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.