Lemar´t was running to me while Jhonatan and Angela playing in the back.
Today it is supposed to my weekend off, and usually I would go to Lima. But like the last one, I decide to stay here to spend some more time with the kids. Plus, my long vacation is coming up in November, and I want to be around them as much as I can. In the afternoon, I had lunch earlier so I would start my weekend off on time. After I was done, I went out and played with the kids. They wanted to play races, so I ran with them once. Then they asked me to be the judge, so I was the one who kept saying "marca, listo, ya!" (Spanish version of "ready, set, go!"). After that, Lemar´t climbed up on my back, so I pretended to be a donkey and carried him around. Soon after, all of them jumped on me, so I had to tell them to line up, and I pretended to be different animals each time. I was dog, cat, elephant, bull, condor and snake. They had so much fun but I was so tired! It was well worth it though. Then, they requested to play Mr. Wolf, and I thought it would be fun to play outside because there is more open space. First, I was Mr. Wolf, and I chased each one of them and pretended to eat them. The second time they were all Mr. Wolves and they all chased me. Of course, at the end I fell on the lawn and they all jumped on me and pretended to eat me. It was super fun, and after all the chasing and running, Lemar´t caught my hand and guided me around to accompany him.
Today Tía Rosa came back from her break, and as always she brought some fruits for me. This time it was strawberries! It was so delicious, and she always brings back these ripe and delicious fruits for me, such as apples, peaches and avocados. It is indeed the season of strawberries right now, and they are so cheap and delicious. Average about 6 Hong Kong dollars (or less than 1 US dollar) per kilo! And they are so good! Peach is another fruit that I love here. If you have a couple in your room, you can smell the sweet scent of peaches all around the room!
Alonso was so handsome with his shirt and tie.
I have been having such a great time, more than any time I have been here! For the most part, I feel so close to the kids as I have been here for a long while and we have been through some ups and downs. But also, my work here doesn´t seem to be in vain as I thought sometimes it might be. I have been doing a lot of therapy with Lemar´t and Jhosmelyr, and hopefully they will keep improving while I´m still here. Lemar´t has improved a lot with his speech, and he is learning much faster now. It is indeed hard work, but for him I wouldn´t mind anything. He is very aware of his environment now and always like to express himself. Jhosmelyr is also doing quite well, and she can follow instructions much better than before. Like I said before, it´s difficult to keep up the balance of the two roles, therapist and parenting, but I think I´m getting on with it and it seems to work. I have the most fun doing group work with the kids, and they are just too cute! Jhonatan´s speech has improved a lot too, although on the sad side he no longer calls me in his cute way "Tío Ryryan" anymore. I would never forget how José Luis reacts whenever I say something to him and he would open his eyes wide.
Three elder kids from kinder, Franklin, Joanka and Alonso, are ready to promote to primary 1 next year, and they will move to the boys and girls sections as well. I have been trying to do some orientation for them, as it could be really difficult to adjust the new environment with a whole different system and tons more of responsibilities. For these three, I sometimes tell them fables or let them watch some programs that would teach them good morals, as they are old enough to absorb that kind of information and they really need to as they are going to the next level of their lives.
Surprise surprise tonight! Someone knocked on my door, and it was Tía Flor. I didn´t have such a good relationship with her before as I criticized some of the workers´ work ethics and techniques and she took it quite hard personally. But tonight, she asked me if I have some "caritas felices" (smiley face) stickers because she wants to make a chart for Jeferson and Francesco for their Enuresis problems. Obviously she took the idea that we did with kinder and she even asked me for advice such as how the board should be structured and how they receive reinforcements. I was so pleased that she took the idea and did something so positive with the kids. I didn´t have any smiley faces but I have some stars stickers so I gave some a bunch to start with. It makes me feel that sometimes hardships in life is inevitable, but at the same time if we follow and believe in what we do and do it right, eventually it will turn out to be something good. Joy would be the word to describe how I feel right now, not because of my personal achievement, but because the local workers are improving with their teaching methods and they are doing some good things with the kids, and they are willing to make some positive changes. I sometimes feel frustrated because I felt that my work has no impact on the organization and after I leave everything will return to its original state, but now I feel very positive that none of the work that I have done is in vain. Our national director though offered me the option of staying here for one more year. Although it sounds really interesting and attractive, I´m not sure if I want to do it two years straight. Maybe I would come back after a break in Hong Kong? Haha …
Lemar´t so happy with his lollipop.
This is a long due entry, as I have been wanting to write but never got around to it for a few reasons. For starter, I have started a workout program so hopefully I won´t get sick as easily as before. Also, I have been trying to spend more quality time with the kids because I have only a few months left to be with them. Last week it was my weekend off, but I stayed in the home so that whenever I wanted I could spend time with them. As a result, I almost hit the bed immediately when I returned to the room. Now, I always tried to remember what they say, do, their tone of voice, their facial expressions so that I will always remember.
Lemar´t has been really clingy to me, and if I went somewhere I would need to explain to him for a while before I left. Well, most of the time he would want to go with me, otherwise he would cry. Whenever someone asked him to go with them, he would shake his head and look really annoyed. Also, even if he wanted to go play, if I needed to do something like doing my laundry or getting something from my room, he would rather go with me and waited for me. I really don´t know how to leave him when the time come! I also put them to bed very frequently, and he would fight with other kids to get me to his bed first! Sometimes I put others to sleep first, and he would wait and consistently asked me to come. After lots of giggling, millions of kisses and hugging, he would fall asleep fast in my arms. Jenny also clings to me a lot. Tonight when I put her to sleep, she rather held me really tight than falling asleep, and she told me, "Te quiero mucho, Tío Ryan" (I love you very much). I told her that I love her too. It was so sweet, and she has grown up a lot too as she couldn´t say a lot before, and she has gained a good sense of security now. Alonso also has been very attached to me, which is quite surprising as he used to say that he wanted to sleep by himself.
Francesco was super excited as his elder brother, Nelson, came to the home last week. He´s twelve and very unlike Francesco in many ways. His manner is very proper and he is very mature. Obviously he used to take care of the small ones in their home. When he arrived last week at night, he was introduced at dinner. He was literally shivering when he first came in. But he settled in quite well and now he told me he´s very happy to be here. He was also so sweet, as one evening after dinner when I walked up to my room, I heard a voice saying, "Tío Ryan!" It was a very familiar voice, and I thought it was Francesco, but it turned out to be Nelson! I was quite shocked, as at that point I didn´t introduce myself properly to him yet, and he already knew my name. I was really impressed and I chatted with him for a while and told him that we are all here for him. He is super brotherly to Francesco too. Whenever Francesco´s table manner wasn´t very good, he would remind him to behave well. But at the same time, he would take care of him so much that I was really touched. For instance, there was a piece of bread that Francesco wanted to eat, he rather gave it all to Francesco and he didn´t eat any if he wanted some! With this kind of disposition, I really hope that he can take advantage of this environment and study hard and achieve high goals in the future. He loves to play football, and he´s in the right place as many kids here love to play as well.
Cristina and I had planned something special for kinder, which was making brownies with them. We think baking is always a fun thing for kids to do, and obviously they had never done it before. They were all very excited to bake and do all the mixing of the delicious ingredients. We divided them into small groups so that it was easier to handle. My group was Lemar´t, Jhosmelyr and Franklin. They were actually very proper although there was occasional fight for the whisk. They really enjoyed the process, especially the dough licking part as all kids do. I was so glad that they had this experience as baking is just great for kids to learn. Before we served it, I went to town and got some ice-cream to go with the brownie, which is an essential part for the whole dessert experience. I went to the ice-cream shop where they just sell cones usually, and I asked for the whole bucket. At first he didn´t want to sell as he didn´t know how to charge me. But I was really insistent and finally we worked it out. The kids were really excited as they didn´t we would get ice-cream too. It´s just the best combination to have brownie and ice-cream together. Before we had dinner, I let them watch Cinderella. I was really uncomfortable as I had Lemar´t and Jhonatan sitting on my lap, José Luis laying on my legs, Marcos leaning on my left arm and Jenny wrapping around me on my back! But I just let them as I did enjoy being with all of them together even though my bones hurt and my legs numbed!
Lemar´t got the floats ready, but he wasn´t too ready to get into the pool.
Jhonatan was a bit excited but scared to swim.
Today is a holiday, the Níspero Festival. Níspero is a fruit that is typical to Lunahuaná. We took kinder to the swimming pool in the morning, and they were all so excited! Most of them were pretty scared of water, but we tried to encourage them to go in. I spent most of the time with Lemar´t because he was so scared that he had to hold on to me all the time. There were tons of mosquitos and we had got tons of bites, but it didn´t stop us from swimming and playing. After some time of playing, we got out of the pool and had some snacks, including popcorn, candies and soft drinks. We played some more before we changed and moved to the playground where we played slide and swing and climbing. They had loads of fun, except the time when a dog came along and most of the younger kids got freaked out a bit. We played for a long time til it was time to go home for lunch. We hired a taxi to house 12 kids and 5 adults. John and I sat with 6 kids in the trunk! It was cramped, but kind of fun. I held Jhonatan on the left, Lemar´t on the right and Marcos right behind me. When we got home, Alonso pulled up his tee shirt and showed me his belly, and told me that he´s too full to have lunch! It was so cute!
It´s my weekend off starting today, but I don´t really feel like going to Lima for a few reasons, especially I really want to spend more time with the kids. I had travelled a lot in the past three weeks, and I don´t feel like travelling more just for the sake of it. I don´t really have much time left here, and I want to be around as much as I can to see them, play with them and just be here for them. It´s actually really nice that I can be around but I can still rest, go out to have a meal or take a walk whenever I feel like to.
Jhonatan finished the hula hoops.
It has been really busy because I have been spending a lot of time with the kids, and also my therapy sessions have increased since Noelia´s gone. But it has been really rewarding as I got to spend a lot of quality time with the kids, younger and older. They all love therapy, and always ask if it´s their turn to have therapy. In fact it is so much easier now to do therapy as I have all the space and time slot to do them. But one thing I have realized is that therapy here is so much more difficult than what I had done in the past 10 years. The reason is being that I am here not only as a therapist, but also as their parent figure. As now we have spent a good nine months together, our bonding has increased, but at the same time sometimes it´s more difficult to implement behavioral modification stuff because they would become really vulnerable at time. It´s quite difficult to keep that balance, but it´s definitely a good experience for me. Now I always get kisses and hugs whenever I see the little ones. When I had to leave them sometimes to do work or chores, Jhonatan, José Luis and Lemar´t always ask for "besito" (kiss) before I took off. Separation is super hard! Even Francesco is really attached sometimes. Today he jumped on me, so I carried him around as if he´s a baby. He loved it, and he even said that he´s my baby! He probably missed a lot of these things when he was younger. Now when you look at him, he probably looks really rough and rugged, but inside of him he is just a little kid who wants to be loved.
They were happy showing me what they made, a cake. They sang ´Happy Birthday´.
This weekend was full of events, inside and outside of the home. The region election of Perú took place today, and so everything was upside down. First, we went to church at 7am because election starts at 8am, and everyone over 18 has to vote. Yes, it´s obligatory, otherwise you will have to pay a fine. Seriously! Also, people have to go back to their registered town or city to vote, so many people travelled around including some of our colleagues. Perú isn´t exactly a small country, so it´d become hard work for them to travel all the way back and forth in one day. Some people joke that the government fines those who didn´t vote, but then the winning government will corrupt the money anyway. What a black humor joke!
In the meantime, I have been hanging out with the little kids, who by the way have been circling me around all the time. For instance, Lemar´t needed to follow me wherever I go, otherwise he would make an annoying face and start to cry. I sat with him at family dinner last night after I bathed him and Jhonatan. After dinner, I went to put them to bed as Lemar´t hadn´t let go of my hand since dinner time. And when all the kids were about to settle down, he said to me, "¡Vamos!" meaning that I should go to bed with him. So I spent some time with him until he fell asleep. As soon as I got up from his bed, Franklin dragged me to his bed, and so I put him to fall asleep as well. It was really funny because the twins kept talking non-stop during the course of it, but as I was putting Franklin to sleep they fell asleep as well. So suddenly the room was really quiet. Jhonatan has been really attached to me as well because he got really jealous when I was with other kids. The other day, as I was holding Lemar´t and Jenny on my lap at the dining table, he sat in front of us, lay on the table and started sobbing! I have never seen him or another crying so sadly! It broke my heart, so I went to comfort him immediately. And every time when I had to leave him, he always requests a kiss from me as he said, "besito."
Another event of today was a farewell party for Noelia, who had completed 13 months of volunteering service. The elder kids arranged some games and performances for her, and she also arranged some of those for the kids. It´s hard to believe that it has been 13 months for her, and 9 months for me already!
Marcos wearing his new tee too while playing see-saw.
Time flies and it´s October already, and I have been back for almost a week. It was especially quick as I spent a lot of time with the kids. On Tuesday, Tío Alfredo advised me that there were a couple packages that I needed to pick up in the post office, so I went to San Vicente de Cañete that morning to pick them up. It turned out to be the clothes that my sister sent out for the kids. A few months back I told my sister how poor quality the clothing of the kids is, and she immediately gathered a bunch of clothes and sent them out. It took a few months to do so (well, better than the one that I sent before Ieft in January, which still hasn´t arrived), but it was well worth it, because the kids loved them! I spent early afternoon to sort out the clothes as there were various genres. As I was doing that, I thought to myself, "Wow! These clothes are so new!" It had made me realize once again how well off we are in Hong Kong. First stop I took the tiny clothing items to kinder and babies. When they saw the clothes, they were ecstatic! When I showed a jacket to Lemar´t, he took it, hold it in his arm tightly and wouldn´t let go! So that jacket was his! The older boys, Alonso, Franklin and Marcos loved the Power Ranger tees, and immediately took possess. Unfortunately there weren´t many girl clothes and they were a bit disappointed. Then I took the ones for the boys, and Renzo, Francesco and Jeferson were excited to receive them. Next stop, I gave those to the teenage boys. There was an Italian football team tee with Buffon´s name on it, and I gave it to the best football player in the home and one of my favorite teenagers, Benito. Then I parted the rest to the boys, and they were so excited as they thought the quality of the clothes are really good. Finally, I parted those for the teenage girls. There were so many, and so I had Milagros to help me while others came watching. I was a bit biased as I gave a lot of good items to the girls I like a lot, like Milagros, Leticia, Sara and Vilma. But most of them get some pieces. The next days, they were wearing the clothes, and always came to me and give thanks. It´s amazing how easy it is to be happy. Well, I have to give thanks to my sister Teresa, who has a loving and generous heart to send all these clothes to them. I love you, sis!
Since I came back, there has been a phenomenon: Lemar´t has been super attached to me! Everywhere I go and whenever I am present, he needs to follow me. He held onto my hands or fingers so tight that I couldn´t let go! He got really paranoid when I walked off to somewhere and do other things, so I had to carry him around anywhere. For instance, today at lunch time, I took him to his dining room, and I told him I would go to have lunch with the bigger kids, and he wouldn´t let go of me! He was so insistent that a tía suggested that I took his plate to our dining hall and he would have lunch with me there. So we went, and he sat with me and we had lunch together! It was really sweet, and that little monkey could eat a lot! Sometimes he would scream really loudly about something, and I had to quiet him down although I thought he was really funny. The other kids have been really attached to me as well, and sometimes I have 5 or 6 kids around me at the same time. Really a handful, but I love it. I love all of them.
Today, after I cleaned up the therapy room and was about to leave, I saw Francesco crying. So I walked to him and tried to comfort him. I gave him a hug and took him to the therapy room. He hugged me so tight for so long that I realized I haven´t given him much attention since I came back. It was for a trivial reason why he cried, but I guess he´s still just a little kid. There are many things he has yet to learn. I let him play the toys in the therapy room, and he started smiling again. He played the zampoña for a while before we played puzzles together. It was good to finally spend some quality time with him, as every time when I was with Lemar´t or Jhonatan or Franklin, he looked as if he would want some attention as well. But it had been really difficult to give attention to all of them at once. Plus, he is integrating very well and starts to follow the routine well now. I am glad though we got to spend some quality time together before we had dinner.