I’m pretty sure at some point, I promised myself to blog more as our time here winds down because I know how much I’m going to cherish these posts and memories later in life. Or come January… when I’m heartbroken over not seeing these people each day and my new reality has set in. Anyways, on to the story.
Last weekend, we took our sponsor child, Hierguth, out for lunch. I walked him home on Friday to ask his mother if it were OK. He told me I had to or she wouldn’t believe it otherwise. His mother seemed utterly unenthusiastic and merely asked what time to send him to the church. I said 12:00, if it was fine with her. I think I could have said I was taking him to the next country over for a week and it would have been all the same to her. Nonetheless, as I left and told Hierguth that I would see him the next day, he was grinning from ear to ear.
On Saturday, our doorbell rang at 11:58 a.m. with Mauricio standing there looking puzzled. He cautiously told us that Hierguth was here to see us and was waiting at the gate. We confirmed that we were expecting him so the guard let him through. He stepped through the gate and took off running towards the apartment when he saw us. His smile was priceless and he was bubbling over with excitement. He handed Andrew a picture he had drawn with some words written on it, including his name. When Andrew showed it to me, I told him we’d be keeping that little piece of paper forever.
He was wearing the new shorts we brought him from the states in July and the new tennis shoes we bought him. He hasn’t been wearing the tennis shoes to the mission so we’ve never seen him in them outside of the day we gave them to him. Whenever we ask about them, he tells us his mother won’t let him use them unless he is going out so they don’t get messed up. I wish I could find a way to politely tell her that they are meant to be used and we will buy him another pair if it means that he gets to wear these more. But we don’t want to overstep our bounds. Nonetheless, Hierguth looked quite adorable and even had his hair styled with gel.
While we were waiting for our taxi, we talked about where we were going to go for lunch. I think initially, he may have though we were eating lunch at the apartment. When the taxi arrived, he seemed quite inquisitive. He asked a million times where the mall was and how long it would take to get there. As we passed by various places, we would point them out together. I said “look, there’s the big church,” as we passed through town center. He responded, “the church of San Ramon?” I just laughed and said “yes, we are still in San Ramon.” Mind you, this is only about an eight minute cab ride from our side of town to the other. As we neared the Instituto (the high school), I pointed it out to him. Right across the street from the high school is the Tribunales de Justicia, or the courthouse. I really didn’t think to point that landmark out, nor did I think he’d recognize it. But as we passed it, Hierguth told me what it was and that his uncle was there. I would bet my entire savings that Hierguth’s uncle is not an attorney. I’ve already been told a little of his family’s story so I understood what he was referencing. His mother is the niece of one of the more infamous drug lords of Bajo Tejares. He’s in jail, but Hierguth has merely been told that his uncle is at the courthouse.
The cab ride alone seemed incredibly entertaining for Hierguth, but arriving at the mall took our fun and his excitement to the next level. We walked in and passed the arcade on our way to the food court. His eyes lit up like an American child on Christmas morning. He asked if we could play there and we told him that we could, but after lunch. As we turned the corner and saw the food court, we asked him if he had ever been to McDonald’s. He said no. I’m by no means a fan of McDonald’s, but I would suffer through my dislike of it in order to get Hierguth his first ever Cajita Feliz, or Happy Meal. While we were standing in line, I asked him if he wanted chicken or a hamburger. He told me chicken, but then he asked if he could have french fries. I said of course. A few seconds later, he asked if he could have a drink. I said sure. Then once we ordered and we were able to pick out which toy he wanted with his meal, his mind was blown. Clearly, this kid doesn’t know all the goodies that come in a Happy Meal.
Once we got our food, we sat down to eat. Hierguth said the cutest little prayer to bless the food and then we started to dig in. I brought my camera with me and had to resist taking pictures of every single moment, but I did get a few of him eating his chicken nuggets and sipping on his tiny kid sized coke. It was just so precious.
Midway through the meal, Hierguth said he was taking the rest home. He really had hardly eaten anything. When I asked him if he was still hungry, he said no and that if he eats too much his stomach hurts. Too much really translates to a normal amount of food for someone his age and size, but he is used to eating a lot less than what a child from a different socioeconomic status would be accustomed to.
After lunch, we hit the arcade. To us, this is just a rinky-dink, tiny little arcade with very few games in it. But to him, it was awesome. I can’t imagine what this kid would do in a Chucky Cheese. We bought ten tokens and began to play. He was quite fascinated with the fact that he kept getting all these tickets with every game that he played. He had no idea what they were for, but we just kept on collecting them. We played skeeball (my personal favorite arcade game), a racing game, a basketball game, and ended in air hockey. I’m not sure how many rounds we were supposed to get on the air hockey table for two tokens, but we all three played for probably ten minutes or more. It just kept giving us the puck, so we played and played and played. When we were done, we took all of the tickets to the counter and explained that he could pick out a prize with his tickets. Wouldn’t you know, they had marbles there. That is one of Hierguth’s favorite things to play with right now. He was able to buy 17 marbles with all of his tickets. Again, he was bursting with excitement.
The taxi home seemed equally entertaining for him. Once we got arrived back at the mission, we let Hierguth pick out three pieces of candy to take home. One for him and one for each of his sisters. We walked him home and watched him give packs of M&Ms to his sisters. He showed them his bag full of marbles and his happy meal box full of leftovers. On our walk home, Andrew and I were on such a high. Never in a million years would I have thought a $20 outing could bring that much joy to anyone’s life. It cost us next to nothing but meant the world to him. And really, it meant the world to us to be able to do that with him. We are really lucky to be able to sponsor the kids that we do here. We are lucky to have relationships with them and be able to communicate with them. It’s going to be really hard saying goodbye to all of the kids, but especially our sponsor kids.