A lot of it was just gratefulness at getting to be back for the first time in 15 months, and my first Fourth of July there since moving to Bolivia. I usually can’t get away this time of year due to the stream of visitors/volunteers, but this time I could leave my parents in charge and take a quick escape! At my shortest trip back ever (2 weeks including several travel days), I made a conscious effort to savor every moment there. I needed the break in a bad way, since it's very difficult to get much peace and quiet while here, or to feel "away" from the work/staff/volunteers/kids. This time I was also in three different parts of Texas so got to see lots of different things and almost all of my relatives while there. The days were packed, but somehow relaxing too. Thank you so much to all who hosted me, and me and my sister, so that I could accomplish the most possible while there. We really appreciated it and had a wonderful time together!
Some highlights of the trip were being out on the lake, eating all the Tex-Mex I could hold, and…going shopping with my Grandma. Invariably, when I would get (supposedly) out of ear shot, she would begin telling anyone who would listen where her granddaughter lives and what she does. With her version, I come out like some sort of saint! The comments were interesting. One well-meaning woman in a shoe store gushed, "You must have the BEST JOB in the whole world!!" She was dead serious.
I'm reading a book written by the daughter of deaf parents ("A Loss for Words"). She said that growing up, her friends and other people tended to think her life was either much better or much worse than it really was. I get the same sense sometimes. The comments and looks say it all: my life is either romantic and exciting, or at best I'm really strange for doing what I do--and loving it.
As for the first, I always say thank the Lord that our life here isn't constant child rescues! Last year made that clearer than ever. A year ago this time, we were still dealing with the fall out from bringing in baby Juan Gabriel (7 1/2 months), very sick and cranky as a result of living on the street his entire life. It was a very exciting, rewarding thing to do--for a few hours. Then everyone from me to the staff to the youngest baby got whatever he had, in spite of putting him into strict isolation. After two days in the home, he was admitted to the hospital for two solid weeks (still an HDA record), but the harm was already done. I don't think I've ever been sick that bad and that long, with a terrible cough that made me develop a very painful muscle strain in my side that took months to heal and still isn't the same. Yes, very romantic life. The same baby's mother's boyfriend showed up at the Baby Home shortly after, high on glue, and created a huge scene by trying to escape with the baby while cussing us out, kicking a hole in our gate, only giving up when police arrived. (Okay, so my life may not be romantic, but it CAN be dramatic. ;-) )
As to the latter, the people who ask if we have running water or if we feel safe going outside or if we have food to eat...our quality of life just might be better than theirs! If they only knew how good we have it! We've lost track of how many volunteers have stayed on after serving at the homes. Generally speaking, the only ones who actually return to their home countries are those who have school or a fiancé waiting. And all the tragedy and sorrow surrounding our kids' lives is made more bearable simply by the fact that we are here and in the incredible position of being able to do something about it. As to being around at least a dozen kids at all times, and living and officing out of the Baby Home, it's not a bother to me. You can get used to just about anything, and nothing matters if you love it!
All that to say, this life IS pretty unique, with a ridiculous range of highs and lows which made the quieter time in Texas a huge joy! But I am so glad to be back with all the kids and staff now, and of course my family, and the current 4 volunteers. It was great to hit the ground running, as usual, and to be in the thick of everything within hours of getting here. Having stepped out and now back in, I have new eyes for observing, which is always refreshing. In particular I’ve noticed my Dad's interaction with the kids. I don’t know if his affection has grown or I wasn’t noticing before, but he definitely loves them and of course they adore him back. The highlight of their week is getting to go anywhere with him in his “big car” or even to be held by him a moment. It's great to see, and we appreciate having men in the kids' lives.
A couple of pictures from the trip:
We had a wonderful afternoon lunching with the Samsels, a lovely family with 5 children that is interested in moving to Bolivia to minister to children.