoes we pass, the communities we drive through, the routes we take. They’ve become so familiar that they’re almost comforting and comfortable. Almost…but not quite. Because, while feeling like I’m going to vomit each and every turn has become very familiar, it’ll never be comfortable. =)
Despite the familiarity, things here are never the same. Ever. I think most of us have given up trying to predict how things will go. As Jody pointed out, this morning we were operating out of a place of ignorance.
It sounds worse than it was. No one from our group has ever been to the “Community Transformation Centers” before, so we weren’t bogged down with expectations. Jen had prepared a lesson and a craft. Stefanie kept the kids giggling throughout what could have been a boring and routine teeth-brushing demonstration.
Still, Day 1 at the Community Center left me with mixed feelings. The kids could have taught us the story of Noah’s Ark, and it sounds like they’re already brushing their teeth more than I do (three times a day versus my two). We won’t be seeing the same kids tomorrow. It doesn’t seem like we’ll be able to build relationships with these kids like we have with the kids at the orphanage.
It’s different than what I’m used to, but shouldn’t I already know by now not to expect things in Guate to stay the same?
Besides, I assume it will get better with time. After all, this CTC is brand new. And, in theory, it’s a good idea. Theoretically, building into young kids and families should help prevent orphans, delinquents, and broken families.
This afternoon, we got to really see the new “City of the Children.” Except, the name’s changed. It’s now called “Hogar Solidario.” Another “constant” that has changed completely since January!
This city currently houses 200 “babies” (children under six) and 165 teenage boys. There are 30 people on staff.
It was surprisingly calm. The campus is gorgeous. The boys were exceptionally attentive and well behaved today. What’s more, one of my biggest concerns about this move wasn’t an issue at all– it was easy to split off the boys at Eliza Martinez from the other boys!
Unfortunately, we couldn’t take a single picture inside the government facility. If we understood correctly, another group from Europe took pictures and used them in a “bad” way. It sounds like they put pictures of the babies online and advertized that they were up for adoption.
Jody asked us tonight if any of us felt overwhelmed today. I always feel overwhelmed when we’re with those boys! Especially when we’re doing something for Foreign Exchange. We started by putting nametags on the boys, which is a daunting task since there are a lot of very common names (I counted three boys named “Jose Luis”), a lot of the boys can’t spell their own names, we have trouble understanding what they’re saying, and today they might go by their first name and tomorrow they might prefer their middle! After that escapade, we made sure that each boy got a handmade card with his name on it.
We knew the boys with special needs would love the cards. When we walked in the door, one of the first boys we saw was David Perez. David doesn’t have a lot of words, but, when he saw us, he pulled open his backpack and showed us his picture album from our last trip. The “special” boys always treasure the gifts we bring.
I always expect the “normal” boys to be harder to please.
I’m always wrong.
We asked the boys to make cards to send back to the people who sent cards with them. Several “normal” boys came over to me to ask what names they should write on their cards. They desperately want to have a special friend or family all their own.
Check out a few of our favorite cards made by the “normal” boys:
Tomorrow we’re going to hang out again at the CTC in the morning and then head back to Hogar Solidario in the afternoon. Please pray for good rest tonight, flexibility with our plans, and another successful attempt at making the boys feel loved and cherished tomorrow!