Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A "Special" Goodbye

One thing I've learned about Hondurans is that they love to make things special and when things are special they like to really drag them out until they no longer seem so special. The same is true with goodbyes. Last night we had a "special" dinner for the students and staff as a chance to thank them for the year and another opportunity for me to blubber uncontrollably and blow my nose repeatedly. The boys enjoyed the meal and the special awards that were given by the teaching staff. They even had a parting gift for us...a carving of the church on a serving tray for PK and I and a little carved box for CT. The most awkward moments came when everyone was asked to say something "special" to our family and AT. The cricket noises were deafening. I hope that's because everyone was too nervous to speak in front of the large group and not because they couldn't think of anything nice to say about us. Finally, the pastor from El Carbon took mercy on us and stood the thank PK for his work with the electricity in his church.

After the dinner, we took the opportunity to take photos of and with the boys. My how they love the cameras! We spent hours with them until my battery was dead and I was exhausted. Of course, I had to be wearing the ugliest outfit in my closet last night! We all wore black pants and a white shirt to serve the dinner.

I hate goodbyes and there are many more "special" days of goodbye ahead of me.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Testimony of Love

Tonight we had a church service in which each of the students and staff was encouraged to stand and give a testimony and thank God for this year at El Sembrador. I was a wreck by the time it was over, but thankfully I wasn't the only one. Justo and Darwin couldn't even get through their time because their tears flowed so heavily. It made my heart leap when so many of them thanked us by name. But I was most proud that EVERY one of them thanked the Lord. Some people got bored because the service went so long, but I could've listened to them all night. I am so grateful for the time I've been given with them and so distraught at the thought of not seeing them again. They have changed my life forever and I will never forget these moments that we've shared.

This year, I have told each student that they are my favorite. And every time I meant it. I know it's strange, but I love them each the best. They are all so different and so much a part of this very special place in my heart. So, when it was my turn, I reminded them how much I love them and that their Heavenly Father loves them so much more. I hope that they felt that love this year. I hope they know that it breaks my heart to leave them, but that God never will. If I  was able to teach them that, then this whole year will have been worthwhile. I ended by reminding them that they are my perfect Spanish.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

God is at Work

In case I needed reminded (which I didn't, but I always enjoy it anyway), God is at work at El Sembrador. Today we celebrated the sacrament of baptism. Unfortunately, I couldn't be here because I was in Tegucigalpa with the other missionary ladies for a retreat. But PK did an excellent job of capturing these precious moments on film for me. They had to shoo the cows out of the river before beginning the ceremony, but other than that, it was a beautiful occasion.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Despidida de El Puente

The worst part about the end of the year activities at El Sembrador is how much they drag out the horrible goodbyes. On Thursday, the boys got the day off school and we took all crowded on the bus for a trip to the pool at El Puente. It was an opportunity for us all to have fun together before final exams started on Monday. The day just reminded how much I love these guys and how sad I am to say goodbye.

Juan and William

Kevin and Milton

Yuny and Anna

The Bible School Girls - Karely, Reyna and Iris

Omar and AT arguing over the sunblock

Jorge and Cristian Josue

Luis jumps in

CT and Cristian Josue

The very talented Samuel

David doesn't swim, but he relaxes poolside

Darwin shows no fear at the top of the waterslides

Not sure who these are, but they have a sweet tandem dive going

Again, not sure who it is,  but awesome technique

I think this is Santiago


Luis Miguel and Arle after re-geling their hair

Arle and Cristian Ariel

Hoseman, Bismar and Ariel waiting for the slide

Joel needed a little nap. Notice the socks pulled over the pants and the shoes neatly placed under the hammock.

Jose Elias enjoys lunch

Rusbel says the fish isn't good in Olancho so he eats the steak.

Santiago and Jorge chillin by the pool



Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Beginning of the End

As our time here gets shorter, I'm having a harder and harder time writing. There's too much emotion to put into words.

Last weekend, AT and I got the opportunity to plan a day of our own with the boys as way to start the end of the year festivities. Most of the graduation and farewell activities are very serious, dress-up occasions. So, we decided it would be best to have a day of fun centered on them. Our work started right after church when we set to work filling water balloons. It took over two hours, but we managed to fill about 600 balloons. 

Then we met the students at the soccer field. It was one of those really hot days where even just sitting on the bleachers made me sweat like I'd been running a marathon. It took a while for the boys to show up. Then we realized that one of the counselors was showing a movie in the workout room. I was really upset because everyone knew we had worked hard to plan this day.Once the boys finally started trickling over, they were whiney and had bad attitudes. All the emotions that I have been bottling up about leaving them came pouring out and before I knew it tears were rolling down my face. My little guilt trip must have worked because soon after we had a field full of happy and eager players. We played a new, but simple variation on the normal soccer game. Instead of just two teams targeting two goals, we had four teams and four goals. It was a little hard to keep score, but the boys loved it. As we neared the end of the game, PK drove over the 4-wheeler with buckets of the water balloons. When the game ended, we set the buckets in the middle of the field, evenly spaced apart. Then, on the count of tres, it was every man for himself as the boys were set loose to cool themselves off. They absolutely loved this part of the day and all 600 balloons were gone in a matter of three minutes!

We expected to have about an hour break to clean up for dinner, but the boys wanted more and asked PK to set up the volleyball net for a game. While they played, I took a shower and cleaned up for the main event. For dinner, we hosted the boys in the conference center. Andy made pizza and we put the fancy table cloths on the tables. Gaby helped by making cute centerpieces made of marshmallows on skewers. Marshmallows are a favorite candy treat in Honduras. When we rang the bell for dinner, the boys filed in and we welcomed them with a video of photos taken from this year. I set the video to two of their favorite songs and it blared loudly through the conference center. 

When the video was over and the applause finished. We announced that we had a gift for each student. We presented them with the yearbooks that had been donated by Lifetouch. I spent several months working to prepare the book for them and I was anxious to see how they would react. The parents of these kids never had the luxury of having a camera pinned to their faces for every momentous occasion in their child's life. I could not have predicted their euphoria. They eagerly paged through their books laughing a cheering loudly at their favorite photos. Before long they were passing around pens and autographing eachother's books. I felt like a rock star. I couldn't finish signing one book before another one was thrust in front of me! I am so happy that they loved this little momento so much. I hope that they will treasure the books and look back on this year fondly. I know I will!

Finally, after all the boys began to disperse, we rang the bell again for our final event. AT's mother had brought down a few glow sticks from the States. It took a little time, but we managed to divide them into two teams with Omar and Cristian acting as team captains. Then we somehow managed to explain the fairly complicated rules of Capture the Flag. We thought this little exercise would last about ten minutes, but we had no idea they would take it so very seriously. "This is not a school. It's a warzone!" Cristian screamed across the darkness. 

During the game I had a chance to talk a little to Jorge, who had to sit out with a sore knee. We talked about how sad we both were to have to say goodbye and how hard it is going to be to keep in contact. It was sweet to see how much he cared. Then, I spent some time encouraging him and reminded him that God has big plans for his life...and I have some pretty high expectations too! I am so blessed to have gotten to spend this year with these kids!

At one point during the game, I had to take a break and head back to the house. It suddenly hit me that I had not taken the time to eat the entire day and I was starting to feel a bit dizzy. A few crackers and I was back on the field just in time to watch a family of skunks form an unexpected hazard as they wandered into the playing field and disappeared into the darkness. Jorge and I laughed and decided not to tell the players about their silent stalkers. Luckily for everyone, they were scared off by all the noise and didn't hang around long enough to cause much trouble. Finally, an hour and a half after it started, the game deteriorated into yelling when an accusation of cheating was made. We called the game and sent everyone to cool off for a few minutes. But it wasn't long until the boys started gathering again. Cristian decided that we could stay up late and play a soccer game on the lighted field. This is a real luxury since we've been on rationed electricity lately! I treated the boys who didn't want to play to a movie in the conference center and PK opened the tienda for the late-night snackers.

This was one of the best days I've had here. It was full of fun with some of my favorite people and it reminded me of what I love about El Sembrador. Even though I am trying not to think of saying goodbye, it gets harder and harder every day. It's especially hard because I know the boys are looking so forward to being out of school for their breaks while I am dreading it and hanging on to every moment. I just hope that we have made even a little impact on their lives. They have certainly impacted ours!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The Dynamic Duo

Arle and Frankie are the comic team of El Sembrador. They are inseparable best friends who have fun no matter what they are doing. Frankie plays the often dim-witted Robin to Arle's absurd Batman and together they fight to rid the campus of poor dispositions, melancholy and boredom.

Arle is clearly the leader and he is no fool. He is extremely intelligent, but he hides it well. He works hard at being engaging, silly and lovable. He's the kind of charismatic person who can charm you with his wit and pizazz while stealing your wife and wallet at the same time. His shenanigans can border on manipulative at times, but I find them mostly harmless and entertaining. His hair is fashioned into either an outrageous mohawk or cut short and molded into tiny spikes all over his head....seriously, they might draw blood when you touch them. Arle came to El Sembrador through another project for street kids in Tegucigalpa. It's easy to see that his street-savvy temperment is the result of the life he's led. I had lived here almost four months before he let on that he spoke quite a bit of English. He was perfectly content to watch me struggle in my communication with him until it was to his advantage....or maybe when it was most suddenly answer my daily "¿Como esta?" with perfectly enunciated English. We've nicknamed him the Computer Hacker for his pretty advanced computer skills, which is a rare talent here. It doesn't really surprise me, though. Arle is always ready for anything and he manages even his most crazy antic with style.

If Arle is the sophisticated rock star, then Frankie (Gabriel Francisco) is the awkward fan club president. He's the wacky sidekick who can't quite be taken seriously hard as he may try. He's a giddy kid that giggles at everything. His attempts to be suave are more goofy than cool and more bumbling than graceful. Don't get me wrong, Frankie is not stupid. He just lacks that street-smarts of his more-worldly amigo. Despite this, he is determined to be ladies' man. And he's somewhat successful with the chicas. I'm not sure how, but he somehow manages to attract them with a little sappy poetry and his girly giggle. He tries to hard to learn new English phrases and words, but they sound like a cartoon character and he always manages to say them at the most inappropriate times. But he is so funny and energetic. And he knows it. He delights in making other people laugh. 

The Dynamic Duo feed off eachother. It's such a joy to see such true kindred spirits. I know how much I am going to miss the boys when we leave, but I sometimes forget that they have forged life-long friendships with eachother too. They may live in the same country, but their lives are miles apart. I try to imagine what Arle's life will be like after El Sembrador and what Frankie will do with himself, but somehow I just can't envision them separately. I'll never forget the scene they made a few weeks ago. It was time for the boys to leave on vacation and Arle climbed on the bus for a ride into town while Frankie waited behind for his family to arrive. Arle leaned out the bus window while Frankie stared longingly up at him from below. They both looked so sad at the prospect of spending a week apart that it made me laugh out loud. Their exploits at El Sembrador have brought a little more merriment into our lives and there have been so many days that I have been grateful for their tomfoolery. 

Arle in his favorite shirt....Caleb?
Wow, that's some awesome big hair!

Arle's best moves....of course he's the only one who can hear the music...

Frankie....trying his hardest to be cool.

Yes, this is the typical Frankie expression.
One of Frankie's more awkward moments
The Dynamic Duo - Arle and Frankie

I have no idea what those hand symbols mean...and neither do they.

Frankie and Arle are fond of taking photos of themselves....a lot of photos.

Awwww.....they are so cute when they are sleeping.