Monday, February 17, 2014

Kisses Goodnight

Hello friends and family!

Sorry it's been such a long time. I was shocked to see that my last post was about two months ago. It certainly doesn't feel that, but time here flies faster than I've ever known it to fly. Especially these last eight weeks.

They were probably some of the toughest I've had here in Honduras. During the first four, we were in the midst of the Christmas, New Year's, and Epiphany festivities. The kids were still off from school and I was feeling weird. Without my days filled with teaching, I had too much time to think about home and to over-think my relationships with the kids. I began to compare myself to other volunteers, entered the deathly spiral of believing everyone else was more liked, needed, loved than me. It was a deeply selfish time, but it taught me a lot about myself. Everyone says how much this year teaches them about themselves; now I think I see why. It's an incredibly humbling thing, self-discovery. But so very valuable.

The weeks were'nt all bad at all. They were typical of all the other weeks I've spent here in the way they were shaped as the cliché emotional roller-coaster, only the dips were lower than they had been in the past. But the peaks were still amazing. During our time off from school we volunteers were assigned shifts to work as madrinas and padrinos, the children's full-time caregivers. The staff shrinks during the holidays because half of the padrinos get to spend Christmas at home and the other half gets New Year's. Being a padrino is a hard job. As the kids' full time caregivers, they are on duty constantly, keeping track of where all the kids are and getting them to do their chores, not break the rules, and participate in the activities. They wake them up in the morning and get them into bed at night and spend the whole day with them in between. And when there's no school, they get very little time off. As hard as teaching is, I wouldn't trade jobs.

One of the things I discovered as a madrina was the joy and heartbreak of saying goodnight to the kids. On Christmas Eve I was assigned to the younger boys' dorm. I moved from bunk to bunk doing tuck-ins and kisses goodnight. At some point it struck me that if I wasn't the one doing it, no one would. It also struck me, with a great deal of force, that I wouldn't be the one doing it next year. One of the toughest things to come to terms with here is that as a volunteer I'm just another impermanent, transitory person in the kids' lives. 

The boys, aged anywhere from 7 to 13, are at their best when they're being tucked in goodnight.  Those normally with a chilly teenager attitude were smiling young kids again. Kids who loved to be disrespectful were cute and smiley. Boys too cool to spend too much time talking didn't want me to leave.There is something so intimate about sitting on the edge of a child's bed and talking to them as they lie there on the verge of sleep. I loved the kids so much at those moments, and I hurt for them so much too. "Tomorrow is Christmas!" I whispered and they would break out in big smiles. The boys who have come since I've been here and who would be spending their first Christmas at Amigos were especially fun to talk to. They were full of questions. "Will there be presents?" "There will be new clothes! Presents on the Epiphany." "And a fiesta?" "We'll dance till midnight." We whispered conspiratorially as the boys at their most innocent and vulnerable let me be part of the moment with them. 

Some of the kids that Christmas Eve were not happy. One boy told me he didn't like Christmas, but was counting down to his birthday on December 26. Another I rocked, crying, to sleep. I don't know why he was crying; it could have been he was forced to get into bed when he would have rather stayed up, who knows. It could have been something else. He had come to the home just two weeks earlier with his younger brother.

During those weeks as a part-time Madrina, I always looked forward to saying goodnight to the kids. The youngest children, our chiquitos, aged 3 to 6 were also beautiful and heartbreaking. They wrapped their tiny arms around my neck and pulled we down, begging me not to leave, to snuggle with them until they fell asleep, while 6 others called my name from other bunks. I felt stretched thin. These little developing children need someone there to hold them as they fall asleep, and there's not enough of us. The Honduran staff, the volunteers, we all love the kids, but we can't be exactly what a mother and a father would be for them. 

The weeks at home came as a much-needed break. While I was at home I surprised myself by how much I thought about and missed the kids and the country of Honduras. It was also so incredibly wonderful to be with my family. I realized that especially my first week back at Amigos when I was hit with the worst homesickness I've had so far. I longed for my loved ones at home, the easiness of their love, the comfort of it -- not to mention hot showers. I talked to several other Honduran and "gringo" staff about how I was feeling. I got the same answer several times. One of our Honduran padrinos said it best: we always miss what we leave behind, and we always leave something behind. He knows better than most. He lived for years in the states before being deported.

Part of what set my equilibrium off was new responsibilities at school. My school day this half of the year is much busier than last year. My beloved sixth graders have moved on to colegio, or middle school, leaving large English and Library class gaps in my schedule. My new responsibility is our transitional classroom, designed for new children who come to the home. I teach English, natural science, and math to what is right now a class of four kids around the 1st, 2nd grade level. That number will grow whenever new children come to the home. Some I will help to place in appropriate classrooms, but others will stay with me through the end of the year since our bilingual school classes don't take new students after Christmas. Combined with my one-on-one special needs student's two hours a day and six library classes a week, my school days are pretty packed. But now, three weeks in, I'm starting to enjoy it. I love my four boys, though they make me want to pull my hair out, and it's so fun having my own classroom to work with.

That's certainly enough for one blog post, and hopefully to bring everyone a little more up to date. The new school schedule doesn't leave me much free time, but I'll try not to let too much time go by again. The continued prayers and thoughts are so very appreciated. I want to try posting shorter posts more often with just little things that happen each day, but we'll see if that happens. For now, hasta pronto.

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