As I write these words, I am painfully reminded that my time here in Mexico is quickly coming to a close. The days rush by, and soon there will be fewer than 10 left. Far too soon, I will find myself on a plane, rushing away from the place that has been my home for nearly 3 months. This acute awareness oozes into nearly every moment, making it hard to fully revel in these final days. Yesterday, however, was full and wonderful.
Yesterday, I went into Mexico City with the American group, one of the other interns, and several of the kids from the various homes. I have had the opportunity to go into the city several times, and each time I learn a bit more about the culture and the history of these beautiful people. I expected this to be a standard trip–enjoyable but nothing to write an update about. How wrong I was!
After a quick breakfast with one of my boys (whom I’ll call J), he and I headed out to the van with one of the girls (E). Our house dad and his daughter were taking us to meet the group. J had visited the city before. E told me it was her first time. When the van pulled into the gas station, we three adventurers jumped out and scrambled into one of the group vans. A bit later we picked up 3 more kids who were coming with us.
E and I sat near each other. On the long drive to the city, two of the girls from the group pulled out a notebook and pen. They played Pictionary of sorts while I acted as translator. E munched on a granola bar I’d had in my bag because she hadn’t eaten breakfast in the rush out the door. As we approached the city, we peered out the windows at all that was around us.
Finally we pulled up to the Zócalo, the main square in Mexico City. We piled out of the vans, and I discovered that two more kids had joined us. One of those girls had been in the kindergarten class I worked with. As we walked through the city, looking around, our group leader explained what the group was seeing. One of the older girls translated for the children, but I soon found myself helping out because the kids had mixed into the group. I talked to them about their own history, asked what they knew, and generally enjoyed sharing their culture with them.
While in the presidential palace, we were able to tour a recently opened museum that traces the Mexican revolution. While some of it was difficult to understand (since it was all in Spanish), I was thrilled to see our kids going from video station to video station, donning headphones, and listening raptly to the information provided! When we left the palace, I asked if they had learned anything and if they’d had fun. I got enthusiastic yeses to both questions!
By this point, it was noon and the kids were getting hungry. However, we still had another stop before lunch. We wound our way through the Zócalo, passing several people in native dress who were performing ancient religious rituals. We marveled for a moment at their colorful costumes as we walked by the ruins of an ancient temple. Soon we reached the Catholic cathedral, which had been built on top of the temple’s ruins when the Spanish came to Mexico. We walked in and showed the kids points of interest in this enormous and beautiful structure.
Then it was off to lunch, where I was seated between E and one of the other girls (S). They girls shared the special, so I helped them split everything between 2 plates. When they wanted to look out over the city from our perch on the 7th floor, I walked with them to a small balcony and snapped some pictures. After the meal, we walked out to the Zócalo once again. There we waited for taxis to take us to the market since we had small children who couldn’t walk the whole way. By this point, S had attached herself to me. When the first group got into a taxi, she looked at me and asked if she could ride with me. I promised her she could, and when the next taxi came, we crammed in together before the car was full. She read books the entire ride, only stopping occasionally to ask me a question or comment on the scenery.
Once at the market, I let our leader know that I had her with me, and we took off. I’ve been to the market several times, so I had very few gifts left to buy. S, on the other hand, had never–to my knowledge–seen the market. She grasped my hand tightly and took off, admiring jewelry and trinkets and clothing all around her. We stopped at almost every stall to look at something. I bought my final gifts with her help, and we giggled and commented on one hundred little things. I heard a few native English speakers in the market (outside of our group), but I’m pretty sure they had no idea I could speak their language. I hardly spoke a word of English for 2 hours.
When S and I passed a gumball machine, she requested one. At the price of 1 peso, I wasn’t about to say no. We bought two, and I let her pick which color she wanted. Later, I stopped for a snack of candied nuts at one of my favorite spots. I asked what S wanted, and she happily walked away with a bag of candied sunflower seeds. As it neared time to go, I walked one more place with her. I’d been watching all afternoon to see what she liked the most. What she really wanted–more than the jewelry and the purses and the pretty clothes–was a little brightly-painted animal sculpture. So we walked back to a store we’d passed several times, and I asked her what she wanted.
She surveyed the smaller ones, knowing I couldn’t buy her one of the giant ones she would have loved. Every so often, she’d ask the shopkeeper a price. She lovingly caressed the back of a small turtle she’d returned to every time we passed the shop. When she asked the price, I listened carefully. It was definitely affordable. When she heard the price, though, she turned after from her favorite turtle and inquired about a smaller animal. Before she could settle on something less than that turtle, I said, “If you want the turtle, we can get it.”
The joy in her face was priceless. I would have paid much, much more to see that look. The shop owner handed me my change and carefully wrapped the turtle so it wouldn’t break. Then we walked, my little sister and I, back to the waiting vans. She gave me a hug and told me she’d see me soon. We climbed into separate vans heading to different homes, and I rejoined my little siblings from my house.
Though I am just over 2 weeks from leaving, I am still making connections and putting down roots. I wouldn’t have called S a sister before yesterday’s adventure, but now my heart is intertwined with hers. Every connection I make has been and continues to be worth it, even though I know those connections will mean more pain when I must leave. My heart is every day full and overflowing. My family here continues to grow. As my time here dwindles, my joy increases. God is far too good to me.