Tuesday, March 2, 2010

I've Lost Count of the Days

The day before yesterday was a hard day for me. I realized that I only have 2 1/2 more weeks here and it made me so deeply sad and emotional all day that I teared up if someone even looked at me funny. I broke down on video chat talking with Caleb. I just feel so deeply fulfilled here and I don't feel like my work is finished. It's all about relationships and how can that ever feel finished? When I leave, art classes end too (unless the next volunteer continues them, which she might) and mostly I'll just miss seeing these kids everyday. I fully plan on continuing to fundraise for Hogar and be involved in any way I can and I'm already hoping to come back in August for QuinceaƱera (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QuinceaƱera). A huge pile of girls are coming of age (15) in August so they will have the traditional ceremony and party for all of them on one day. They get fancy dresses and it's a big deal. I really hope I can come back for it!
Yesterday. It was a cold, cold morning, so all of the youngest primary school kids stayed home and didn't go to school. I brought the children's books that we had bought in Tuxtla down to the dining hall and Kyla and I took turns reading to the kids for a couple of hours. They loved it. We had a big pile of little ones around us, on our laps, leaning against us, resting their chins on our shoulders to see the pictures while we read. We read until we could read no more. Even the University girls were coming and sitting down and reading the children's books aloud to themselves. I don't think they had many children's books growing up either. After that I had my conversational English class with Rafa and we talked about directions. Words like, neighborhood, block, street, avenue, on the corner of…, on the left…, after, before… Anyway, that was fun because we pretended he had a little green house in Brooklyn and I was trying to visit him but needed directions.
I washed some clothes after that because when the sun comes out that's what you do, and then I helped Sofia, the Swedish volunteer who's here a few times a week to set up a PayPal account. She wants to have a Chipin feature like I have on this blog to start collecting for the Hogar boy's dorm too. I'm glad she wants to help.
I played frizbe with three kids after lunch and we were having a great time until we saw everyone running in the direction of the director's house on the edge of the hill. We started running too, and I looked up at the mountain, at the water tank we climb frequently, and realized there was a fire. The littlest kids stayed in their cabanas, but everyone else grabbed buckets and headed up the hill. At this point let me interject and say that this is rural Mexico. The firefighters don't just show up within a few minutes of a fire. The people living in the vicinity of the fire, do what they can to put it out. There are no firefighters in this town. The police have some sort of water backpack that they can show up with for reinforcement. That said, we all ran up the mountain with our buckets and an assembly line started. Empty buckets were handed down into the water tank and refilled and passed person to person up the mountain where mostly the oldest boys were battling the fire. It was a lot of work, and the mountain is steep and covered in thorny plants. But can I say, how impressed I was at how well these kids worked together? It was a lot of work. We didn't want it to spread down the hill to Hogar, or take out the whole mountain. The boys were beating the fire with branches and wet tee-shirts and we were running up and down the hill sloshing buckets of water on ourselves trying to get them more water to douse the fire. We would put it out in one part and it would start in another. I think we were working for about an hour before it looked like it was all over. Everyone was filthy, but there was a sense of accomplishment and relief. I guess in the past six months there was a fire that burned the whole mountain, but because of hard work and hustle it didn't touch Hogar.
Now, when we descended the mountain, I saw that visitors had arrived at Hogar. Some people with the Anglican church, some possible donors, and woman that is going to be volunteering here. These were special guests that we'd been preparing for all day and had a special dinner planned for them after Mass. I found it kind of humorous that their first impression of Hogar was the kids fighting a wild fire on the mountain. That was probably pretty surprising. The work ethic here is amazing. The kids went right back to their chores where they had left off - even the boys making bricks, just continued their manual labor after expending a huge amount of energy putting out the fire.
We hurried and got cleaned up for Mass, and crowded into the chapel pews all wet and clean. Our special dinner afterward was a real treat. We ate in the courtyard area of the main building and all the tables had white table cloths. We were actually served dinner and our styrofoam plates had about eight different fun foods on it. We had little chirozo sausages, refried beans, pulled pork, a shrimp salad, oaxaca cheese, a hotdog salad, a breaded and fried stuffed jalapeno, and peanuts. Oh and tortilla chips to eat it all with. I missed tortillas with my meal - it just felt weird not eating tortillas and so did one of the boys, so he went to the kitchen and got us a pile to share.
We hung out with the kids after dinner, just chatting. Kyla and I were privileged to hear one of the kid's stories of how he came to be at Hogar. My heart aches just remembering it. Many of the children here have similar stories of abuse and abandonment. I'm realizing that they don't share they're pasts with each other for fear that it will be used against them. So many kids here just deals with it on their own. Kyla and I are safe for kids to share their stories with. It's an honor to listen to them, cry with them and let them know how special they are and that the past is not their fault. I want to magically make the pain in their hearts go away, but I know that I don't have that power. I can listen and I hold their stories close to my heart and hold them and love them.
What a day.


Katie said...

Great entry, Marci - I think that hill burns just about every year and I too have had the adventure of watching a similar community effort. You're right - the kids are amazing and really pull together.
I can also relate to wanting to take away everyone's pain. Recently I'm learning more about the long-term benefits to those challenges and struggles - I believe Hogar's children will have enormous capacity as adults to reach out and help others who are suffering.
Thank you for your passion and efforts for Hogar's kids - much love, Katie

Tia Johanna said...

You write so vividly, Marci! I can smell the smoke! Like Katie, I've also fought one of those hillside fires ... at night. (Really beautiful at night.) And what a sense of camradarie!

I'm so grateful that you and Kyla are so tuned in to the kids and are there for them! How humbling it is to see their joyous energy through the day and to know that every child there has a sad story underneath.

Bless you for giving of your time and of your life and of yourself!