Monday, March 28, 2011

Back at Hogar Infantil

I'm finally back at Hogar Infantil after 8 months of craziness and transition. My mom has recovered from chemo and is in full remission. Caleb and I have lived with his folks, my folks, traveled to Italy, Monaco and France, were part of two weddings, bought land in the remote upper peninsula of Michigan, and I've worked as a waitress in our old college town. We've saved money, have become absolutely sure that we need a place of our own, and are making plans to build a cabin this summer. A part of all this planning and a constant in all this transition was the sure thing that I had to return to the kids at Hogar.

I quit my restaurant job, collected my donations for the kids and got ready to depart last Wednesday. Two days before my trip I came down with a miserable sickness, had a fever, the whole nine yards. I couldn't change my ticket without incurring a huge fee so I flew all doped up and hoping to make it to Cancun in one piece. I also had way too much luggage for one person to handle. By sheer willpower I made it to Playa del Carmen and then my friend's house in Akumal. My friend Mercedes happens to live in a cute little apartment right on the beach. The only thing that kept me going was thinking about relaxing in a lawn chair and staring at the Carribean, not moving.

I stayed with Mercedes and her boyfriend Miguel for nearly 5 days. I finally went to the doctor and was told I probably had some sort of bacterial infection like bronchitis and was given a pile of drugs. Mexican doctors I've found, really like to prescribe as much medicine as possible. All the medicine has to be taken at different times of day and for a different amount of days as well. Go figure.

I had to postpone my trip to Chiapas and the kids until Sunday rather than Friday. I was super bummed, knowing that I would miss that weekend with them. I finally boarded my bus Sunday night and traversed the windy, treacherous roads to southwestern Chiapas. 23ish hours later I was in Ocozocoautla de Espinosa, a little town that I'm so fond of now. A couple of boys from Hogar picked me up in the truck and I joyously rode in the truck-bed just content to look at my godson and smile. He is so tall now!

When I arrived I was greeted by lots of happy familiar faces and also lots of handsome new kids. I can't even begin to describe how content I feel just being here and how great it is to spend my days dishing out love and playing with kids. Today I had a very full day. I went into town and bought a bucket, which is a necessity when there's a water shortage and no guarantee you will have water from one day to the next. I spent the afternoon making bracelets with the girls and playing frisbee with the little boys. There are 22 little boys now. So, so many. They are all so handsome and have beautiful smiles. I gave out a lot of hugs today and kisses too. One little boy just clung to me and I could see in his eyes he was getting sad and thinking of his mom. Later, he was crying and I found out that today was his first full day here alone. His mother had left him here yesterday, and I'm sure she's been having a hard day as well. He was so heartbroken, it was hard for me not to cry also. Sometimes I can't help but think about the fact that I've had two miscarriages and want children so badly and here are a pile of kids with out mothers or whose mothers are far away and it just kills me. I want them all.

I'm happy to say that the little boys' house mom is still Tia Isabel - and she truly cares for them. 22 little boys is more than a handful but somehow she manages to keep them in line. She's my favorite caretaker here - there's a real maternal quality about her and wisdom.

I'm excited to have a whole day with my godson on Saturday. We have fun plans to play video games at the arcade (he's 15), eat fast food and see a movie. I told him eight months ago that I would love to treat him to a whole day of fun and I'm really glad that I can do that now.

That's all for now. Oh and I chased a really big cockroach out of my room today and only swore once, so I think I'm still pretty aclimated. :)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

June, July, August, and September

It's been over four months since I've posted. May was a hard month and some things happened that took me time to process and I wasn't ready to put it all into words. I needed privacy, time to think, time to process and know what to say.

The first thing that stopped my writing happened while I was still visiting Hogar. I had a conversation that changed the course of my involvement with Hogar as an organization. I had to take a step back, reevaluate, and plot a new course. It in no way affected my relationships with the children or my commitment to them - it was just a personal hurdle I had to work through and some hurt feelings. I'm wiser for it. It opened my eyes and taught me a lot and now I'm busy planning my new course of action.

The second thing is that my mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I also found this out while I was at Hogar and didn't really know how to process it. Being thousands of miles away...worlds away even, yet I had all these emotions and fears coursing through me. And at the same time, I was emotionally and physically very involved with the activities at Hogar and dealing with a discontent husband who was lonely at home. It was just a lot to deal with and I didn't know how to write about it.

My mom's okay. She will be having her 4th chemo session on September 20th. She's stage one ovarian cancer, which is the lowest stage and they rarely ever catch it that quickly. She had a full hysterectomy in June and now is completing 6 sessions of chemo just to make sure they got it all. She's amazingly positive and strong and just overall grateful to God that the doctors caught it so soon. I on the other hand have been working through the knowledge of the mortality of my own mother and also the knowledge that this is a battle that I too may have to fight some day. See, my aunt had ovarian cancer too (survived) and my great aunt had breast cancer (also survived). So the chances of me getting it are pretty high and that scares me. I've never seen my mom sick, at least not that I remember. And now she's so vulnerable and little and bald. And it makes me weep. However, I know she will be okay - which is not a certainty that most chemo patients have. Stage one is really beatable. It's the best news one could get in the cancer world.

Caleb and I came back to the States in mid July. We came back so I could be with my mom and so that we could go up to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and spend time with his family as well. His dad is a master woodworker and Caleb's been excited to work with him on some projects. So we said our good-byes to Tulum, the bright blue sea, our dear friends, hot tropical weather, and our wonderful little apartment. We left Mexico.

And the transition wasn't easy. We were both sad to be leaving. The first day back to Michigan, my mom started to loose her hair and I went with her to buy a wig. Honestly, I was hoping to be in denial about the whole cancer thing for at least the first few days back, but that wasn't how it happened. It wasn't until I was in the infusion room five days after being back, and my mom had an allergic reaction to the chemo, that it really hit me and I couldn't stop crying. I just felt so helpless and it's horrible to see your parent suffer like that. Parents raise us and take care of us when we are sick and when the role gets reversed it really shakes you up. They're not invincible, they can get hurt, and they need us to lean on sometimes. Later that week I shaved my mom's head and we both shed a few tears. You know what though? It was really good. I wouldn't have wanted anyone else to have done it. It was painful but sweet to love my mom in that way. We laugh and find humor in it when we can, but we're not afraid to shed a few tears when all you can say is "this is pretty lousy, this sucks." One of my mom's nurses has a button that says, 'Cancer Sucks'. So true.

So now, I'm in the U.P. at Caleb's folk's house. I'm picking plums, painting dog houses, power washing the shop, cooking a lot, and going for mind clearing runs. It's very rural up here and so beautiful. I haven't been up here in the summer since our wedding seven years ago. I remember why we chose to got married here. The loose plan for the next few months is that we will be up in the U.P. until October when Caleb's sister gets married in West Virginia and then head to Chiapas, Mexico in November so that I can be closer to Hogar Infantil and the kids. Meanwhile I'm working on some ideas for projects with the kids for when I go back. I think about the children at Hogar daily, and I miss them so much.

That's the short version of the past few months and the ones to come. I do apologize for dropping off the face of the earth. Now that I'm in a better place, I'm looking forward to once again posting regularly.

Monday, May 31, 2010


I have moments here where I wonder what I'm doing, whether I'm needed, and if I'm contributing enough. This weekend reminded me of how I do contribute and what the children need from me.

I am the oldest volunteer here by nearly 10 years. This, I think is a good thing. I believe I have a perspective on life and children (having nannied, etc.) that the other volunteers are still developing. The bit of training I have in abuse counseling and domestic abuse prevention definitely help as well. There are moments that I have with the children that are so sincere and vulnerable that I play the parenting role more than the playmate role. For example, I saw one of the 10 year old boys hit the little six year old boy, Octavio the other day when they were playing soccer. Octavio gets beat on a lot by the older ones, as he's the youngest, but he also gives it back. Having some idea of the abusive backgrounds that a lot of these kids come from, I know that frequently when one of these little guys hits another one out of anger or frustration, there is a lot more going on under the surface than is seen. When I saw the other boy, (lets call him Carlos), hit Octavio, I pulled them both aside and got down on my knees and talked to them.

"Carlos why did you hit Octavio?"
"Because I wanted to."
"It's not okay to hit him when you feel angry."
"I don't care."
"It hurts Octavio. When other kids hit you, it hurts you too doesn't it?"
"I don't care."
"Why did you hit Octavio?"
"He was bothering me."
"When someone is bothering you it's not okay to hit them. Use words. Tell him to stop bothering you."
"I liked hitting him."
"I want you to apologize."
"You can't play anymore football for now. I want you to come and sit with me for a while."
To Octavio, "I'm sorry he hit you, that's not ok. We're going to talk for a while now and you can go back and keep playing."
Sitting on the bench,
"Carlos, why do you feel so angry?"
"It's not ok to hit when you feel angry. "Some day when you have a wife and a family you don't want to hit them when you get angry do you?"
Very quietly, "No."
"Has an adult ever hit you?"
"I'm so sorry. That was wrong and was not your fault. It's never ok for an adult to hit a child. "
For the rest of the conversation, Carlos is quiet, occasionally sniffling.
"Carlos, the reason I'm telling you this is because I love you. I'm sure these feelings are very confusing to you. I hope you know that you can trust me and if you ever want to talk I would really like that. "
We sat together for about 15 minutes. Him watching the game, me with my arm around him. After a while, I thanked him for listening and told him he could go back and play, but he chose to sit on the bench with me for a while longer. His face was turned away from me and I wasn't sure how upset he was with me. I knew he was doing a lot of thinking and that he was really sad. After a while he joined the others. I was unsure if he would want me as far away as possible after that or if we had bonded. The next day he came and sat with me and we watched cartoons on my laptop.

This event and others similar even more personal, have been the true reason I want to keep coming back to Hogar. When the boys are disciplined they're told not to hit, but I'm not sure, at least in Carlos's case that they really understand why. I think it would be very confusing to see the adults around you (parents, caretakers) being abusive when angry, and perhaps being the victim of that abuse and then being told to respond differently when you get angry. I don't think Carlos had made the connection before with the abuse in his past and the way he was treating the boys around him. Also, I think it was important for me to let him know that I didn't just think he was bad and that I understood how confusing all these feelings must be for him. Many of these kids, if not all, could use counseling. I know that the kids having the most outward problems get counseling. If they are functioning decently then they don't. All the kids here have crazy stories. And the adults here do what they can with the few resources available to them.

When I'm here I do my best to love these kids, listen to them, play with them, teach them and at times to comfort them. As I've mentioned before, the kids here are amazingly resilient and wonderful. Hogar is a safe place for these kids, and I'm glad that this is a place where I can take them aside, sit on the bench with them and talk.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Fresh Jasmine and One on One Time

Sunday came bright and early. Kids were catching up on their Saturday chores and I literally felt hungover from exhaustion. However, Kyla and I pulled ourselves together and spent the day shopping in Coita and then preparing dinner for the boys. Dinner was a success, I think. I base that mainly on the fact that most of it was eaten and several guys came back for seconds. The other day I had one of the kids ask me when I'm going to cook again. That's a good sign. I really want to try and make something in the outdoor wood ovens, but having no experience with them and trying to cook pizza for about 60 kids could be more than I'm capable of. I've heard stories of others who've succeeded, but at this time I'm still contemplating.

I've had a lot of individual time with the kids this week. Paola and I climbed our tree again. We probably spent a couple hours in it just talking. The girls and I have painted nails, colored with oil pastels, chatted into the night, and have just hung out. I've been doing some homework help, and last night helped a little guy named Alexis with his multiplications tables. Alexis was nearly asleep on the floor the other night trying to finish his homework. And Felix (one of the German volunteers) spent a total of 6 hours over the course of two days with one of the 8 year old boys doing homework. Turns out the teacher thought he wasn't doing his homework, so she gave him extra. Unfortunately he just kept forgetting to turn it in.....I'm assuming he won't forget again after the mountain of work he's had to do this week!

I've been into town several times in the past few days. I wish I could show you how amazing the market is. Thing is, when I'm there, crowded under the tarps in the stalls, people pushing past me, women nursing their children, the smell of ripe fruit, flowers, and the earth in the air - I'm just not comfortable pulling out my camera and taking a picture. It feels voyeuristic and intrusive. I already get stared at when I'm there... the only gringa in Coita, when Kyla's not with me. But I have to tell you this market is fascinating. Every corner, every table is full of clothes, and pots, and raw chickens, and tomatoes, and plantains, and shops full of half cows hanging from hooks, and odorous shrimp being sold in baskets next to carts full of sweets and women with their babies wrapped in cloth around their backs. There are children everywhere, many working, several crying or playing. The market is full of sounds. People yelling out specials and cars honking and radios blasting reggeaton music. And there are thin, hungry dogs wandering around, frequently with teats hanging - scavenging among the decaying fruit and bits of tortillas in and around the street. There are bicitaxis (bicycle carts) ferrying women from the market back home, arms full of fresh flowers and produce. I bought my first bouquet of fresh jasmine the other day. It's aroma is intoxicating. I want to live in a bouquet of jasmine. I've been buying lychee fruit by the half kilo lately from a man who has them all arraigned on his cart like a prickly anime sculpture. They are sweet and delicious and bizarre looking.

Today is Friday. The secondary school kids looked great this morning in their nice clothes, rather then their usual uniforms (which are adorable by the way) because it was another celebration of the day of the students or something. I love seeing all the girls all dolled up and the guys looking snazzy with a whole lot of hair gel going on. This is such a culture of hair gel. I've seen various amazing styles of hair since I've been here...sculptures of sorts. Hogar goes through hair gel practically by the gallon. In the mornings everyone looks shiny and ready for school. The boys like to spike their hair up and the girls use it for a smooth, pulled back, pony tail.

The days are passing quickly and I never feel like I have enough hours in the day with the kids. Between their school, chores, various classes here and homework, it's hard to find time to really spend with them. I love weekends, especially Sundays, because there's just a lot more free time. My days still manage to be full though. I float around a lot, playing tag with the younger girls, reading to the little boys, hanging out in my room with the University girls, practicing English with the middle school boys....and providing movies on weekends. I wondered when I got back if they were more excited about the movies I had than that I was back! Ha. I understand though. I love movies too and I like being able to provide them with a treat.

I thing my best times so far have been times spent in one on one conversations with a couple of the kids here. One of the evenings I spent talking to a middle school boy about his very traumatic, violent past and was able to bring him a bit of comfort. I don't think I have ever seen someone cry as intensely - as though in physical pain from the emotional wounds. My heart breaks for these children and what they have endured. I listen, hug them, acknowledge their pain and do my best build them up and assure them that they are loved and that the past is not their fault. I am frustrated by my inadequate Spanish, but perhaps sometimes what they need most is someone who they can trust, that will listen. It has been rewarding deepening relationships my second visit here, building on the foundations from before. There are many differences in this world, but when it comes down to it - we all want to be loved.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Disco Dancing and Lagunas de Colon

Oh, I have so much to tell!

On Friday night the girls got all gussied up for a high school dance (disco) that they had permission to attend. I was invited by Suleyma, on of the senior girls and was actually made a chaperon for the night. The girls looked great. The guys were invited too, but for some reason only a couple of older university age guys went, and I think it was mainly as chaperons too.

We drove the short way in the combi van and got dropped off about two buildings down from the slaughterhouse. Music was blaring, lights were flashing, there was a cover charge…it was pretty great. The aroma of fresh manure and strong cologne was in the air. They had a nice covered area and tables and decorations set up. The first few hours were a lot of standing around waiting for people to dance, then there was an announcement of awards won by the students. Suleyma won 'best personality" which was cute, she was really shy on stage when she thanked everyone for their support. Next to the stage was a big screen showing music videos from popular reggeaton artists. Really racy, raunchy stuff. For a part of Mexico that is so conservative, it was such a strange thing to see at a school function. I swear the videos were screaming sex. Anyway, the music was snappy and the dancing began, and I got to have a pile of fun with girls I hadn't really hung out with much before. Nothing scandalous happened on my watch as chaperon, unless you count the ridiculous ways the High School boys were dancing with us. It's funny going to events like these because I remember being in High School and being so self-conscious. Now it's just fun to support the kids and have a good time and be completely myself and not be intimidated in the least. Granted I shouldn't be because I could practically be their mother!

We didn't get back until our curfew at little after 1:00am. The girls were in great moods, all giggling and talking about boys and other girls outfits….the usual stuff. I didn't fall asleep until after 2am. I was up again at 3:15 because some of the girls decided to forgo sleep altogether and had hit some kind of giggle high. I dragged my body out of bed at 4:15am, because we were all piling on to the school bus at 5am for a day trip to Lagunas de Colon. It was a tired pile of kids on the bus that morning. I don't think we could have fit one more bag on the bus, let alone children. Most of the seats had 3 people in 2, and many kids sat in the aisle. Felix and Robin (the German volunteers) tried sleeping on the floor. There was a baby in the aisle in a little seat, and a couple of older kids at the front of the bus leaning on the dashboard or sitting on the steps. It took us about 6 1/2 hours to get to the lagunas (lakes). Much of the trip was through winding mountains and several of the kids got sick. It was quite the adventure. I've since checked the map to see where we went, and we were practically on the boarder of Guatemala.

The Lagunas were crystal clear pools of water - a series of connected lakes surrounded by tropical trees. The water was a beautiful blue, sweet and so refreshing. Most of the boys could swim, but many of the girls didn't know how, so us volunteers spent some time giving basic lessons. I am a water baby. I love swimming and it was the perfect day for it. So hot but with a slight breeze in the shade. The littlest kids played in a special shallow spot and were so cute in their underwear. The little girls had bathing suits, but the boys rocked their tighty whiteys and had a blast splashing around. All the other girls swam in clothes. Shorts and tank tops or tee shirts. In an effort to fit in I wore shorts and a tank top with my bikini underneath. It is not the easiest thing swimming in clothes, and it just feels so weird.

I thought I was already having as much fun as possible, when some of the kids asked me if I wanted to see the cascade or waterfall. That was not a hard decision, and soon we were winding our way barefoot, along paths past more little clear lakes, crossed a few streams and heard the sound of the falling water. It wasn't just one waterfall. It was a whole pile of waterfalls cascading down a rocky hill surrounded by lush trees. The water pored over little hidden caves and into deep, crystal clear pools and then into a larger river with an amazing rock for diving. It was a scene from a fantasy novel. Slipping and sliding over the smooth rocks I climbed my way up into the first of the little caves that had a waterfall at it's entrance. I've always wanted to be in a secret cave behind a waterfall. It was small, but there were stalagtites and another little waterfall on the inside. It was the prettiest thing looking out, seeing the green moss growing from the ceiling and the water poring over the opening. There was another cave to explore too, and I spent the next little while quite happily swimming in this fairy tale wonderland. The boys were jumping from the big rock at the bottom of the waterfall into the deep, cool water below. I'm not much of a diver, and I always have to plug my nose, but it just looked like too much fun to resist. Sure enough, I probably jumped from that rock 15 times over the course of the next few hours. I smacked my feet on rocks a few times, which really hurt, but not enough to make me not want to try again.

It was such an nice change to be on an excursion with the kids, having fun all day and seeing them laughing and playing. We have fun on the ranch too, but this was a whole day just for them. We packed up and headed out around 5:30pm for our bus ride back to Ocozocoautla. I shared two seats with two secondary school kids, Luis and Ruby. We were pretty snug, but I was just glad to not be sitting on the floor. Every one was so wiped out. Especially the girls who had barely slept the night before, me included. The trip home took nearly 8! hours this time. Apparently, Tio Audi who was driving was trying to take less curvy mountain roads for the kids and at the same time trying to avoid the unsafe highways where robberies frequently occur at night. I think we may have gotten lost a few times. By the time we pulled back into our ranch it was 1:15am and it was a pile of child-like little zombies that exited the bus. And I don't know how Tio Audi drove a huge bus for over 14 hours that day on narrow mountain roads, but he did. There were limbs that I couldn't feel. I fell into bed, hoping that Sunday would be a day of rest for everyone.

Friday, May 21, 2010

A Dinner Date with the Muchachas

It has been crayon melting weather the past two days. I slept on the roof again on Wednesday night, though I woke up stiff and covered in dew. Last night I choose to sleep in my bed because there is indeed such a thing as being too old to sleep on the ground two nights in a row. My body just isn't as resilient any more.

We have a new little girl at Hogar. Her name is Josefina and she is 8 years old. Her first night here she was so shy. She clung to the director, Tia Arde, while she was introduced to the rest of the girls. Josefina has the same hair as me. Short and wavy. She's a scrawny, little, freckled thing, with the personality of a little sprite. The rest of the night she clung to me leading me around, shy to be alone with the other girls, but full of restless energy. I would imagine that the first night here is probably very hard. The girls were great though...they made her feel welcome and asked her questions, and Kristel, who is also 8, slept in the bed next to Josefina's so she wouldn't feel lonely her first night. One of the girls gave her a stuffed animal for her bed.
It took her ages to settle down for the night and I heared from the other girls that they didn't sleep very well. Josefina and I spent the morning together exploring the grounds, coloring, painting with Kyla, and running around. She is incredibly bright and very high energy. I'm not sure she has ever been to school, but she can read, understands math, and is eager to get into everything. 'No' seems to be a optional word for her. I don't know her full story, but I do know that she doesn't know where her mom or dad are. I think her mother abandoned her and some people took her in and helped her get accepted into Hogar. I'm so glad she is adjusting well and seem happy. The tias (aunts) who cook for us thought she was my daughter this morning because we have the same hair and she has a lighter skin tone. I thought that was pretty cute.

Other news...I climbed that fantastic tree again with Paola. This time we carried cement blocks over to it and made a ramshackle staircase filled in with branches. Paola made it up successfully her first attempt, but I fell - though I was laughing so hard it took me a while to notice my scrapes. We were in the tree again for about an hour. It really is a great place to escape to.

The past few days have been busy. I keep lending out my computer, mostly to the middle school boys for homework and email. I've been herding the sheep in the evenings with Luis, and I'm getting better at that. I actually got them into the shed last night with very little difficulty. There is a new baby sheep, so tiny and wobbly. Kyla and I named her Myrrh. I want to have a baby sheep as a pet. I've also spent quality time with a University girl named, America, doing Zumba, which has just been hilarious, and I've had a chance to have one on one time with Martha, a very sweet 10 year old girl who really misses her mom. There is always something to do here....especially with the little ones who have fewer chores and more free time.

Kyla and I have been gardening. The girls dorm has a nice space out front and just needs a few more plants and some major weeding to be lovely. Kyla manned the pick axe to break up the ground and pull up the crab grass and I navigated the spiders and biting ants and weeded around the plants. It felt good to see our progress. Yesterday we went to the market and successfully bought produce for 25 people. We thought it would be fun if we made dinner one night, so we planned the menu and ran around town yesterday and found everything we needed. We spent the afternoon cooking and made a really tasty pasta sauce with chorizo, basil, onions, garlic, olives, capers, thyme and tons of fresh tomatoes. We made a big green salad with avocados as well. I think the girls were a bit wary and confused by the food at first, especially since they didn't see any tortillas or beans, but it turned out to be a great success. We didn't have enough utensils, so many of the girls ate with their hands a la "Lady and the Tramp". It was very cute.

They don't eat many fresh fruist or vegetables here and it was really great to see them asking us for second helpings. Kyla and I played music and put flowers on the tables, and everyone lingered over dinner longer than usual and the conversation was cheerful and happy. Kyla and I did clean up duty too, and it was fulfilling to be able to feed the kids and give them night off from their chores. We are going to cook for the boys Sunday night, hopefully it will be just as well received.

Tonight I'm going to the high school dance with some of the girls. Kyla thinks it's funny I want to go. I bought a Latina disco worthy shirt the other day so I'm ready. I'm always up for fun and dancing, and it gives me the opportunity to spend some time outside of Hogar with the high school girls. I think it will be great. However, tomorrow morning at 5am, we are all piling into the big, blue school bus for a 5 hour trip to a waterfall. It sounds like a fantastic day and a lot of time in the bus. I think I'm going to be really, really exhausted because our curfew for the dance is at 1am. But, I'm really looking forward to a whole day away with the kids and seeing some more of Chiapas.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Chasing Sheep, Climbing Trees

On Sunday I went to the older boys' soccer game and laughed as a heard of cows meandered down the path the team was taking their half time break on. Kyla picked cactus fruit and we spent the second half of the game picking tiny thorns from her fingers.

The past two days have been great. I've been trying to focus on spending a day with the girls, then a day with the boys. It's hard to get quality time with everyone, but that doesn't keep me from trying. On Monday I climbed trees with Paola and Luis, my dear friends (12 and 15, brother and sister), and we had such a great time. We climbed this enormous fairy tale tree at the far side of the corn field and sat high in it's branches feeling the wind in our hair and talking for over an hour. I can't believe we've never climbed that tree before. It's like an oasis or sanctuary, a safe place to go and just think and have time alone.

Monday night I put all the girls names in a bowl and randomly chose names for selecting clothes from the donations I brought. Much thanks to my friend Mercedes who gave me a ton of cute clothes before I left Tulum to donate to the girls. Each girl got to go through the clothes twice taking an item they wanted. It was an hour of giggling and fun and various stages of dress and undress and trying on clothes that weren't even close to the right size and needing teamwork to untangle each other. Afterward the girls were in good moods, still swapping clothes and lounging around in their dorms. I played tag with some of the littler girls and we raced around the cabana until we all were out of breath and exhausted from so much fun.

Yesterday I went into town with Kyla and had a much needed cup of coffee. I've gone through caffeine withdrawal again and my headaches are gone, but I just feel half awake for about the first 5 hours of the day! While in town I got workbooks and coloring books for the little boys to help make learning fun and be able to do some projects with them. That afternoon we all sat around a table outside and colored, and worked on numbers and some word games. I tried to teach them the song, "Head and Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" and I think their favorite part was watching me do it alone, making a fool of myself! Ha, I didn't mind, and I'm going to continue teaching them a little bit of English and I just know they will be singing along with me before long! After my time with the little ones, I helped some middle school boys with email and computer stuff. It's been fun to show them some basic computer things and I'm hoping to help them learn how to type. Kyla downloaded a typing program a few weeks ago, I just need to ask her which one and do a little research myself.

Luis and I hung out again. He helped me with my Spanish language workbook and I helped him chase sheep into their pen. Now that's a hilarious event. First of all chasing sheep is just fun. They 'baaaaah, and gallop and most of them head in the right direction. Getting them into the shed was a whole other thing. Sheep really are stupid creatures. I don't feel bad saying that, because I think they are wonderful, cute, and funny, but boy, getting them to go into their shed really was impossible. It's like crowd control with a crowd that just doesn't get it. They would move as one, but it was like a giant wiggly amoeba that we had to direct through a small door. I was standing in a pile of sheep poop, laughing so hard I was almost crying as sheep were bleating and confused and looking worried..... oh, my, I can't wait to help again today. By the way, we never did get them into their shed. Only into the pen.

Hugo, the dancing machine, borrowed my laptop to watch Micheal Jackson's "Live in Bucharest" DVD and learn new moves. On Saturday I saw him teaching a group of 7 girls a whole choreographed dance. I don't know if they will be performing it, but I sure hope so! It was great to see him teach too, he was so good with them and so confident. In the past couple of months he's grown even more confident in his performance, so that now he's dancing any chance he gets. So last night he danced for about 2 1/2 hours. I have him on video.

After finishing Avatar last night with the older kids, I headed back to my room where the first thing I did was trap a huge cockroach and return it to the great outdoors. Honestly, they are too big to kill. It would be like stepping on a mouse or something. I fell asleep reading my new book, " Helping Abused and Traumatized Children". So far my biggest help to them is just letting them know that they are important to me and that I love them and think they are special. I have a little girl date today with a nine year old who really misses her mom. She's been pretty sad these past few days and I promised her some one on one time today.

That about sums it up for now. I'm really glad to be back.