Tonight I will be awake for a different reason than last. Tonight will be because of 2 cappuccinos. I could tell you I accidentally ordered dos instead of uno but you would see right through that wouldn’t you audience? Last night there was a velociraptor in my room. Either than or a mono. I learned mono while reading from the fairy tale book with the boys. It’s a monkey. It was definitely not the squeak of a mouse. Something larger and I imagine more hungry. It occurred to me in the dark of my very large room that I was easy and the only prey especially in my state, but I really didn’t care; either way to go would be welcomed. It also occurred to me that I was hallucinating after all my architectural studies of bathrooms throughout the orphanage. Sidebar – many are quite beautiful with arches and windows and plaster and lanterns and Spanish tiling. I should do a coffee-table book titled, ‘A Tour of Mexican Baño’s’. Others are fortunate even to have a toilet seat. Few are working unless you know how to open the tank and re-rig the string that attaches the ball since it is always sans chain. Sidebar dos – always carry toilet tissue on your person. Scrap the book idea. Again the screaming hungry thing and through the night every couple of hours. Just enough to keep me more on my toes. So to speak.
I am wondering why it is hard to string words together including English at this point in the trip. Language comes out like I am channeling an Italian Tonto mixed with some Arabic. It makes no sense. “I no understand.” “You speaky Englesy?” “She bedy beautiful bambino.” “Andiamo! – you want swim?” “M’a salama!” I can string 2 words together in Spanish but four is elusive. I see Donya Phillippe and can find, “Hola! Como estas?” But I can’t attach her name to the phrase. Or I can remember her name but blank how to attach the hello and how are you part. It comes out like, “Marhaba Donya Phillippe! How are you? Muy bien!” I’m sure she isn’t impressed that I answer her question for her. Nevertheless each day in the clinic she includes me in the little brunch she prepares for the clinic workers. Today there was more pan bola. Heavenly. Wait a minute, you don’t think the food at the clinic…..
Yesterday while wandering to find the soccer field where I could watch my Godson, Florentono, play goal-keeper, I kept running into kids carrying buckets of cucumbers. Enormous cucumbers and enormous quantities. A bucket with something green! The kids here were very excited and it was fun to watch them enjoy something as simple as a cucumber. The kids were everywhere carrying the buckets and munching happily as I passed them saying random things like, “Mui bien verde!” (I day dreamed how my 6th graders would have reacted to that as an end of the school year present….) Who can blame them? Crunchy, sweet, doesn’t need a utensil – you can munch one as you deliver the rest to the cooks. Apparently the cooks are in a pickle (get it) to find ways to prepare them. The kids have eaten them for stroll-around-snack, last night’s dinner, plus breakfast and lunch today and still the donation sits in piles. “C U C U MMM B E RRR Water” was Andrew’s eye-rolling comment as soon as I told him about all the joy skipping through the compound in the form of a fruit. Puree’ a cuke, add some lime and sugar, put it in a communal tin bucket and voila! something delicious that you legitimately want seconds of – not just because you missed firsts when you thought you were having a bad attitude. And now you understand why two cappuccinos.
Makes you want to donate or cry or both right? My thoughts exactly. We weren’t discussing the shoes for the orphans though. These are my son’s. A dire situation for the madre, but he is insistent upon wearing these fully to get ALL his money’s worth. I told him he had.
Karen came for massage today. She was eye-open and stoic like a Maya temple statue. I saw her as the kids must – large and looming and without humor. She makes you afraid to mess up but like you kinda want to provoke her. Anyway the half-hour couldn’t have gone slower as I was sure she hated every second and probably only came because Andrew made her. Every massage can’t be perfect, but in the therapist’s mind, it is the goal certainly that work you are doing is well received. At the end she opened the door, stepped into the clinic courtyard where various people sit and chat about their fevers and varieties of broken appendages, play with the new baby and you know, be social at a clinic like we do at home in the U.S. Oh wait, we have clipboards and don’t make eye-contact and no one can know your name. Anyway. For everyone to hear, she exclaims in English with her eyes rolled into her head, “my knees are weak and I am soooo relaxed’’. (I KNEW she knew what those songs were saying to the boys!) For the rest of the day I hear I am very popular. Andrew knows this because while he was helping the boys to torment her during the afternoon cleaning, their harassment isn’t met with the normal glower. When questioned she says it is because Andrew’s madre has hands of an angel and she had 30 minutes in paradise. And yes, there’s more cleaning to do; always. Leaves are even swept from the bare dirt under the Ficus trees.
I helped with the evening bedtime routine again this evening. The usual prayers-while-in-formation-antics, clothing changing, teeth brushing, and the best part, the tuck-in. Many have a hard time sleeping even after a full day. I have a secret massage weapon and tonight they were eager for the repeat – a full-body back and forth rocking from Traeger work. Their bodies are sometimes so little you can’t find them under all the heavy woolen blankets. I have no idea why they are so covered in this heat and in this room with no air conditioning. Andrew answers quietly, “For comfort I suppose. My heart breaks for the hundredth time this trip. It is very dark except for Susi’s flashlight and so Andrew and I move from bunk to bunk with the help of cell phone light. Susi sprawls on the floor and either terrifies or inspires the boys to sleep with Bible stories. I have no idea which, but I do know that at 6 years old they have to be bored out of their freaking minds with this form of evening lullaby. I am – and so far even the sound of conversations I don’t understand has been a hi-light. But the reading drones on and on and so there is plenty of time to check-in with each boy. They are more sure of me by now so are not afraid to have a little more personality as we move through the darkness to each bunk. Diego has constructed a swing for his stuffed animals between his middle bunk and his neighbor, Aaron. Andrew translates my comment that this is very innovative especially with no light and the next time I turn my cell phone on to see the boy at the next bunk, the stuffed animals have been removed and Diego himself sits swinging.
Our giggles stop Susi’s reading so we have to pull it together. Buenas noches. Next stop is stab-you-in-the-eye flashlight tag with Juan. He has been tagging me while I was at bunks next to his but does not expect my secret weapon – a little keychain flashlight that the bus company gave Andrew and I for consolation when we missed that bus that left 5 minutes early. Right in the oho – take that Juan. Even Andrew has to shush us because this is too much fun for bedtime. I was sad to say good-bye to several who especially thought my lack of pan at dinner was unacceptable. I came back to the dinner table empty handed. Since is difficult to maneuver out of the bench tables if you are an adult at the 6-10 year old section, you know I wanted that bread. I resumed asking one of the boys about his two older brothers, also at the orphanage. He ignored the question and answered, “No pan?” My empty handed return did not go unnoticed! These boys are exceptionally sweet and clever and while learning about the ages of the older brothers, a little pinch of pan appeared in front of me on the stainless steel table. No one would admit to it, but each time I looked away there was another bite of bread shared.
The volunteers plus Blanche, Jesús, and Pedro hosted a dinner tonight for a celebration since volunteers Andrea and Annika will also leave soon after Andrew. I told them about the sleepless night because of the velociraptor in my room. Cal who is from Germany and on contract to get medical records synced up in all the NPH clinics asked, “Which language is this word, velociraptor?” There are translations going around the table, and I can hear ‘Disney’ in the explanation. I add that it was a hungry sounding animal and clearly wanted a snack of me. Instantly the Mexicans in the group named two possibilities – Chupacabra and Tlacuache. In fact, the creature exists! I felt vindicated that I had not been hallucinating. Cal’s thick German accent adds, “Yes, and now since you know this Disney creature is actually true, it will be helpful to know it is a cheerful, happy carnivore about to eat you.” I am not eager to return to the room where the giant, vampirish, mythical creature exists, or the ratamundo awaits. Perhaps I will hasta miñana or perhaps I will sleep on the couch in the volunteer’s living room.
A knock at the door for me stalls the trek in the dark through the hacienda. It is Luz and Innocente coming to shyly deliver their thank you poster to me. These two are finishing their last year-of-service at the orphanage where they were raised. They are heading to university in the fall. I tell them I will hang it in my office once home. Luz who is most fluent in English of anyone I’ve massaged says, “Like a diploma.” While she and I share a moment, as usual is another conversation going on and Andrew and Innocente have begun laughing about the cucumbers and discussing some disciplinary tactic. I tell Luz it was so much fun to see the sweet little orphans enjoying something simple and fresh and not being ungrateful or unimpressed like American children. The three of them have the kind of eye contact that tells me I’m missing something. Andrea joins in and says she too had a lot of trouble with her section of girls. Turns out that cucumbers are phallic in any language and all the joy skipping through the orphanage was really just a lot of gesturing and innuendo. Joy nonetheless. After two days, the older orphans and the volunteers are weary of the joke. I’m however fantasizing and hoping a small alter offering of cucumbers, with all the accompanying symbolism, will assuage the Chupacabra in my room.