Sunday, June 26, 2016

Reverse Lost

#1 in the middle (gray shirt) with her friends.
#3 wasn't our only child to head south for the border this summer.  When #1 couldn't get any of the school groups to organize a trip to Mexico with A Child's Hope Foundation, she organized her own group.  She led an orientation, collected travel money, and made hotel reservations for herself and six friends to join the charity's June work project.  This coincided well with #3's stay at the orphanage, because it meant that her older sister could deliver a few long-sleeved tees and other necessities.  (It turns out that the June fog is rather chilly in Baja.)

Neither sister considered the fact that #3's presence at the orphanage might be confusing to anyone else.  It set the stage for a humorous exchange.

The ACHF work project group arrived in La Mision on Tuesday afternoon.  They dropped by Buena Vida Orphanage (where #3 is staying) that evening, but the group didn't do a lot of mingling or introductions at that point.  Samantha, who was leading the trip for ACHF, was also training two Trip-Hosts-to-be, Brennan and Emily.  She was busy introducing them to the director, and then everyone returned to camp for a fireside chat and bedtime.

#1 with her sister's summer "siblings".
After a morning of hard work on Wednesday, several of the volunteers went to Buena Vida to eat lunch, including Samantha, Brennan, and #1 and friends.  #1 sat next to #3, who sat next to some of the teenage girls from the orphanage, who were next to Samantha and Brennan.  Our American Trip Hosts were speaking to each other in Spanish, and #1 could tell they were talking about her and #3, though she couldn't overhear their exact words.  Here's the conversation she later learned, which is translated into English for your convenience:

Brennan: Okay, I've been working really hard to memorize the names of all our volunteers.  I cannot remember that girl, the one sitting next to [#1].  What is her name?

Samantha:  I don't know!  I don't recognize her either.

Brennan:  Is she with our group?  I don't even remember her being at our meet-up yesterday.

Samantha:  It looks like she knows [#1].

Brennan:  But I know for sure she didn't come in [#1's] vehicle.

Samantha:  Yeah, I don't know which family she's with.

Brennan:  This is so weird!  I've never reverse lost someone before!

Samantha:  Maybe she's just passing through and is visiting the orphanage?

Samantha to Jaquelin, one of the Mexican teens:  Jaquelin, do you know that girl?

Jaquelin:  Yes.

Samantha:  Has she been here this whole time?  [Meaning, has she been with our group these two days?]

Jaquelin:  Yes.  [Meaning, #3 has been here for two weeks.]

Samantha, trying to clarify:  Has she been here at the orphanage all day?  [Meaning, has #3 been here doing construction work?]

Jaquelin, taking the question literally:  Yes.  [Meaning, #3 has been here all day, and all day the previous 15 days, too.]

Brennan, understanding that Samantha and Jacquelin might not be understanding each other, now interrupts in English to Samantha:  Maybe she is just a really white Mexican and she's one of the newer children here.

Brennan decided to test #3's language.  He got her attention and asked: Come te llamas, por favor?

#3, without batting an eye, gave her name.  She and #1 were now wondering what Samantha and Brennan were saying about them.

Brennan, in Spanish to Samantha:  Whoa!  She speaks Spanish!  She must be one of the orphans.

Finally, it hits Samantha:  I know who she is!  Kent told me his daughter was living at the orphanage this summer so she could learn Spanish.  This must be her!

#3 got a ride to, and at, the beach with the rest of the volunteers and orphans.
They all shared a good laugh, which grew funnier when they shared this exchange with the whole group at the fireside that evening.  The volunteer families had also been confused by the presence of this very white girl at the orphanage.  Most had assumed she was part of someone else's family in the work project...until she lined up with the orphans before dinnertime and chanted their evening prayer with them--in Spanish.  That really confused everyone!  Rumors and assumptions were flying in whispers, and were revealed at the fireside after #3's presence was explained.  The favorite rumor was that she had moved to Mexico with her parents, but when they both died, she couldn't get back across the border and was sent to be raised in an orphanage.  Obviously!
#3 in the middle of a volleyball game, literally.

Serving an early meal at The Breakfast Club in Tijuana.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

My Farm Boy

Maybe Idaho is the burr in the saddle that makes my children want to leave home in the summer.  A few years ago, Kent and I decided that farm work would be good for our kids, so we sent them all up to live and work with our Idaho cousins for two weeks.  (All except #2, who adamantly refused and signed a contract to be my personal assistant for the summer because she couldn't stand the thought of hard manual labor.)  The other four of them tended chickens and goats, weeded a massive garden for the weekend farmer's market, cleaned out the cat barn, moved irrigation pipe, and did any number of other farm jobs needing attention.  They also played Rambo and other night games, went to a rodeo, camped in Yellowstone, and took a sailboat out on the water while there.  They all seemed to have a great time.  Yet fewer of my children go back every year.

The first year was so good for their work ethic that we, their parents, enacted a new summertime standard: if our kids don't find another good work option for themselves, they get sent to Idaho.  This summer, all our girls found other options.  #1 has a work-from-home, paying job, and also paid to spend next week in Mexico with one of ACHF's work project groups.  #2 is putting in many hours at Mooyah's to earn moolah for her choir trip to New York.  #3 made a run for the border.  #4, who eschews hard labor, signed a personal contract to develop her YouTube editing skills and enter some video contests.

#5, however, likes hard work and LOVES being with the cousins on their farm in Idaho.  Last week, I took him shopping for jeans, boots, and work gloves, and then drove through a pelting rain storm to meet up with the cousins who were visiting Salt Lake for the weekend.  The exchange in the downpour from one car to the other was so hurried that I forgot to give him a hug goodbye.  That boy is such a tender heart that I worried about him getting homesick.  Luckily, the farm is way too fun.

In our phone chats every other night, #5 tells me he misses the family, but he is having a great time. His daily chores include cleaning the house, caring for turkeys, and weeding two rows of the oversized garden. Then he gets paid $8 per hour to help with a major landscaping project.  He already earned enough to buy a semi-automatic airsoft rifle.  His summer mom, Elan, assures me that their kids wear goggles, long sleeves, and gloves for their evening airsoft battles.  So far, I've received no reports of injuries, only of adventures from my cheerful farm boy.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Canada Was So Last Year

Hightailing away from home for the summer seems to run in our family.  My mom spent every summer of her child- and teen-hood working and playing on a mountain ranch in-the-middle-of-nowhere-California.  Of course, she lived at a convent during her school months, so going to her great aunt's ranch every summer was essentially going home.  (I'll write a novel based on her story someday.)  I grew up browsing photos and hearing stories of the two years my dad lived in Africa.  It wasn't until my adult years that I realized that most kids don't grow up seeing nine-foot-boa-constrictor road kill or hiking Mt. Kilamanjaro.  (I could write an interesting book about his story too!)  By comparison, my own teenage summers seemed bland, until I remembered that I, too, spent a couple of summers away from my parents, working for my grandparents' business in Oregon.  I traveled across that state with my new friends there as we explored the coast or took day trips to the temple in Portland.

Since I know it runs in the family, I shouldn't be surprised that my daughter doesn't want to be constricted by international boundaries for her summer breaks.

Last year, #3 traveled with a friend for two weeks in Canada.  They stayed with a friend of the friend who has more money than she knows what to do with.  Those types make the funnest hosts.  #3 rode horses, went boating, and got launched in a giant, homemade slingshot.  I learned about that last activity when she got home.  I guess she thought that explaining how they used a tractor to pull her and her bungee cords back before releasing her 50 feet in the air might make me nervous.  (She was probably right.)

This year, the same friend extended the Canada invitation to her again.  But now that she had a passport, #3 had another country on her mind.

Last December, #3 asked if she could live at a Mexican orphanage for the summer.  Specifically, she wanted to move in with her friends at Casa Hogar Buena Vida as a sort of Spanish-immersion program.  Granted, she's grown up visiting this orphanage every year, but I still wasn't enamored with the idea of sending my child away to a foreign country for two months.  She persisted in asking, though, so in March we told her that if she wanted to make this happen, she needed to find out what documentation and legalities would be involved.  It turns out that it's pretty easy to abandon a child in Mexico.  A notarized letter granting parental permission and a few other documents were all it took to make her trip legal.  Her promise to me of daily FaceTime settled my worries.

One week after school let out, #3 caught a ride with some Child's Hope volunteers in a luxurious RV.  She sprawled on a leather couch for the ride across the border, and they dropped her off on their way to another orphanage.

I'll admit that my expectations for her summer away were clearly different from hers.  I encouraged her to write daily in her journal, or vlog, or at least email about the adventures she was having.  I mean, how many kids can say their parents sent them off to live in a Mexican orphanage?  I imagined her coming home and writing a memoir about teaching the Latin Americans some Latin dancing or learning tortilla-making at the hands of the orphanage director.  I assumed that with three dozen siblings, she would have a volume of material with which to entertain.

It turns out, that orphanage life is a lot more boring than one (I) would expect.  #3 spends a lot of time on her iPod, going through Duolingo lessons.  She sleeps in most days, does some morning chores, and then sits around watching the children and letting the teens practice their English with her.  She'll occasionally join an evening game of volleyball, and then stay up late listening in on the girl talk about who has a crush on whom.  It's pretty much her life in Provo, but more laid back and slower paced.  And if you know #3, you know that's exactly her type of summer break.  Live up the lazy life while you can #3.  I still expect you to learn some Spanish!

Note: I waited to post this, hoping that #3 would send some photos to add on.  She refuses.  I'll add pics later if I ever get any.