August 8- This happens every single time I work with kids abroad. And no matter how much I try to mentally or emotionally prepare, it doesn’t help. I just have to face the fact that for every hello, there’s going to be a goodbye. Every kid I love is going to be a kid I leave. Every friend I make is going to be a friend I miss. Every laugh now will probably be a tear later.
But strangely enough, that doesn’t change anything. Because it’s not about me. These kids need ALL of my love, even if it means a hole in my heart later on. Jesus said to take up His cross which means loving others til it hurts and then some, regardless of their response. So here I am again, in this country that I love, knowing that goodbye is just around the corner.
It hasn’t been the best morning. Actually, it’s been a pretty bad. We took the kids on a hike up to some waterfalls, and I ended up in the back with Samara (another volunteer) and the kids having trouble climbing up the slippery rocks. Within 5 minutes, it goes from bad to worse as we lost the others, Samara got bit by a spider, and I tumbled backwards while climbing, banging both knees and taking a dip in the icy water in the process. Shaking but thankful that I hadn’t hit my head, we realize it’s time to turn around. We have no idea whether or not we’re close to the falls, and it isn’t worth risking any kind of accident. Annoyed at being left behind and missing the fun, I begin the climb back down the mountain with Samara and the girls. I quickly forget my bitterness, though, and begin to enjoy walking with Eli, Nikol, and Ana. All three were students at the school my last time around, and it’s nice to reconnect with them in such a small group. Nikol has grown from a shy six year old to quite the chatterbox, and Eli has somewhere gone from pretty to gorgeous. I confess Ana hasn’t changed much. She still adores me all the while driving the other kids nuts with her bossiness.
As we walk, it begins to hit me. Tomorrow is my last day. My mind drifts back to my farewell party two years ago. I can’t believe it’s been that long. So many details are still etched in my mind, especially the tears running down the faces of the three girls now walking beside me.
“Miss?” Anna interrupts my thoughts. “Are you sad?”
“What?” I stutter, as I often do when a Spanish phrase interrupts my English thoughts.
“She wants to know if you’re sad,” says Elizabeth. “Because we can see it in your face.”
Amazed at their ability to perceive my emotions, I offer a weak smile and avoid the question. “I’m just happy to be able to see you all again,” I say. “Today has been quite an adventure. “
Ana returns my smile, but I can tell Eli sees right through me. She takes my hand and I look away so she doesn’t see my watery eyes. These tears are for another day.
|Nikol, Eli, Ana, and I at the waterfall|
It only gets worse as the little ceremony goes on. Individual kids thank us for our time with them, and they sing and dance. With the group hug, I finally feel my heart break and not because they’re squeezing too hard. Elizabeth weeps as she hugs me, and Ana gives me a letter I still haven’t been brave enough to read. But the worst is actually the boys. Eleven year old girls cry all the time, but seeing emotion in a teenaged boy is a rarity. Jaime actually poses for a picture (which he is normally way too cool to do), and Justi hugs me goodbye at least three times. Abel places one of his Olympic gold medals around Cody’s neck, and even Chino and Piero kiss us on the cheek. Not surprisingly, Brayan is one of the hardest to bid farewell. New to the school but the star player of Team USA, he stands at a distance with a frown and waits for a chance to hug his biggest cheerleader. When he finally wraps his arms around me and tells me not to let go until I get to the United States, I totally lose it. Why does loving these kids have to hurt this much?
With my banged knee beginning to ache from standing, I take a seat on the edge of the patio to watch the kids play soccer. In two years, so many things have changed. But as I rise to leave, I realize that one thing has stayed steady. Walking down the dusty road with little brown hands clutching mine, the ache in my heart starts its chant yet again, calling me back to Peru. And I have to wonder if it will ever stop.
|Cody hugging Piero in the middle of the goodbye circle|
|with Ana and Jaime|
|I know Cody's eyes are shut, but I had to post this one bc Abel is actually smiling, and Justi almost is|
|I love this one!|
|Abel giving Cody one of his many medals|
|best group of volunteers EVER|
**Cody's post coming soon**