The Mission Diaries: Returning to Orphanage Emmanuel

Photo by Debbie Bailey
When people come to visit, many of the volunteers bring some of the kids to the tienda (the store) for some treats. We brought some of the girls for charamuscas while we enjoyed the beautiful day.

I could tell you so many things. I could tell you that I was the one who changed the lives of all the children in the orphanage in one week, but that would be a lie. I could tell you that I was like Superman: saving the kids from the dangers of the world, one kid at a time, but that too, would be a lie. But, what I did do was see a different world, a different take on life itself—merely an observer, a learner. It was like the kids who would climb to the top of tree to see a different world above the treetops, or like when people would snorkel in the ocean and see the marine ecosystem beneath the surface of the water.  What they did is more important to notice than what I did.

I will spare you the details of the day dedicated to “getting there” because it was a long process of waiting to be in the place, waiting to be with the kids, and waiting to spend a week in paradise.

Dear Diary,                                                                                                    Friday, 1/3/2014

Home is where I went, where I stayed, where I visited. It is the place that will always be the place where I feel most comfortable in. But home never felt like home when I was at my home. It felt like a limbo where it was only temporary until I went to the next place.

I remember the first time I was here a year ago: meeting new people, adjusting to my surroundings, and enjoying the delicious foods. Today, I am still doing most of the same things.

Whenever you come down to this place, the kids are excited because you came just to see them, to spend time with them. They cherish those memories, like we cherish our things. By the time that you leave, there is this longing for more time, but all you have are these moments which you collect in a scrapbook in your mind. And these kids only have those moments to hold on to, and for some, those moments are all they will ever have of you. But, if these kids are lucky enough, some of the volunteers will return a second or third time to the orphanage, and they will be as surprised and excited to see you as the time you first came. I am not saying that people never come back to this place, but some do, some do not.

Today, though, was filled with many reunions—with the toddlers, our sponsored children (Karla, Malena, and Walkedia), and some of the older girls. Reuniting with them in a year was like finally being able to exhale after holding my breath in for so long. And, in that moment of hugging, I did not want to let go because I felt as if I did not want to lose more time. I have lost a part of their lives already, and I did not want to lose more. Everything about them was different: their hair, their height, their weight, their maturity. I could not even be here for their birthdays or Christmases or Easters or graduations because I was at school in the states, but I wanted to be there. I wanted to witness these small moments of their lives, but all I could ever give them is a card and an “I love you, sister” and that was all.  I just wish I could be more.

Dear Diary,                                                                                                    Saturday, 1/4/2014    Today was filled with excitement because it was field day which consisted of hula hoop competitions, rounds of tug of war, and bicycle races. Not all of the kids participated, but the ones that wanted to, did. Each member of the mission team was assigned one of three different events, and I was assigned to the hula-hoop competitions with the girls. We handed out prizes to all the girls for playing. There were many rounds like this with the hula-hoop competitions and the tug of war until finally the bicycle races finally began.

People from various places in the United States donated bikes for this field day, so that the winners could keep them. All of the boys started first, and they had to run from the top of a hill to the finish like where the bikes were, to be able to compete in the second round. Round after round went like this where boys had to run and get on the bike, and ride the bike up and down hills for what seemed like miles until finally the girls’ round finally started. After a few rounds, Malena, our sponsored child, decided to compete. I waited for her to come back from the run down the hill, and there she was. She hopped on a bike, and she biked and biked and biked until her legs probably ached. She was not one of the first ones to meet the finish line, but she was not the last either. All of the contenders in the race won a bike, but the first place winner was able to choose her bike first. Malena picked out this beautiful orange bike with flowers on it, but she did not ride it after tiring herself out in the race. After a while, though, she did ride her scooter that we sent to her for Christmas, and let her friend ride her new bike. Malena, like so many of the other children, shares what she has with the other kids before giving what she has to herself.

Neither Karla nor Walkedia participated because they either had to work in one of the other houses, or they did not want to. But, I am proud to say that my sister won because as she was crossing the finish line, I was cheering her on like one of those crazy fans at a football game. I was so proud of her and happy for her at that moment. And I still am proud. She is a wonderful person that deserves the world.

Dear Diary,                                                                                                    Sunday, 1/5/2014

When the year finally ends, the people build a figure of an old man (almost like a scarecrow) out of whatever they can find—straw, sticks, stuffing—which represents the previous year (in this case, 2013), and light him on fire on December 31st—New Year’s Eve. When they light them on fire, they let go of everything from the previous year so that those pains and pressures will not follow them onto the next year (“Honduran People and Culture”).  The thought of letting go felt like a great way to lift your head up high and walk courageously into the year 2014.

We listened to the sermon that morning, and then found ourselves playing with the “power toddlers” in the water park which consisted of water pipes spewing out water this way and out that way. This water park was miniature, but its size never did take away the fun of watching kids run around, sliding on their bellies, and drinking water directly out of the spew itself. Some of the toddlers even pretended that they were spies on this special mission to not get wet by the spewing water, almost like they were dangerous laser beams that could penetrate them, or stop them from their mission. They looked like military men who crawled on their bellies under barbed wires, but after a while, some of them jumped to their feet and sprinted the rest of the way to other side of the water park. They played this game, and then moved their shivering, freezing bodies quickly to the back of the David Hate’s red pick-up truck to wait for someone to pick them up and take them back to their houses. Our last group was with the special needs children, and they seemed to have a blast after a while. To see them smile was a blessing in itself: something cherished and never forgotten.

Dear Diary,                                                                                                    Monday, 1/6/2014

We spent the majority of the morning teaching young girls how to crochet the simple scarves.

Sometimes you know when something is wrong because you can see it clearly in someone’s face. You can see the pain etched across his or her face, and when you do notice it, you have to decide to do with this knowledge: do you try to counsel him or her, or do you just plainly ignore as if you never saw it in the first place? The type of pain was something new, nothing old. It was not something that had reappeared, but rather something that was present.

Have you ever loved someone almost instantly as if he or she truly were your brother or sister? Here, you only know these kids for the little moments in your life, but it only takes seconds to love them. And to think about this time, I have only truly spent two weeks of my life with these kids, yet I feel closer to them than I ever felt to other people in America. I only get to see them for one week once a year, yet I want the best for them. I want to see them grow up, graduate high school, go to college and/or get a job, fall in love, get married, and start a family. But, I fear that I will not be able to see all of those things while I am here.

To hopefully cherish the moments we had left, we went to the toddlers’ playroom to play with the kids after they had woken up from their naps. Most of them had their eyes glued to the television screen with the movie Teen Beach Movie characters teaching the dance moves. Some of the kids were attentive, and were actually following the dances well. The others were playing with whatever toys they could find. We saw Eder and Omar (toddlers), and they came over immediately. After a while, Eder was trying to attach this doll’s leg back to her body because one of the other kids had amputated it. However, after some time, he gave up and ripped off the rest of her limbs. Poor doll! Oddly enough, we played this game called, “donde esta a la pierna?” or “Where is the leg?” with Eder. We would hide the leg behind our backs, and he would smile, trying to guess who had it. He was impatient, and he would pry our backs away from the wall to see who had it behind them, but he never found it. He had the cutest smile, which somewhat reminded me of my dad. They both had the same smile, and they reacted to things in the same manner, too.  I still think of that smile and smile too as if I was still there in that moment, and laugh because he was so silly.

Dear Diary,                                                                                                    Tuesday, 1/7/2014

I do not have much time left here because there is never enough time. We especially had less time now because we had to serve hot dogs and ice cream to the kids, but we were going to the medium girls’ house—between six to ten years old— which meant that Walkedia would be there. We brought those fake mustaches and sun hats for them, and we tried them on while we waited for them to arrive. Eventually, they did come and they loved the mustaches and sun hats, and because they traded them and posed for a lot of pictures. Although there is a slight language barrier between Walkedia and I, we did talk. She loved playing on my iPhone, especially the Temple Run and the Fruit Ninja apps. She also loved to play that elf-yourself video with the entire family’s faces attached to elves dancing around an office. She would giggle every single time she watched this video, and I never knew if the reason was because the elves were doing some weird dance moves, or that our faces were oddly attached to these elves. After playing many games on my iPhone and saying our goodbyes, we headed back towards the team house. But, before we did, Walkedia jumped on my dad’s back, singing the Smurf’s theme song, “La La La…La La La”.  She did not want to let go because my dad was like a father to her, a father that I would gladly share because she deserved love and happiness and life.

Dear Diary,                                                                                         Wednesday, 1/8/2014

Today was the day before the last day, and there is no other title that could best describe this day. This is the day where people feel this need to say goodbye to everyone even though it is not time to leave just yet. But saying goodbye is more difficult than it seems.

Whenever I have something difficult to say to someone, the words refuse to escape out of my mouth. Instead, they just remain captive inside me. Whenever I do try to say my farewells, I cannot speak, but there is this unsettled feeling inside. One way for us to say goodbye was to ask them to sign our t-shirts with their names, and for the young ones who could not spell their own names yet, we traced their hands. We decorated our t-shirts with our chosen nicknames; some of these nicknames were created from the year prior and from other experiences, too.

After we asked for permission, we took two very happy toddlers to the tienda to get ice cream. Until now, I have never seen kids devour ice cream the way that they did: licking every single drop to savor on the flavor for forever.  And whenever they were finished with theirs, they both grabbed my spoon and tried to steal bites out of mine. He even pretended it was his. I wanted to give them more, but I could not because they had to eat their dinner soon. Their handprints are on my t-shirt along with Walkedia and Malena’s signatures.

Dear Diary,                                                                                                    Thursday, 1/9/2014

There is never enough time. And there is never a good way to say goodbye to the people you love. I spent the first part of my morning with the two toddlers—Eder and Omar— and played with them. I tried to say goodbye, but they did not understand. They could never grasp the concept of leaving because they were too little to understand what the word “bye” meant. And even if they did understand that word, they only thought that it meant that we would return a while later. The fact that they could not comprehend that one single word broke my heart because I wished that they knew how much I was going to miss them. They were expecting me to play “¿Donde esta a la pierna?” with them in an hour, but little did they know, I was not going to be there.

We quickly left to say our goodbyes with Malena, Walkedia, and Karla. They were all in separate houses this morning which made saying goodbye more difficult. I met with Walkedia first on the sidewalk, and she knew what day it was. She knew what was happening today. She knew that we were leaving today. There were no words left to say, so we just hugged, and we stayed like that for a long time, both crying because we both knew that we would not see each other for a very long time or maybe even forever. My heart feels like it is breaking because when I came the year prior I felt like I left a piece of my heart. Now I feel like I am leaving more of my heart here, and one day, I worry that there will be nothing left. There will be nothing left to give, and what then?  Aren’t sisters supposed to protect their younger sisters, always be there for them? How could I be there for her if I was living in a different country? All we would have were letters, and that is all. Nothing more. All we would have were the memories we shared, the pictures we took over the week, and the letters we received. Nothing more.

The kids here have made a niche inside me that can never go away. So leaving away on the bus was like ripping me away from my happiness, my everything because anything in America could not satisfy the way that this place did. I felt love and faith and life here, and that experience felt beautiful. I prayed. I prayed that our flight would be canceled, and I would not have to leave. That never happened. I was on a plane to the United States…the American Dream, and yet that was the last place that I wanted to be. I would rather spend the rest of my days in one of the poorest most dangerous countries in the entire world than be in America. Although there was a lot of poverty and danger, there were people there who just understood. They understood the important things of life, and they appreciated them as well. In America, we are never satisfied, nor are we fully happy in the same way. There is this empty hole that we are always trying to fill with all of the wrong things, and we always end up feeling unsatisfied. But, they desire love, and I think we all do. We all desire to be loved for exactly who we are and nothing more. We try to find things to replace that hunger to be loved and wanted in this world…but we are loved. We just do not know it yet.

_______________

Works Cited:

“Honduran People and Culture.”This is Honduras. N.p, n.d. Web. 5 February 2014.