The Flower in My Life
So my Peace Corps experience changed dramatically in the beginning of September. Bit of background info: my host family, which is just the wife and husband, spend their whole day working. The wife works for the ministry of health, is busy campaigning for elections in May and is taking college classes. The husband is a rice field owner and is busy working the fields (or rather supervising those that do.) They are out pretty much all day and the house as you can imagine is never tended to. Being so, my host mom felt like she could really use some help. So she managed to get a 12 year-old girl from a really poor community to live with her. This is the deal: the girl gets a better education, "a better home life", gets clothing and her family gets some money. Because of political affiliations, this girl is the human sacrifice that will allow her rural community to get light and paved roads--there are none there! My host family in return gets a live-in maid and cook. Her name is Orquidia, which means Orchid, and she has blossomed into my life as a friend, sister, and daughter.
So like I said, my experience here changed a lot once she arrived! I will never forget her first day!! The poor thing was so scared and I just kept talking to her and telling her that she was my new little sister and that we would be able to get to know eachother. She learned my name that same moment--it took her weeks to remember our host mother's name and it was apparent that we had developed a strong bond fairly quick. Her first days there we spent talking and she asked me a million questions about the US, life and me as a person! I asked her a bunch of questiosn and realized that this wasn't her first "casa ajena" (which means a stranger's home) that she worked at. She had two bad experiences and I wondered, how can anybody do this to a child, be it the parent or the person receiving the child. So, in the process of getting to know her and just hanging out, we quickly became attached!
She is a smart and sassy kid: she loves to learn and she loves to use what she knows! She also loves to joke, tell stories and just hang out! She hates it when I leave my site for a couple days and to be honest, she is often the one that I am thinking about when I leave. Every time I come back to the house, she comes out see if it's me and says, "Yuri, it's been 4 days since you have been gone--that means you owe me at least four hugs!" So when I leave, it's easy to have her on my mind as I think well, she has classes in the morning, comes home, and has to start cooking lunch (mind you she probably hasn't really eaten much for breakfast), and starts cleaning. Our host family don't want any unwanted visitors, so she closes the house and in the culture down here, it's not normal. For example, when I am home, I have my doors open to say I am in the community, all are welcome, but most importantly, to let some fresh air in! So this poor child is a prisoner in the house. Then by the time she is done, she is tired and has to work up some energy to even get to do her homework! It's a situation I really don't like and eventhough with time I have come to see why people do this, I will never understand nor accept this situation. No child should be taken from their home, to work and fend for themselves. It has many damaging effects and in the long run, doesn't do any good! I remember how hard it was to come to a strange community and not knowing anybody but I can't imagine doing it at her age and under those circumstances. This is something that is seen way too often--people swap kids, send them off and get some labor in return!!
So, I spoil her with lots of hugs and kisses!! If I see something that she would like, I get it for her. I make sure to stay at my site as much as possible and hang out with her. I help her with her homework and try to improve her math, writing and reading skills. She has such a special place in my heart and I feel at times a love that one would have for their own child. She calls me "mami" now because she says that I take care of her and love her. And in a way she is right. I worry about her and I only want to see her become the best person that she can be, and I try to empower her and motivate her to work and study hard and to make good decisions.
Orquidia has also taught me so many lessons and the worst is that she will never know (as much as I try to show her) how important it was that she taught me what she did. First, she taught me what it truly means to take care of another person, what it truly means to be selfless. Many times when I want to buy something for myself, I think of her and think of what she has to do just to get basic things. So if I have something she needs, I gladly give it to her. But it's not just the "stuff"she needs; I am concerned if she leaves loved, happy, safe, etc. She also shown me how resilient we as human beings are when we are in tough situations. I have seen many little girls in her situation and many of them become "damaged" from it but with her, she has this amazing spirit! I mean I don't know how to describe it but she has the ability to light up your life. And that is just amazing, truly God. She has a drive in her to make a better future for herself and others. And through it all, she has a joy in her that is truly contagious. She has also taught me what it means to give of what we have and of ourselves. There have been times when she breaks a cracker in half (and that is dinner usually) and offers me the other piece. Or if I get home in the early afternoon, she will split her plate of food with me. Of course, I say no thanks and tell her I am fine, but she just keeps insisting. I don't know, I mean for a 12 year old to share the little bit they got is big, especially being that she comes from a poor family. To see her give so openly and without any reservation forces me to think how selfish we all are! And then when I help her with homework, she truly teaches me patience (she has a hard time remembering things so we have to do a lot of repeating and that can be really exhaustive) and I realize, she is victim of one of the worst educational systems imaginable as well as the environment. But to see she wants to study and get better grades, it just shows how much patience she has with herself and the drive she has within herself! And of course, she teaches me what love and family truly mean and the importance they play in our lives. Thank God we have each other! She says everyday that she would rather be at home with her really poor family than be at some nice house with some nice people. Family is family and you can never replace that love you were raised in! But she also has shown me that it is easy to love someone as if they are your family! That love really is so powerful and with it, anything is possible.
She says that once June/July comes, she is leaving. I can't help but be really happy for her but I know that she is back at square one--at a really poor community with slimmer chances of finishing school and getting a decent education. And knowing that I am out of here in November, I would rather she leave before me than vice versa--it hurts everytime I leave her, constantly thinking of what she is going through. Regardless, our time was pretty limited and I am gonna miss her to pieces!!! She has really become a part of me and my life and this little girl has taught me so much but more so, I will truly miss her as a person! She is quite the sassiest girl! She has made this experience all worth it--the ups and downs! I can say I truly love her and that I will miss her and always be thinking of her! For now we enjoy the time we have and get some laughs out of it, but it's hard to think there will come a day when we will have to say goodbye. Things will change as they do once people go on with their lives. I just keep seizing every moment I can to show her how much she means to me, how awesome I think she is, and much I love her.