Current Child Count

  • HOGAR DE AMOR I: 11 babies
  • HOGAR DE AMOR II: 6 boys
  • HOGAR DE AMOR III: 8 girls

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Even though May has passed, it was a month of many new experiences that I will process the rest of my life. Here are seven of the most memorable!

#1: Baby Birth!

Ever since “G” told me she was pregnant with number 2 (at age 14), I picked up the slack in her post-natal care. Thanks to my OBGYN friend from Cochabamba International Church, also owner with her husband of a recently refurbished clinic, we got excellent care at half the price. I was asked to choose the date of the cesarean within a certain time frame. That's how on May 3, I was called out of the room where I was going to wait, told to suit up in full surgical gear, walked into the surgical suite and Dra. Aida made the first cut. It was a beautiful experience to watch the baby being born, healthy and large! When they weighed her, they told me the weight. I am sorry the father didn’t want to be there and experience what I did, but honored that I was able to be there for G.

(Those who know Cochabamba will get a kick out of this: my first time watching a human baby being born, and I was in La Cancha. You got it - La Cancha!!)

My camera refused to work on this day - thankfully I had my cell phone camera to snap this picture of G's baby being lifted into the world!

With baby K (during her sister's first birthday)

#2: Becoming Soccer Mom
The months of May and June, guys from "my bridge" are playing in a soccer tournament at the field of a boy’s home in Tiquipaya. In this post I explain a bit of what it's like to be a street kid soccer mom!

Our team!

#3: Burying a Friend
May 11 was the first time I really sat down, there on the curb by passing cars, to chat with “C”, new to the bridge. I had no clue that only 15 days later I would get the phone call that he was dead, alcohol overdose. He would’ve turned 31 in June, one month after I turned 28, and yet there is no comparison. His body and mind bore the marks of a hard life on the streets, and by street terms he was elderly, using a stick to get around when he got around at all.

It was horrible to get back from Wednesday soccer, and see his body right there, a foot from the street. What would you do, with 15 or more street kids looking to you for direction? After a stunned few minutes where I just wanted to cry at the awfulness of it all but made my brain keep working, we flagged down passing police, the guys helped load the body while the rest of us answered questions, and everything kicked in from there. We followed his body to the morgue. I took in the orphan brothers who found him to the main police station, as witnesses. I found out his real name from another street worker, so the original death certificate had to be changed. The second night of the wake, I stayed with everyone till midnight, keeping them distracted from the dead body at the foot of their mattresses.

This was not the first time I needed to bury someone from the street, but was the first time I was so involved with everyone and all the details. Due to the name complication, it took three days to finally be able to bury, whereas it usually happens the same day in Bolivia. At one point, a whole group of police flooded the bridge and I had to explain that we were following proper procedure, and to please not burn the body! Those were some crazy days that bonded our group.

The wake under the bridge, with visitors from other street communities

#4: Traumatic First Aid
I have had many many ER experiences in Bolivia by this point, between our children, volunteers, and the bridge kids, but the one with C completely triumphs all injuries. One Saturday night a friend of mine from the bridge shoved C’s hand into my face and said “Senorita, fix her up!” I could tell from the dirty bandages that it was going to be bad, but it was worse than I expected. After a weekend without improvement, I started to get really worried and took her to the doctor, first time I’ve had to do so as I give constant first aid on the street. There her tendon was declared severed, immediate (expensive) surgery needed, and, as if that wasn’t enough to make us pass out, she needed to have the two fingers cleaned out and stitched closed to give us time to inform her family members and make decisions about the surgery.
The next hour in the emergency room was beyond words AWFUL!!!!!!!! C practically bruised my arm and washed my hair with her tears as she clung to me during the torturous wound opening and cleaning…and something like a dozen stitches, as far as I could count. The doctor was so rough and brusque, and the wounds so bad, that the lidocaine was only partial help. (At least she got lidocaine, unlike another friend after he was stabbed.)

I barely ate the rest of the day, my stomach was so churned. ( I do have a picture pre-ER, but I'll spare you!)

I also took out stitches for the first time in May. And of course it had to be 3 stabbing wounds - nine stitches! Glad to report that C is still my friend, ha! He was just grateful I kept the wounds clean and could take out the stitches so that he didn’t have to face an abusive doctor again.

#5: Being Part of a Catholic Baptism
In six years living in a Catholic country, I had never witnessed infant baptism. My friend M at the bridge chose her son’s 3rd birthday for the momentous occasion, with a mutual Norwegian friend as the godmother, and we had a very nice afternoon together. There were quite a number of babies being baptized at once, at least 20 I'd say, not exactly the private ceremony I was envisioning! It was dramatic, for sure.

My friend with her new godson (my part in the special day? photographer and chauffeur!)

#6: Big Bridge Outing
(and two flat tires within four days)
In our first big bridge outing apart from soccer games, the day before my birthday I loaded up a group for a trip to a lake outside of town. We had a wonderful time, even with nearly running out of gas and a flat tire! ...Which were actually some of the happiest highlights of the trip, as everyone worked together as a team towards a solution.

This was the first time I actually went out on Lago Angostura. C knew how to rent a boat, and so for a mere 70 cents per person, we took a wet spin on the lake at sunset. Later, we were planning to eat fish but a favorite Bolivian meat dish was cheaper, so they stuffed themselves on Pique Macho (not I, I’m vegetarian!) and then we started the long dark hike back to the truck while some told ghost stories—with definite Bolivian twists, another new experience!

With little J after the boat ride - his first!

And did I mention I had not one but TWO flat tires in May, on two different vehicles, both packed with street kids? (At least they know how to change tires!) In 13 years of driving I’ve had not one. Very strange, I say.

#7: Double Adoptions
In several years of adoptions, we’ve normally had several months in between each one. Well in May, we had a week where two families, Norwegian and US (but adopting as locals), actually crossed in the Baby Home! It was a three ring circus, to check on Jose with his family (parents and brother), then Alejandrina with her family (parents and 4 siblings)! Very exciting though for all involved, and the children are adapting beautifully.

Farewell meal with the oldest from the Baby Home

Other firsts included a street kid putting my car in reverse and crashing it at the bridge, although amazingly it did almost nothing to my car (yep, I’m much more strict now), being begged to drink chicha, which is a homemade alcoholic brew (nope, I didn’t!), and taking multiple from the bridge for dental work (interesting aside: they brush their teeth by the river before I take them, which I find impressive considering the lack of mothers in their lives).

I've loved almost every minute of all of it!! I have the most amazing "jobs" ever. :)

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