July 8, 2017 by jiejie768
Meg and I left Carmen Alto on the 5th of June, 2013, not knowing when exactly we’d be back. We were sure, however, it would be within in two years … On Wednesday, July 5, 2017, we returned. (#lifehappens #betterlatethannever).
I’m not sure I’m ready to totally process what it’s like to be back at Kids at the Crossroads after so long away. The most poignant thing that jumps out at me, though, is how immediately familiar it felt to be back not only at the program, but in Ayacucho at large. I’ve been pretty worried about what taking Cole on this trip could mean — altitude sickness (Ayacucho is ~9,500 feet above sea level), water-borne illness, less-than ideal local driving habits, etc. This only intensified as we arrived in Lima and Cole had some difficulty adjusting to a new sleep/eating routine (no major problems, but lots of parent-stress). Oddly, though, a lot of that worry melted away as we landed at the Ayacucho airport, met up with Gege and drove through the familiar streets to the main plaza. Intellectually, I was aware the dangers that stressed me to no end were as present as ever, but the feeling of calm and security that one feels upon entering their “home base” was powerful: even all these years later. We were home.
Some odds and ends from our first two days back at KATC:
- Cole is a celebrity already. Seriously, the kid is mobbed by children every second he is in the play area. Kids want to touch is blond hair, tickle his tummy and generally shower him with love and adoration. Gege had to give a (much-needed) speech at the end of the first day reminding kids that Cole is not a pet. We have been touched by how quickly the children and staff alike have taken to our little guy. When we carry him into the main room at the end of the school day where all 110+ kids are gathered, there are literal cheers and shouts of “Coooooolllllllle!” It’s amazing.
- We were excited to see everyone here, but readers of our blog from before may remember that one kiddo in particular held a special place on our heart (along with his older brothers Abrahn and Lucas): Isak! First off, the rambunctious 3-, then 4-year-old we knew has blossomed into a shy, caring 8-year-old that is too tall to be believed. Second of all, despite telling hs mom that we didn’t need him anymore because we have our own baby now (not true!), he has been AMAZING with Cole. After school each day, while his mom performs her cleaning duties for the school, Isak has dutifully followed Cole everywhere. The two have become fast friends (other than Gege, Isak is the only person whose name Cole can remember on a regular basis here). They play with cars, run around the yard and laugh readily, and it’s clear that Cole adores him already. For Meg and I, it’s impossible to express just how special this bond is to us. Prior to having kids of my own, Isak (along with his brothers) is the closest I’ve ever come to truly loving a kid as if he were my own, and to see both of them together and getting along is not a feeling I can put into words. I love that kid so much!
- When I first worked at KATC I was a “teacher” in so much as I occasionally helped kids with their work or tutored them 1-on-1 to develop foundational reading skills. It’s been eye-opening to return with a masters degree and three years of classroom teaching experience under my belt. That’s not say I’m any kind of magician, but I feel much more comfortable in front of a whole group. Also, I feel so much more useful having an expanded teacher toolkit to draw upon as I work with kids and see where they are strong and what next steps are appropriate. In fact, Gege says starting Monday, it will be my job to help the teachers here expand their own tool kits. I’m basically the Ms. Julie of Carmen Alto (#proudotters).
- While Cole is definitely the star of he show, Meg and I also are pretty popular as well. I forgot how quickly a crowd of children will gather around you if you simply sit in the floor. They are so curious and happy to have any adult attention. Their most frequent inquiries center around Cole’s name/age, our ages, and how to say things in English. It’s a lot of fun. There also is always a willing partner (or seven) for any of the many board games stowed in the playroom cabinet (I’ve been told I’m a pretty good “Spot-It” player).
- The generosity and genuine affection dripping from the kids is palpable. Friday was arts and crafts day, with grades 1-3 making paper cloud decorations and grades 4-6 making “Ojos del Dios” (see pictures). After working diligently for about an hour on their projects, several kids insisted that Meg or I or (especially) Cole take them as gifts.