Monday, December 29, 2014

More great new! I don’t have lice. I thought I did, but one of the older girls promptly went investigating into my hair and turns out I don’t. I just have itchy dirty hair. Hurray! Things are going well here. We are still fighting off some sort of a head/chest cold but Guy ended up being the only one who got stomach sick two days ago.  We celebrated Christmas- and listened to fireworks go off that whole night long. It was impossible to sleep Christmas eve- constant BOOM noises from town, which was at least different from the occasional gunfire going on. It sounded like EVERYONE was celebrating with fireworks though! 

It was so fun to see the Little Girls on the 26th, they were overflowing with special presents from their sponsors (every girls is sponsored) and it was obvious how special they felt. I was touched to witness the quality of goods that were received by the children. Brand new clothes, high quality toys, scooters, toothbrushes, hairbrushes, new books, etc. Many people sent photos of when they had been here to visit, as well as handwritten letters. These Little Girls were BEAMING! The house mom Elizabeth worked so hard to make Christmas special. She bought new outfits and had them all shipped here so the girls all matched on Christmas day. They woke up early and prepared a special breakfast on Christmas Eve, on Christmas Day they got peanut butter and jelly as a treat for lunch and then had a traditional Honduran dinner. She made individual stockings for each one of the girls (Little and Big) and filled them with small gifts. 

[Side note on the house mom(s): The Little Girl house is run by two women. Carelia, who is a Honduran woman who grew up here and then went to school to become a nurse. She is now married and has five children of her own. She is a constant presence at orphanage Emmanuel and many of the Older Girls know, love and trust her as the role model in their lives. Elizabeth is the other house mom. She is American, about my age and has lived here for about three years now. She is bi-lingual and also runs the sponsorship program and works in the office. Every staff member here is also ‘double booked’ working as a house parent, or on the farm, in the school, or in the office. ]

We had a Christmas tree too! Granted, it is only the bottom two tiers of a three tiered Christmas tree- but it is beautiful. Well, it’s actually kind of ugly, but Joe hauled it down from some building’s attic and carried it all the way here and there are lights on in and my kids love it and there we go! It’s great. 

I opened the packages from my parents and my sister (which I made them mail back in November!) best presents?- My mom sent a brand new towel, and my sister sent me an amazing DRESS!!! Win!! The kids got some board games, an American football, card games, and some legos! We also opened peanut butter, granola bars, peanut butter crackers, brownie mix, jelly and goldfish. Oh and Honeynut Cheerios. Needless to say we are all very happy campers. 

In other news, Husband Joe wants me to tell you that we did not have an albino salamander like I previously stated. He wants to clarify that it is a normal gecko. Whatever.
Also, I walked into the bathroom at midnight the other night and saw TWO of them. Horrifying. Gecko or Salamander or albino or just pale, still weird and creepy! But not as gross as the cockroach in the Little Girl House. I’ll post that picture too : )

Much love to you and yours, 

All-orphanage picnic lunch for Christmas. This is part of the Little Girl House

Our friend Krista stopped by to bring over a surprise stocking for our kiddos!

Christmas Morning getting ready to open our family gift.

The gecko is creepier I promise, but this guy was half a hand length. Eek!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Feliz Navidad! Today is December 24, the day that Christmas is celebrated in Honduras and especially here at Orphanage Emmanuel! We were so looking forward to this day. Breakfast in the Little Girls house was planned to a huge traditional Honduran Breakfast (fried plantains and more), then a movie and hours of doing little girls hair and dressing them in specially ordered matching outfits, then House pictures. Then everybody in the orphanage will gather for fried chicken (YES!!!) for a picnic lunch all together, then go to the church where they call each child’s name up (550 ish) and hand out wrapped Christmas gifts. Many volunteers fly down to Honduras just to be here to celebrate this day with the children. It is said to be filled with excitement, joy and love. A real celebration! 

So naturally Guy spent all last night throwing up. Yup. Only he didn’t wake us up to tell us because it was “too dark”. So this morning we all woke up to the stench of dried vomit (and more vomit) and a sick kiddo with a 101 fever. I wish I could say I was gracious about it. But I wasn’t. Out of Guy’s earshot I complained  that this ruined our whole fun two days. I asked Joe to take off from his scheduled work so I could still go up to be with the little girls. I wondered if anyone would notice if I brought a limp kid that was literally green to the fried chicken picnic. As I scraped the sheets I was so disappointed and whiny about how this ruined the plans we were looking forward to for weeks. 

Guy showered and lay on the couch. At 6.40am I decided that Joe would stay home with the kids for half the morning, I could still catch the breakfast if I hurried (forget about germs- we’ve been sharing cups and spoons with everybody for weeks- every virus is already shared). Then I could come back and pick up the kids while Joe went to work, etc.. I had a plan and headed out the door. I ran up to the Little Girls house. I quickly explained my kids wouldn’t be with me because they were not feeling well. The woman in charge of the house was concerned and asked more about Guy. I explained how sick he was. Well go home! She told me. Be with your family! A child needs his mother when he’s sick!

And clarity hit me like a brick. My children are not orphans. They have a mommy. And with repentance and thanksgiving I raced home as fast as I could to hold Guy on my lap and stroke his hair. He is my baby. Joe was taking wonderful care of him but I wanted to be there too. These children are my first precious gifts. They are living examples of God’s great love for me. And to think I almost missed the chance to hold one of them for the millionth time and say with joy thank you thank you thank you that I get to be his mom.
 Elena now has a belly ache. The foam mattresses are hosed off and are now drying outside. I have more laundry to do and more puke to clean. Most likely we will miss the whole day of celebrations. And disappointments are there. Some minor, like our change of plans, and some major, that cut to the marrow. 

But the Good News of Christmas does not change. In an orphanage, in America, in poverty in plenty, with abundance of gifts, abundance of health, in death or in sickness, excitement or disappointment, for those of us who celebrate Christ at Christmas the Good News is the same!! And for those of us who don’t celebrate Christ, the Good News is the same!

The Lord has come to earth. He is here. And his Kingdom is Love and His gospel is Peace. He has come to Love all. The most inclusive invitation there ever was. Come all. Where you are, as you are. Orphans into the family of God. Oh come let us adore Him.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Everyone loves the Little Girl House. What’s not to love? The favorite color is purple and there are ribbons in hair and sitting on laps and lots of giggling and every little girl is adorable with silver teeth in their smiles, and even sad eyes still glint at possibilities. They are loved here and they are safe here. And here is starting to become their home. 

There are six older girls in the house. 16 years old and up they are spending their last days in the Orphanage in charge of the little ones. English is the ticket to a life in Honduras and I’m desperately trying to learn Spanish as a ticket into their lives, so we speak together all day. As we sit in the park or in front of the tv (Frozen is just as big of a hit down here!) or serve the soup or mop the floors. 

I only know a few verbs in all the tenses so I mostly ask those. Tener- to Have. Years to their lives, or years in the orphanage, sister and brothers. Querer- To Want. I ask about what they want. Want to do. Want to be. Want to live. What they don’t want. Hacer- to make. Vivir- to live. Necesitar- to need. Trabajar- to work. Ser/estar- to be.
Orphanage Emmanuel(OE) provides refuge and care to many truly distressed children. Many have been abandoned. Some have not. Some are removed from their homes from the government and considered ‘at risk.’ Some have family, and like an indefinite foster care system OE cares for the children until they graduate then release them, and some return to their families. 

All are scared to leave. Honduras is a beautiful country and is also currently the deadliest country. It is lawless. Gangs and drugs are lord. People are fleeing.  Poverty is king. There are so few jobs. Transition out of the Orphanage is intense. Although there are transition classes and small opportunities, for a child that has been institutionalize perhaps their whole lives, the freedom is immense, and the country is crushing. Some die right away with bullets. Some come back with babies. Some make it. 

I talk with Yolani, an Older Girl that works in the Little Girl House. Two more years left here. I ask if she wants to leave. Yes, she tells me. One day maybe she will live in Costa Rica. I tell her to visit me in los Estados Unidos. She laughs loud and tells me that sure, when she is very rich she will. Speaking Spanish, she tells me she wants to be a secretary. She will work hard. I encourage her; I tell her she is smart, (I don’t know if she’s smart). I say she is hardworking, (I’m hoping she is hardworking). In a too-high pitched voice I brightly ask her how excited she is to leave. She looks at me and answers in English so I understand. She is not excited. Life is not easy for us here in Honduras she says. 

And I know. I mean I don’t know. I don’t know what it is like to fear from going from three hot meals a day to maybe none. Going from guards on the outside and sleeping in safety to being afraid to walk down a street. Zero safety net. A high risk, low reward tightrope.

It is after dinner and I am watching thirty Little Girls play in the yard. They are laughing and running, their black hair glints in the sun. I speak with Carmen. She is sitting on the side of the yard, it is the best position to catch older boy’s attention as they walk by. She is 20. She has been here 12 years. She has stayed two years after graduation because this is her home. As we talk a seven year old girl sits next to us. Carmen takes the small toy plastic drum the child was playing with, she twirls it and taps it. Carmen has worked in the Little Girl house for many years. She is like a big sister to them. A kind, sweet, manic big sister. She tells me she will leave here soon. She is sad to go, but she wants to go, she wants to make a family. She wants to be a translator. She will work hard. She tells me she has family a few hours away. She hasn’t had any contact with them in over three years. Esta bien. She tells me. It’s fine.
 I look down and realize that during our conversation she has punched through the toy drum’s plastic face. She flatly shows it to the Little Girl and tells her it is broken. Esta bien. The Little Girl says softly. 

Within three days of being here I was given keys to different buildings. A key also to the pantry. Still a stranger, the adults in charge entrusted to me access to a closet that holds shampoo, ibuprofen, tomato sauce, lice combs, toilet paper, powdered milk, rice, pasta. 20 year olds that have been here 12 years still don’t have keys. The adults know that being from America I have no interest in the goods in this closet. They’re not worth anything.  To others, those who had to hoard food, those who never get shampoo, these are important properties. The past dictates what we determine valuable.

Our past and our paths are different-these 6 Older Girls, these 30 Little Girls, Elena, my girl, at home in her bed. I leave Yolani in the kitchen, Carmen on the steps and the Little Girl playing in the setting sun. I head home to my family. I feel all the keys in my pocket. I say each verb on my way. Verbs I thought I knew.  My steps echo each one and I say 

Tener. Necesitar. Querer. Ser.  
To have. To need. To want. To be.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Crack of Dawn Internet Works Faster and Here are Some Pictures!

This is picture is taken overlooking the Big Girls three houses, yard and dining room. Part of the school is in the upper right/center area.

This picture is showing the Medium Girls house on the left and part of the Little Girls house on the right.

This is the dining area for all the Little Girls! Every house has a different design of tables. Some are long picnic tables, some are booths. The fridge and 'pantry' are locked.

These are some of the small girls bedrooms! Inside are bunk beds for each.

Guy and Kenzi at the park!

Some of the girls!

Elena and one of the older girls that works in the house with us, Kenia.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

We have our forty bananas! Plus an extra forty! So with two dollars and about five days of waiting for the right banana stand to be open- we have our food for every single meal for the next week!!  There will be bananas in everything!!! 

Some updates:
*  I now know every girl's names in the Little Girls house! This is a crazy big deal for me and now that I know each girl and have asked them individually if it's okay to take and share pictures of them I will post them!

* We have a weird albino salamander living in our bathroom. It's six inches long. I know it eats spiders but honestly I'd rather have spiders. This thing is fast and creepy and yesterday I ran out of there in a panic- and when I went back it in it had hidden. Which is worse than seeing it. It could be anywhere. 

* We are making way WAY less garbage than in America. It's unbelievable. I can't get over the waste I produced before. We don't use paper towels here, we use every single inch of writing paper, we reuse plastic bags, we reuse bottles... everything. Back home our family produced at least three full large garbage bags a week. Here- it's only two small plastic bags. This saving, reusing and consuming less is a good practice for us and one we hope to continue. 

* We are reading more. Joe has actually read a full book. No- not my first grader. Joey my first grader has read many books. But  Husband Joe has completed his first novel in years, or maybe ever. Way to go Joe! 

* I don't have much access to  media down here- no TV, newspapers or any real working internet. Therefore I'm WAY less stressed about Ebola, politicians, the weather and Russia. Maybe my head is in the sand- but for now real problems that are right in front of me (like why Caterine doesn't have shoes that fit and where to get her some) are the only ones my mind obsesses on. 

Here are some pics before my internet over heats on me!
Love to all- Kate

Gah! Nevermind. The internet is not letting me upload pics. It takes too long for it to upload and the connection goes out inbetween. Here's another update though:

* I'm ready for some better internet.