Francesco playing puzzles.
Mr. Wolf in Spanish.
I continue to take care of Francesco, who has been attached to me more and more each day. I took him to the therapy sessions with me as he kept waiting for me outside although sometimes I told him that he had to wait for me. He longed for playing the toys so much, and I would let him as the right time came. He loved riding the motorcycle even though it´s for smaller kids. He is basically an example of kids deprived of toys, play and games, and therefore he has been fascinated by everything that is fun in the home. I slept with him on Sunday night, and he didn´t urinate in bed! But last night I didn´t, so I guess I will have to stay with him for a little while more. It´s tough work as I don´t sleep as well since I have to take care of him and can´t sleep too deeply. But the most important thing is to keep him safe and let him feel secure and adjust to the home easily. Today I was a bit strict to him that he didn´t want to do the laundry and started to play with the toys I got him, and so I took them away. He then went to his room and locked the door. Later, he unlocked the door, but he tried to avoid me. I knew then I did a wrong thing. I have been so used to doing behavioral therapy that I forgot the aspects that he was abandoned, neglected, and he was a little sick and hungry. Plus, who wants to do laundry by hands, especially kids! And taking away something from a kid who had recently been abandoned was such a bad idea. I tried to be near him little by little, and I apologized that I wouldn´t take away things from him like that again and told him that I love him, but at the same time he has to attend to his responsibilities sometimes. After a while he started to soften and cheer up although it wasn´t an easy task. Then I bathed him before we rushed to lunch at 2:30pm.
The kids have been noticing that I have spent so much time with him, and at lunch they asked me about him and I told them that he still needs time and patience to adjust to the new environment with all the strangers. Sonia then told me that she and Jhosmelyr, her sister, were exactly the same when they first came, and it had been really hard. She told me that her home didn´t have bathroom neither, just like Francesco. Suddenly I wanted to burst into tears as I never thought about their past living condition and what I have seen is what they are now. It suddenly makes me feel how much love and care I have to give me while I am still here.
After a long weekend in Lima, due to the fact that I had to deal with the troublesome things, I managed to make it home on Monday evening. The next day I took the snack to school for the kids. I haven´t done it for a long time, and it was really nice to see them in school and feed them. Afterwards, we went to pick up the kinder kids from kindergarten. Like I said, I haven´t done it for a while and I was away for four days for my weekend off, and when Jhonatan saw me he pulled a desperately "miss me" face, opened his arms and asked me to hold him and sat with him! I was really touched and I hope he realized that I missed him so much too by hugging him really tight and gave him tons of kisses. Lemar´t, on the other hand, refused to sit with me. I realized that he was kind of mad at me because for starter he always felt a bit jealous when I am with Jhonatan, and second I went away for a few days. Of course, he couldn´t be mad at me for too long. We reunited in the afternoon at therapy and he was already all over me. Also, after lunch when they were going back to their room, Franklin insisted on holding Cristina´s and my hands to walk back. I believed that he felt as if we were his parents, and I am glad he can have this sense of security with us, if only for a few months.
Today at 6pm, we had an earthquake drill because there have been a few tremors in Lunahuaná and we need to be prepared. We did in the dining room as well as in our room, just to make sure we have covered the various environments that we could be in. The kinder kids were really scared as they thought something had happened, and of course we assured them it was ok. While we were in the middle of it, I heard someone crying in the room below mine. It turned out to be Francesco, who is a new 9-year-old kid just arrived yesterday with his 4-year-old sister. It was one of the most horrible things ever happened as he kept crying and saying "mama", and we couldn´t stop him from crying. I figured that he got really scared from the drill and it made him miss his mom badly. Then Tía Laly brought his sister, Angela, to the room who was also crying as well. It was just terrible, and she didn´t like anyone to be near her and constantly tried to get away. It was about time for dinner, and Cristina, John and I decided to bring the soup to the room for them and us so that they can have a cozier and safer environment to dine in. Also, we played some cartoons for them to see while having dinner so that they were distracted from the terrifying sentiment. Francesco finally calmed down a bit and we encouraged him to eat and watch the cartoons, and he sat quietly shortly after. Angela was a bit fussier and continued to cry, but she kind of stopped and started on and off. There was a moment that I enjoyed very much the time we all spent together, which kind of felt like a family. Just before we finished the movie, the power went off again. So we tried to put them to bed as they started to fuss again. Angela was still crying, so I put on some soothing music for them. While I was arranging the music, John played shadow games with Francesco and Cristina tried to calm Angela. Finally I found a song that made Angela fall asleep fast, and Francesco was happy and secure in bed, and we kissed him goodnight. When these two kids arrived yesterday, they looked so ragged and rough that it was a big contrast against the kids here who have lived in the home for a while. They cleaned up good today even after one day, and it was really good for me because sometimes we forget where these kids came from. Even though they don´t have good quality clothing and accessories, at least they are clean and properly groomed now. It makes me feel how important it is for them to have the basic needs as well as our love and care.
Yesterday I took another group out for the family outing. But this time, the three kids aren´t related. They don´t have any siblings and family members here, so we grouped them up together including Elvis, Milagros and Ademir. After a short discussion of what they wanted to do, we decided to ride bikes to the village centre. Since Ademir is only 8 and doesn´t know how to ride a bike yet, I took him on mine. As we started, he kept saying, "¡Que bonito!" It was a fairly easy ride as it was going a little downhill and so made it very pleasant, while I had to keep track on the other two staying out of the road. When we reached the centre, we took a look at the river which is actually a very beautiful view. I suggested that we went to get some refreshments, and they just asked for crackers! The only reason that they said it was because that´s pretty much they thought they would get. Seldom did they have fancy (well, in our world, not fancy at all) treats. So I suggested we went to get some French fries, and they were ecstatic! Eventually we had French fries, yucca fries and some coke. After the little snack, we had to make back to the home, and we took the "off-the-beaten-path" road, which is quieter but dustier and rockier. We made it home in time for lunch, and they kept thanking me for everything, even this morning!
In the afternoon, I asked for permission to go to the nearest town and tried to get the iPhone fixed. However, it is too advanced for a little town, so I had to wait til next weekend when I go to Lima and get it fixed. Just before going back home, I went to buy some cartoon DVDs like the Disney´s ones, Barney´s and Sesame Street, all in Spanish! The kinder kids and I watched some of them today after lunch today, and they loved it. They rarely get chances to watch children´s programs, and they are so good for their cognitive development, imaginative skills, memories, positive values, etc., etc. Cristina and I have been letting them watch these programs which are educational, fun and interesting at the same time. This group has been growing in many ways, and they no see us as very important figures in their lives. They now realize they can have something that they never had before, such as attachment with adult figures. At night when we put them to sleep, they now always ask for us to stay in bed with them til they fall asleep. We would tell stories, sing lullabies or simply stay cozy with them quietly in bed. Before, they don´t really know such luxury (well, again, not really luxury in a normal life) existed, and they never knew what to ask for but just slept on their own. So imagine 10 kids and only Cristina and I, and they all want personal attention! We got a lot of screaming like, "Tía Cristina, come!" or "Tío Ryan, stay in my bed!" It is busy work, but it´s so so worth it. Tonight when I stayed with Franklin, he kept reciting to me the story of Cinderella that we saw this afternoon. He was fascinated by the magic and all the characters of the story, and I told him that good things happened to Cinderella because she was a good girl while her sisters weren´t blessed because they were awful and mean. Soon he wrapped his arms around me and fell asleep in a short while.
After a long busy week, a weekend at the home finally comes. One of the reasons of being really busy is because the kids are on a 2-week vacation of the National Day last week, and we have been having array of activities both in the home and in the village of Lunahuaná. Some of the older kids were on the parade again on Thursday, and we all went to see it. We also took a walk to the river, while most of the other days were chores or gardening. I, on the other hand, had to work on a few cases with numerous paper work and meetings.
There had been some really funny and sweet moments though. Tuesday at lunch, I sat with Jeferson and other smaller kids. We were discussing llamas, vicuñas and the related species. Jeferson asked me where vicuñas live, and I replied, "in the mountain." But he said, "No, in Puno!" Then I asked him whether he knows which 2 animals are from the same family as the llamas. He thought a little while and told me "Llamita"! It was so cute and sweet! Every time I see Jhonatan, José Luis, Marcos, Franklin, Jenny, Julio, Claudio and Lemar´t, it just makes me think in perspective and feel I am In the right place. They give me so much love, smile and laughter each day with little things like asking for a hug or calling me from afar.
Today, I had another family outing with Walter, Rafael and Gregorio. They are all really good boys, and I was delighted to take them out. I always let them decide what they want to do, as they seldom have choices. Having said that, they kept saying it was up to me. So I explained to them about the purpose of this outing, and so we did a little of everything that they wanted to do, including biking, picnic and going to the river. Gregorio doesn´t know how to ride the bike because he told me he had a little accident when he was younger, and so he sort of has phobia although he wants to learn again. When we were on the way to the river, Walter took him on the bike, and it was really great to see them like that as it was what a brother is for. Then he tried to teach Gregorio how to ride it, though it was a bit difficult on a dusty and narrow path. I asked them if they ever went out together as a family since they arrived in NPH five years ago, and the answer was a shockingly ´no´! It surprised and saddened me a bit, and it made me want to make this one hour worthwhile for them. So finally we arrived at the river, and I started settling down with a blanket and our food items. Walter wanted to dive in the river for a dip, and Rafael followed him. It was so great to see their happy faces when they swam. Gregorio tried on the bike for a bit before he decided to go for a swim as well. As I went down to take some photos of them, they asked me to go in as well. I wasn´t prepared at all, but I just wanted to be part of this experience for them, so I dived in my jeans and swam with them. It was a bit cold, but it was a lot of fun. When we got out of the water, I realized I forgot to take out my wallet and my iPhone out of my pocket! Even though it was a disaster, surprisingly I didn´t get upset at all. I just laughed about it, and the boys were a bit worried. I felt really easy about it and told them not to worry. I just felt that this experience was worth more than those material things, and the fact that they never went out together and I got to take them out and did some fun things together, those material things suddenly seem worthless. Then I told them to sit down and we drank some coke, had some biscuits and relaxed a bit and chatted before we headed back to the home.
After a day of parade in the village yesterday, we had a bit of home activities today for the Peru Independence Day. In the morning, the kids helped with the garden work. I was a bit sick again, so I stayed in and rested a bit. After lunch the older kids watched TV while we carried on with the normal therapies and play with the younger ones. At dinner, Tia Catalina made pancakes for us, which was really nice. John and I went to put the younger kids to bed. First I stayed with Jhonatan who insisted I stayed with him while he grabbed my fingers. I read him the story of Pinocchio as he fell asleep. Then I went to stay in Marcos´ bed. I told him I haven´t put him in bed for so long and I really enjoyed staying with him. He said he remembered the first night he was here and I stayed with him. Then he asked me to read him a story, and so I whispered it in his ear while he fell asleep before I knew it. Finally I went to Franklin´s bed, and he didn´t say a thing but just hugged me really tightly for a long time until he fell asleep deeply.
After they were all asleep, the older kids and we had a bonfire night, where we set up a fire and barbequed sausages. It was super hot at times, but it really warmed up the place and our hearts. Everyone was busy roasting their sausages and snuggled up together. It also made me feel better and more relaxed from the difficulties that I have been experiencing. It was good fun even though it wasn´t great food and the fire was a bit strong at times.