|We have astonishing sunsets|
have been living at the Children’s Home for over 2 months now. It is almost always a joy, at times
hilarious, at times heartbreaking, at times breathtakingly beautiful and,
occasionally, baffling. I will start with bedtime which is a favorite time of
the day. The boys come roaring back into
the cabin from, usually, the cancha where they have been playing a variety of
games. They brush their teeth and put their pajamas on. (If that sounds quick
and orderly…it is not…) The Tia (caretaker) dabs Noxema on their faces
(forehead, nose, chin, cheeks.) Several of the boys then come to me, presenting
their faces so I can rub it in for them. Once they are marginally in bed (I
sometimes think the beds have the opposite charge than they do, sort of like
magnets, because the instant they jump in bed, they pop out again…) I remind
them that everyone needs to have teeth brushed, jammies on, and be in bed for my
part of the bedtime routine. We have two bedrooms of 4 boys each. I begin with the youngest boys and the boys
who are in bilingual school, Edgar, age 10, Angel, age 8, Jackson, age 7, Alex,
age 8. The other bedroom has Wilson, age
12, Ishmael, 12, Darwin, 11, Jorge, 8. I
come in and give each boy and hug and, for most of them, tuck a blanket around
them saying, “snug as a bug in a rug.” (It is hot now so they immediately throw
the blanket off again.) Next up is either lullabies or a story. I sing the same lullabies I used to sing with
my boys when they were little. In the youngest
room, they will sing along with me. In
the other room, where there is much less English, they will sing the umm-hmm in
Froggie Went a Courtin’ with me. What they really prefer is a bedtime
story. As I did with my boys, I make one
up as I go along with the bedroom inhabitants as the stars of the story. The younger boys are the Hero Team and the
other boys are the Brave Team. They have
encounters with Metzel, a teeny tiny man, Bubba the bear, Dalrymple Max the
dragon, and one of their favorites, Davy the Rainbow Dolphin. Recently, Sebastian the Stegosaurus made an
appearance but it is not clear whether he will be a recurring character. When
the story, or episode, is over I leave saying, “Good night, sleep tight, don’t
let the bedbugs bite!” I walk out to a
chorus of the same from the boys. I put
myself into bed chuckling with a heart filled with joy. It amazes me because even the oldest boys
want the hug, the snug as a bug routine.
I often also have to tuck in their stuffed animals too.
I put myself to bed and begin my battle against the ronrones (flying beetle type bugs) that are like kamikaze pilots diving for my head, the pomerias which are termite like flying bugs that suddenly swarm out of nowhere, and the gecko who randomly makes a loud EH-EH-EH and occasionally drops a nicely formed pellet of poop on my head.
At around 5 am, a heard of wildebeests thunder through and around the cabin, shouting, whistling ear piercing, tuneless…(what? Noise) I hide in my room until they go down to the communal kitchen for breakfast. Then I shower and eat breakfast. Alone. If I try to eat breakfast when the boys are there I get peppered with the same questions 8 times: Are you eating cereal? (as I put a spoon of cereal in my mouth) Why are you eating cereal? Do you like cereal?
|Wilson learning virtually|
At 8, I head to my school assignment. I am either in 4th/5th grade or in 1st grade. For reasons that defy logic, the local education authorities will not let us use our school which is large and well-appointed about ½ mile down the road. Nor will they let all the teachers be physically present at the same time. So, we always have 2 teachers who are virtual and 2 who stay in the school down the road for a month at a time. The other teachers arrive and leave each day. I am the assistant in whichever class has the virtual teacher. Virtual teaching is the pits. I have even more empathy and admiration for all the teachers worldwide who have been teaching this way. By 2:30, when school is over, I am exhausted. I rest for about an hour and then teach English to a varying number of teens who want to learn. It is really fun. Those of you who will be coming back, get ready to converse with the kids! On Thursday, we learned about all the ingredients that could go on a pizza, (they were grossed out by the pineapple!) the types of crusts, and phrases such as, “I am full,” “I’m stuffed,” “He is a bottomless pit,” “She eats like a bird,” “He eats like a horse!”
The rest of the kids go to the Honduran school, virtually, under the guidance of Lariza, Academic Director. The computer lab is full of kids all in their zoom class in a room that is like an oven. How they survive that is a mystery to me. Elias and Judith have their own program with a wonderful teacher and the other special needs kids go to another virtual school.
The rest of the time, I play with the kids. I have a selection of games and books that I share with the kids. I visit the other cabins and play and horse around. The boys in my cabin have learned to take care of the books and games. I am so happy to see them lounging around, each with a book they have picked out of the basket of books I leave outside my room. I also hang out at the cancha with the kids and generally have a good time.
|Ester in 1st grade||Abram and his cat, Pokey||Fun times with Enma and Suyapa|
|Before school sing along with Angel||Church|
Not every minute is one of bliss, however. The children haven’t seen their families for over a year and some are orphans or were abandoned at birth and know nothing about their mothers. The staff organizes phone calls and video calls but, as we all know, that isn’t the same. Facebook was filled with pictures of joyous Mother’s Day celebrations butI experienced the other side of Mother’s Day. The kids all made Mother’s Day cards for their tias, Debbie, me, Lariza or other favorite staff member. I received a card with an exuberant turkey on it! Aside from the cards and phone calls to moms, we downplay the day. Nevertheless, the pain of being separated from their mothers is evident, often through their behavior. Mother’s Day evening, I put the boys to bed with a particularly good story (if I say so myself!) I was quietly reading in my room when I suddenly heard loud pounding. I went to investigate only to discover one of the best behaved boys had lost control. He was outside pounding on the door, laughing and shouting that he didn’t want to go to sleep. He had a defiant look on his face and refused to come inside. I leave these situations up to the tia – better to have only one person in charge. A few minutes later, I heard a quiet tap on my door. I opened it to find the child with a stricken look on his face. “What’s happening?” I asked. He burst into heaving sobs and cried, “I want to see my mom!” I gathered him into my arms and we sat on my bed. I held him and sang to him until he calmed down. My heart was breaking. The next evening I went into the older boys room to find the youngest with the blanket over his face. He was sobbing. Nothing had happened to cause him to cry. I can only assume that he, too, was missing his mom. I held him for quite a long time. I feel so helpless at times like this. I can’t fix this for them. I can only love them and pray for an end to this pandemic. Please join me in this prayer.
There are so many things that happen day in and day out. I wish I had a video team following me around so you could laugh with me, marvel with me, cry with me, praise God with me as I go from moment to moment.
A final story…I eat breakfast alone, for reasons outlined above, and dinner alone in the cabin. Our big meal is lunch and dinner is often bean focused. I have discovered that, as much as I like beans, I can only eat so many beans before my body revolts. I often eat yoghurt at night. One morning, I reached for my milk in the frig only to find the carton was empty. That evening, I discovered all my yoghurt was gone. During devotional I explained to the boys that my milk and yoghurt had gone missing. I had two problems with that. First, they were my things taken without permission. Second, and most important, they provide the calcium that women my age need to keep our bones strong so they don’t break if I fall. Sweet Wilson, with huge eyes, asked, “So you didn’t eat all day?” Edgar, during the closing prayer, prayed, “Dear Lord, please protect Amanda’s milk for her bones because she is old.”
These last two months have been some of the best in my life! I look forward to returning to my “real job” of volunteer coordinator and welcoming teams again. We REALLY REALLY miss y’all. If you feel so moved, please send an email or, better yet, a short video message to a child of your choice. There are kids with no sponsors or special relationships and I would be happy to give you a name of a child to write to. They are starving for relational connections. You can send them to my email, Amanda.firstname.lastname@example.org or to LAMB in Charleston.
Stay safe, get vaccinated, come back to see you. We love you and we miss you.