Happiness and Hogares
This weekend marks some important milestones for me--important in big and small ways.
Friday will mark 2 weeks for me in Honduras, Saturday completes my first week at Rancho Santa Fe, and Sunday is my 25th birthday.
I can´t believe I have only been here for 2 weeks. It could easily be 2 months. My life in the states seems so faraway it is almost as if it never existed at all. The transition (was there really a transistion or did I just wake up here one day?) has been surprisingly easy for me--I think this is because (for once) I am doing the right thing at the right time. I have no doubts that this is where I am supposed to be right now. An amazing thing.
Every day brings new levels of emotions. Happiness exists in plenty here, which makes no sense (which, in turn, makes it all the more beautiful). The children who live here have been through all imaginable horrors (death of their parents, abandonment, physical and sexual abuse, any other horrible thing you can imagine) yet they run up to me and want to be held and cuddled, they tell me my hair is pretty, that I am nice, that I speak Spanish well. They are safe here and they are free to love their caretakers, teachers, and volunteers.
There are 600 children who live on the ranch ranging in age from newborn to "kids" even older than I (University students, usually). They live in hogares (loose translation: homes) which are segregated by gender (except for the babies) and age (roughly). There are 20-25 kids in each hogar. Their caretakers are called Tíos and Tías (Uncles and Aunts). Each night, we volunteers spend 2 hours in a hogar. We eat dinner with the kids, help with homework, talk and play. This allows us to develop personal relationships with the kids.
Right now, we are in orientation and have been going to a different hogar every night. It is definitely very stressful and draining to be meeting so many new kids every night and trying to put forth 2 hours of good Spanish and trying to remember their names and so forth. The kids can be trying. They like to play a game I call "¿Como me llamo? (What is my name?) where they come up to you and ask the aforementioned question even though they know full well you don´t know (or remember) their name. They think it is funny. And it is--especially when I ask them the same question back and they can´t remember my name! Sweet revenge.
Despite the stress involved in visiting these hogares, it is AWESOME. It gives me a chance to hang out one on one with the kids, talk to them, play with them, try to begin to understand their lives. They can be quite complicated, but most of them are so ready to put their head on my shoulder, read a book with me, or talk about their lives (and ask about mine). I have met some great kids. I love them all incredibly. I don´t know how to describe it. It is unlike anything I have ever experienced--probably as close as I can get to knowing the love parents have for their kids without actually being a parent. It is amazing.
After we have visited all hogares, we will make our top choices known and then be assigned to a single hogar for the rest of the year. We will spend 2 hours there every night.
To my friends and family who read this blog, please know that I am safe and happy. I am the safest and happiest I have ever been. I love it here and invite all of you to come and visit. I want the world to know about these wonderful children. I want you to be able to hold them like I can.
I miss and love you all.