Life at Amigos de Jesus is fast paced, busy, and full of children. It is very easy to get caught up in the day-to-day routine and forget about the world outside of the Amigos grounds. We teach the children in school, eat our meals with them, help with homework, and play outside until prayer circle. When we are not with the children, we are preparing lessons for school or working on other Amigos projects. We spend our weekends entertaining the children, sometimes singling out a small group with a special interest. We spend our personal time trying to think of ways to delve into the mind of one quiet child or how to tutor an intelligent child enough so he can attend university next year or how to provide educational games on the weekends without boring anyone. The hogar has become our home, the children have become our life, and I have never been happier.
I have not been in the United States since the morning of June 30, 2012. I forget what supermarkets look like. I forget what a baseball field looks like. I forget what my bedroom looks like. I know my family through pictures on Facebook and a few Skype sessions. Before making a phone call or sending a text message on my cell phone, I must check to make sure I have enough saldo (like a pay-as-you-go plan). I hand wash my clothes when it is not raining. With cold water is the only way I know to shower. I’d rather lose power than water, and I know this because we’ve experienced both losses multiple times. Suffice it to say, I have adjusted to living in third-world Honduras and I have no complaints. Therefore, my mom’s visit to Amigos de Jesus for six days at the end of February was a monumental part of my year here because I could finally share my own little world with her.
A short back story on my mother: she joined the Peace Corps at age 24 and lived in Costa Rica for two years. She speaks Spanish, she knows all about the cold showers and geckos climbing on the walls inside the house, and she knows how to use a pila. From her example, I always knew long term service was an option. With her prompting, I looked into Spanish speaking countries. My birth kept her from returning to Central America, but now I am the reason to visit again. I am surely my mother’s daughter.
I spent months sending my mom emails and Facebook messages begging her to pick dates to visit, to confirm the availability with the Malvern office, and to buy her plane tickets. Once that was complete, I spent almost two months imagining what it would be like for her to finally get here. I thought about everything I wanted to show her: the walk on the dirt road to Pozas Verdes with the mountains in the distance, crossing the rio to get to Mass, the walk through the agriculture section (Agro), the chiquitos’ room (the little ones), just to name a few. Amigos has become my life and I wanted to show my mom every aspect of it, so she could see what I’m doing, what it’s like to live here, and why I’m so happy.
She arrived on a Thursday, a school day, so I couldn’t leave the hogar for the airport trip. We welcome visitors by waiting by the front gate with a huge sign that says “Bienvenidos a Amigos de Jesus” and it was at this welcome, after hours of agonizing looks at the clock and my phone, checking for texts from my boss Amy, that I finally saw my mom for the first time in over seven months. I won’t lie, I ran full speed at her for a hug and surprisingly even shed a couple of tears. It’s very hard to remember the outside world when living at the hogar, and I had forgotten what it’s like to hug my mother. Within minutes we had our usual mother-daughter banter back to normal and I was introducing her to all of her nietos (grandchildren) at the hogar. A few children even took to calling her abuela (grandmother). Caterin (5) handed her flowers she had picked from the bushes.
Since she’s my mom, I have to think she’s special. But my mom really was a special visitor for Amigos. She came to hogar able to speak Spanish and expecting, with anticipation, a cold shower in the morning. She was excited to eat Honduran food and raved about the beans, which I love and she fondly remembered from Costa Rica. She easily began communicating with those of the children who weren’t too shy to talk to “la mamá de Raquel.” Even the baby Mili, who does not warm up to new people quickly, knew that my mom was okay and climbed onto her lap later that day. My mom spent most of her time here interacting with the children. They love talking to new people and it was exciting for me to watch my mom form relationships with them, learn their names and put the faces into the stories I had been telling her. You can’t get to know Amigos unless you interact with the children and I wanted my mom to fully live the Amigos life.
Her first true Honduran experience was her first morning when we woke up to no water. As we progress into the dry season, we will lose water more frequently for short periods of time. Lucky for my mom, we had some very dry and hot weather while she was here. When we have weather like that, we take the children to the nearby rio to swim and cool down. A trip to the rio is always a lot of fun. We walk for about 15 minutes on the dirt road and spend the afternoon sitting on the grass, trying to find shade, or splashing around in the cool water. There are always herds of cows crossing and some of the boys like to catch fish and put them in empty soda bottles. My mom spent the afternoon taking pictures and talking. She was happy to practice Spanish and spend time with our children.
My mom is the type of person that will try anything once. When I told her some of our older boys work in Agro and milk the cows to provide milk for the hogar, she asked if I had milked a cow. I, of course, said no. She, on the other hand, said she’d love to try it. So one afternoon we met up with the Agro guys and they taught my mom how to milk a cow! Where would get this experience living in Philadelphia? I was thoroughly amused and my mom was very proud of herself for milking a cow. Then I led her directly to my house to wash her hands before touching anything.
We hiked up to the Amigos cross at the top of our huge hill and spent some time basking in the beautiful view. Mom talked about how wonderful her trip was and we had some time with the boys who couldn’t get enough of the woman with my eyes.
The best part about my mom’s visit was that she is so easy going and able to talk to anyone, so I didn’t need to “entertain” her the whole time. While I needed to prepare lessons for school, she sat outside and talked to the children or employees. She bonded with some of our boys and girls and observed daily life at the hogar. The Wednesday morning we left for our vacation, we went to the school to say goodbye to everyone and my mom cried as the children gave her hugs and said goodbye. They already were asking her to visit again.
My favorite part about life at Amigos is the children. At any time, I can go outside and find one to talk to, or spend time in the chiquitos room, or watch some of the boys play soccer. Our life here revolves around the children. They are the reason I am here and the reason I will cry when I leave. To be able to share that feeling with my mom is very special to me, because it is because of her example that I chose to come here. She’s already considered selling the house in the States and moving down here.
Rachel Severino, 2013 Volunteer