Today was a nice change of pace from the past few days. We woke up late, had cake for breakfast (happy birthday, Adam!), and prayed together around the table. Around 11, we dropped Shawn, Wendy, Jody, and Adam off at the airport. Although their flight was delayed, they should be landing in Indy tonight.
From the airport, we headed to Danni’s new home, Casa Bernabe. We got a taste of the facilities on Thursday; today we had the full tour! We met Danni’s fantastic social worker, Tonilynn, at the office, and she showed us the campus. Truly, it is a beautiful place. 13 acres of sunshine, mountains, grass, gardens, flowers, and trees. The 160+ children who live there are growing up in a wonderful place.
Interestingly, the U.S. offices of CB are based in Kokomo, Indiana. What are the odds?!
Daniel’s house, Casa Samuel, contains approximately 14 boys and girls ages 5-10.
We were able to spend about 45 minutes alone with Daniel after lunch. Tonilynn said his house mom was happy we visited, because they sometimes have to wait on him to finish his food. Since he knew we were coming, he was the first one to finish today!
We walked in while he was brushing his teeth. Through a mouthful of toothpaste, we see him smile and hear him say, “Hola, Net.” He showed us his room and told us that some of his clothes (including his Buzz Lightyear costume) had disappeared. There were a few other differences between his new home and the Buckner Home that he felt the need to point out. For instance, although he has acres of land to explore and play in, he’s disappointed that there’s no t.v. in Casa Samuel. Also, he said he doesn’t have any friends to talk to, because the boys at CB use bad words.
We took him outside to play on the playground outside Casa Samuel. Normally, Danni likes to cuddle and hug, but he was a little shy today. Who could blame him? This was new. We aren’t usually interacting with just him. We usually meet him at the Buckner Baby Home. We were all a little out of our comfort zone.
Another factor contributing to the lack of cuddles could be that Daniel is around a lot more older kids now. I think they are helping him to grow and mature (not that I think hugs or cuddles are a sign of immaturity! But they are two things that kids seem to do less and less of as they grow older).
Danni wanted to talk about the past. He kept asking us if we remembered going to places like the zoo, museum, and the movie theater. He had some of the details confused (he went with John and Emily to a movie, not us), but he obviously remembered at least some of our past interactions.
He told us how Juan Pablo was the first to leave the home, then Estuardo, then Jose (he called him “the boy who can’t hear”), and then him.
He told Tonilynn and William (our driver) that he remembered one time when he was with us and someone told a joke that was so funny that they peed their pants. (All we could understand was “pee pee.”)
Later, he told Tonilynn that he and JP had gone to a beach. “Really, a beach?” she asked.
“Well, no. Actually, someone brought in a plastic pool for us to play in.”
“Well, no, but we wished that had happened.”
Since we usually interact with him in a group, I don’t think I’ve ever had the chance to appreciate how truly funny he is. Even with the language barrier, he had us doubled over in laughter. Apparently, the way I talk is funny to him, so he started mimicking my hand motions and repeating my words in a high-pitched voice.
And his facial expression. Priceless! The eye rolls and looks of exasperation when we couldn’t understand what he was saying kept us laughing throughout most of our visit.
He had so much to say. He talked the entire time. As Tonilynn noted, he definitely processes things through words and conversation. I can relate! I just wish I had more (Spanish) words in my vocabulary to use to respond. On the other hand, maybe what he needed today was for us to be there and listen?
He asked us several times if we were coming back tomorrow.
“No, not tomorrow.”
“The next day?”
“No, not the next day either. But you know that we always come back.”
When it was time to leave, he very calmly gave us big hugs and (with a little prompting from Tonilynn) thanked us for coming. No tears.
He looked happy.
I’m already counting down the days until we get to see him again.
La Ciudad de los Niños
Danni’s home is close to San Gabriel, one of the government homes we’ve visited in the past. For several months, we’ve heard rumors that the government is preparing to move all of the children in the government orphanages to this one facility.
If they would have asked me my opinion, I would have told them it was a terrible idea. Hundreds of pre-teens, teenagers, children with special needs, single moms, boys, girls, and babies together on one campus? Why when they already have such great homes for each group. That sounds terrible!
Of course, what politicians say and what they do are often two very different things. The plan to move all the kids to one place is so outrageous that I honestly figured it wouldn’t happen.
That’s why I’m glad we stopped by San Gabriel today. Had I not seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it possible.
But, sure enough, this afternoon we toured a very new and very expensive facility that will soon be the new home of our beloved boys from Elisa Martinez. In fact, the boys were there today moving in their things! They were excited to see us and gave us lots of hugs. They had bathed and were wearing clean blue (for the “special boys”) and yellow (for the “normal boys”) shirts.
This move is for real.
Our tour guide was a young guy who spoke excellent English. He was obviously overwhelmed. He said this wasn’t supposed to be his project. He came two weeks ago and is just getting a feel for the place. He is in charge of setting up and coordinating programs for the campus.
I’m not sure what these changes will mean for Foreign Exchange. There’s not much distinction between the homes. If we bring gifts for just the boys at Eliza Martinez, all the other kids will know they were left out. I don’t know what we’ll do.
Also, our camera is telling us that we have a “memory card error” and that we need to reformat. We can’t take or see any pictures, even when we plugged in the card reader and tried to view them on our computer. (This explains the lack of pictures on the blog today.) All of the pictures of the boys with their nametags are on that card. That’s the main way I catalog and track the boys. We have an extra memory card we can use for tomorrow, but we are hoping and praying that we didn’t lose the ones we already took.
If you know how to fix this problem, please let us know. Have you had any luck with the recovery programs you see on the internet? Know any IT or camera people who could help us out?
As always, we appreciate your prayers! Our trip has been great so far, and we’re looking forward to one more wonderful day before we head home to the cold and snow!