I feel strange that I have to introduce myself every time, but since Ashley writes most of the blogs, I feel it is necessary. This is Andrew, and this is my next blog… Every day something funny or crazy happens with a kid on the playground that I tell myself I’m going to write down. Now I’ve decided to make a compilation of some memorable occurrences with some of my favorite kids. Hopefully the things that I write here will entertain those that read it, but to be honest I’m just writing these down for myself so I can come back years from now and remember these precious memories.
Hierguth – This is a little boy (pronounced YAREgoot) who became attached to me pretty early on after we moved here. He is six years old, or maybe he just turned seven. I was told by a fellow employee here that when he first moved to the Bajo and started coming to the center, he was very quiet and reserved and always played by himself. It was evident that there was a lot of hurt in his life, and I’m pretty sure there was abuse in the home. However, in the past year he has really blossomed and seems to be more of a regular, care-free, happy child. He still likes to play just with me sometimes, and if I ask him to come play with a group of children he will decline and run off to do something else. But he is beginning to make a lot more friends and play in groups. One of the things I love the most about Hierguth is his laugh. He has the cutest, heartiest laugh, which I can easily evoke due to the fact that he is extremely ticklish. He will call me a name or do something else to goad me into chasing him, and then I will grab him and tickle him silly. The other reason why I love him is because he shares my affinity for enjoying scaring the crap out of people. Most little kids will try to scare you by sneaking up on you or popping around a corner, but they are usually so obvious and transparent that I see it coming from a mile away. However, Hierguth has legitimately scared me on numerous occasions by waiting around a corner for me. He is one stealthy kid. Just recently, he has developed the interesting habit of trying to pull down my shorts as a joke. That can be a dangerous joke, especially if he happened to grab my boxers in the process. Thankfully that hasn’t happened yet, or I would probably be asked to leave for indecent exposure. Another thing he has started doing, presumedly as a joke, is trying to punch me in the groin. He will wind up, say the infamous ninja “Hi-ya!” and let ‘er rip. He has connected a few times and all I can do is laugh, even as I’m dropping to my knees in pain. I’m trying to work with him on appropriate playground etiquette…that little bad habit has become our number one priority.
Alma – This is a little girl who needs no introduction if you’ve ever been to Centro Comunidad Cristiana. She is a beautiful, 6 year old girl with a dark, round face and long, black hair…and she is an absolute firecracker. She can be so sweet and your best friend, and in the blink of an eye she will turn on you like Old Yeller. The first time she spoke to John (the first missionary who worked here) when she was three years old, she called him an SOB. Anyway, she also became pretty attached to me early on. Every time she sees me she screams my name, comes running and jumps onto me. She will lead me around every square inch of the compound playing with whatever we come across. The second that I tell her I have to do something else or attend to someone in another place, she gets a sullen look on her face and storms off and won’t talk to me for the next hour. That cycle repeats itself two or three times a day. Something Alma loves to do, along with a lot of the other little girls, is to make “cakes” out of dirt, rocks, random trash lying on the ground, and sometimes spit. It’s quite disgusting, but they love it. Every so often Alma will come and make me sit next to the bodega with my eyes closed. She will recruit several of her friends and they will make me a nice meal on a platter consisting of rice, beans, and meat, and on another platter they will make me a chocolate birthday cake. Then they will let me open my eyes and sing happy birthday to me. Once it was my birthday three times in one week. If I try to open my eyes while they are making my cake, Alma will threaten me. Some of the stuff that comes out of that girl’s mouth… Once she caught me peeking and asked me in dead seriousness, “Do you want to die? Ok, then close your eyes.”
There are plenty of other kids I could mention in this, notably Jerry and Wen. I am very close to them as well, but we have mentioned them before in blogs and nothing particularly interesting has happened with them recently. I want to finish with a story that happened last week with Heisel. She is probably 8 or 9 years old, and always comes to the mission with her two little sisters Meisel and Sharon. She is also pretty feisty and is known for being stubborn when it comes to listening. She and her sisters have also taken a liking to me, just not to the obsessive level of Hierguth and Alma. She was playing one day last week with two other little girls and they wanted some bubbles out of the bodega. This first part is just a funny aside. We just hired a new playground director, Jafeth, and I have been trying to slowly turn the reins over to him. That has included redirecting most of the requests and questions his way so the kids begin to realize that he works here now and he is in charge of the playground. So I told them, “You need to go ask Jafeth, he’s the boss.” One little girl Kristel said, “No Andrew, you’re the boss. All this is yours (as she said all, or ‘todo’, she slowly stretched her arm across her body, pointing to the whole playground, for emphasis). At least I know the kids see me as a figure of authority. What really stood out about that day was how sweet Heisel was being. She kept on asking me to hold her, so I would hold her wherever we went. She clung to me tightly, with her head buried in my neck and her legs wrapped around my waist, the way a father would carry his sleepy daughter to her room for bedtime. She kept on saying “My Andrew, my Andrew.” Then she asked me if I could come live with her at her house. I about melted right there. I wanted to run upstairs with her still in my arms and ask Ashley if we could keep her. I’ve always wanted boys when Ashley and I decide to have kids, but that right there made a strong push towards changing my mind. I don’t know what her relationship is with her father, or if he even lives with her. Though if she’s anything like most of the kids who live here, it’s probably not the ideal father-daughter relationship. And then I just became overwhelmed with the thought of a lot of these children living in less than desirable living conditions with a barrage of issues plaguing their childhoods and robbing them of their innocence. It made me, and still makes me, want to love them that much harder. I’m not saying that you can’t grow up in Bajo Tejares to be a normal, well adjusted adult and have a fulfilling, God-honoring life, but I still want to take every last one of these children back to United States with us where their opportunities are so much more abundant. If Ashley and I ever decide to adopt a baby, I know the first place I’m going to want to look.