Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Is it too soon to count the days til I go back?

Looking out of the plane window on the way as we started to leave San Pedro Sula I felt like I was leaving a part of my heart behind in the foundation. Its not a feeling I fully understand, because I know I will back soon, and because I know I will never truly say goodbye.

The weekend was our last so we made sure it was full of different events and as much time with the boys as possible.  On Saturday we went to the boy’s jewelry exhibition, and although there was a miscommunication with us about what time the event actually was we were still able to go hang out with the older boys that were there selling jewelry. 

That night we ended up going into San Pedro Sula to go out with a girl from Elon and her friends.  All the girls were stunning, and we felt extremely underdressed, but it was fun nonetheless.  Several of the girls live in San Pedro year round and so hopefully I will be able to get together with them again in the fall when I’m back for a few months. 

On Sunday we woke up very early (despite the late night on Saturday) got our coffee and got picked up to go to the boy’s soccer game.  We went back to the same field in Berlín and watched our boys own some locals in a 7-0 win.  Its so much fun to watch them have so much fun playing the sport they love.  Watching them play, and playing with them, reminds me of why I loved the game to begin with.  I’m so fortunate to have had the opportunities I have had to practice and play for so many years.  During the years that I was playing at the elite level I had the opportunity to learn and play with the best, choose from whichever pair of cleats best suited the ground that day, and buy new equipment whenever my old stuff wasn’t quite up to par.  These boys play in 100 degree heat in long sleeve jerseys and pull their cleats out of a grab back of old ripped up shoes, and you can see the pure joy they get from the game.  I hope that at some point I will be able to coordinate the donation of cleats and equipment so that each boy will at least have his own pair of shoes that fit.

After the game we went back to the foundation to just hang out with the boys.  We had planned a surprise for our Despedida (going away party) since we didn’t want to do a dance (which is the norm for most volunteers/groups).  We bought 600 water balloons and 50 yards of plastic for a slip and slide.  When we got to the foundation we realized that the power was out which also meant that the water was off.  That combined with the heat created a bit of a panic among us because we were feeling dehydrated and had no idea when the power would be back on, let alone how we could possibly do our despedida without water.  Reginaldo, the Director, offered to drive us to town to go to the store and buy whatever we wanted.  We wanted to bring popsicles for the boys but we quickly figured out that those don’t really exist in Honduras, or at least not at La Antorcha. 

We bought a few huge bottles of water for ourselves and to share with some of the boys until the water came back on, and we headed back to the foundation.  We soon learned that the while we were gone the water came back on, typical Honduras.  In as discreet of a manner as possible in the foundation we started filling up the water balloons so that we could launch our attack on the boys.  We also started setting up the plastic tarp for the slip and slide.  There wasn’t any water pressure from the hose so we didn’t end up being able to really do the slip and slide successfully, but the day turned into a full fledged water fight.  Apparently at some point teams were made, although Paula, Leah, and I weren’t informed, so we were definitely made the targets!  The boys filled up buckets and pitchers when the balloons ran out, and they absolutely soaked us from head to toe over and over again. 

It wasn’t the typical despedida, but we had so much fun, and it really served to distract us from the fact that we were going to be leaving in a few hours.  It was several hours of pure fun.  Late in the day once the water fights were slowing down and we were all starting to dry off, the four boys that went to camp over the weekend, who happen to be several of our favorites, finally arrived back at the site.  I was so happy to see them and hear about their weekend, that I didn’t realize how quickly the time was going by.  All of a sudden the director told us that he was taking the older boys.  We hadn’t realized that it was going to be so soon, and all of a sudden I was completely overcome with emotion. 

The older boys formed a circle and then the Program director, Lucas, began to speak.  He spent several minutes thanking us for coming down and sharing our time, love, and hearts with them.  He spoke about how friendship does not go one way, but rather is both given and received. Not only do we come down to be their friend and help them, but he wanted the boys to know that we get so much from them too, and that’s why we cry when we leave.  This sentiment absolutely holds true.  Oftentimes, when I tell people about what I do in Honduras they are interested in hearing, but also seem to act like I’m a martyr for some reason.  The reality is I probably wouldn’t do what I do if I didn’t love it and get as much out of it as I do.  Maybe I’m selfish, but being down there is what makes me feel best.  These aren’t just some poor ex-street kids in Honduras, they are human beings.  They are my friends, my brothers, some of the best and strongest people I know. 

After we said goodbye to the boys, Reginaldo mentioned that they were taking the boys to go play in a soccer game.  We were confused, having thought they were headed back up to La Montaña, and then he asked us if we wanted to join them.  Although we had just said goodbye, we jumped in the truck and headed to their game.  As we were driving down the dirt road away from the foundation, with the boys arms around us, we all looked at each other and teared up.  If there was one moment in life that could epitomize happiness for me, I would say it is right there in the back of the truck with Paula, Leah and my favorite 10 boys in the world.  It is a feeling of vibrance, of love, and of life that can’t be compared to anything else.

When we got to the soccer field, to this informal scrimmage, we were able to watch most of the boys play, and able to sit on the side lines soaking up life with the rest.  There was a peaceful serenity to it, but also a desperation.  We knew we were in the last hours we’d have with them for a while, and wanted to just be with them.  We felt lucky to have an extra few hours with them and were glad to be able to bask in our emotions. 

Being at ProNiño is always a roller coaster of emotions because of the intensity of the lives and personalities.  On the one hand we are around boys who have lived for a time as the trash of our society, children without so much as a shelter to protect them.  To survive on the street they must become tough and learn to fend for themselves.  Love and affection is not something that even crosses their minds because they don’t know they are missing it.  In ProNiño, or at least whenever I’ve been there, there has been an overwhelming amount of love, joy and positive energy.  The freedom with which love is given is almost too much to handle, and it makes leaving nearly impossible. 

Leaving the soccer field Paula and I were sitting in the back of the truck staring at all the faces that define happiness and love for us, and in the spirit of saying goodbye on Honduran time we realized I had my credit card and if they hadn’t eaten we could probably take them out to dinner.  We asked their profe Marvin if they had eaten, which we knew what had been for dinner that night and he said yeah, but four hadn’t.  We looked at each other, discussed it for maybe a half minute and decided we wanted to take them out to dinner.  I had my credit card with me, so we didn’t have to worry about having enough cash, so we told them, and the reaction in itself was absolutely worth the $30 that each of us spent. 

The experience of giving is so much more valuable to me when you can give memories rather than money or things.  In this case the boys were so thrilled to be able to go out to dinner, and they ended up deciding on Kentucky Fried Chicken as the place for their big dinner.  We took all twenty two boys from La Montaña, and Reginaldo and Marvin, and had dinner.  As we were sitting at the long table in our family style dinner, and Paula and Leah were upstairs playing in the Playplace side of the restaurant I started to tear up again.  The boys always notice, and are careful not to make fun or provoke more tears, but they carefully asked why I was crying this time (since they had already seen plenty of tears).  Paula, our fluent speaker, explained about this feeling I get where I just love them so much that I just want to spoil them all.  Seeing their faces and how happy they were with this surprise event was enough to make me cry tears of happiness.  It makes me want to give them the whole world.

As we piled into the truck to take the boys back up the mountain, and say our real goodbye, one of the boys thanked us again for dinner.  Paula quickly responded with “No, thank you for sharing all this time and your lives with us”.  A few seconds later the same boy said, “Wow, yeah, I guess we should wake up from this dream”.  And its true, in the past few weeks, in such a short time, we have created a life that I could easily live forever if it was an option. We rode back up to the mountain in a sea of cheers and yelling as the boys celebrated their lives, and it felt like we were a part of a fraternity or a large family.  The feeling of camaraderie is so strong among them that their brotherhood is tangible.  I spent most of the ride in silence trying to absorb as much of the environment as I could before we had to say goodbye, and I sat with Juan Carlos’ arm around me staring at faces that will forever have my heart, in its entirety.

As we said goodbye, the real one, one of the boys that I spent a lot of time with and got to know gave me a strong hug and thanked me for coming down and for being there.  He said “I can’t believe you’re really leaving, I love you so much, thank you for everything.”  Each time I come down I’m lucky enough to meet and hang out with new and different kids, and continue to maintain my friendships with the ones I have known.  Another one, one who I have known for as long as I have known ProNiño, didn't seem sad when we said goodbye, and somehow it kept me from getting emotional too.  He simply looked at me and said, its not good bye because you are always here in our hearts, and I know that you will always come back.  During one of my volunteer interviews, one girl summed it all up really well.  She said that when you come down you have to be ready to love these kids, but also to be prepared to receive love in return.

Monday morning we went back to Las Flores to say by to the younger kids since we left abruptly with the La Montaña boys.  We gave and received some letters, and the boys all got in a circle to speak and if they wanted they could say something about how they felt about us being there.  Lucas spoke and then allowed the profe’s to speak next.  Most of the messages emphasized that we bring joy to the boys and that the doors to ProNiño are always open.  When the boys spoke I was surprised to see which boys decided to stand up, but the things they said will always stay with me.  After all the boys spoke Lucas spoke again.  I had held myself together during most of the speeches, but his really brought out the emotion in me. 

This time he spoke about where our love comes from and even shared a bit about his own life.  He not only thanked us for coming down and bringing so much love and affection that the boys have been missing out on, but he thanked our parents for teaching us how to give, for letting us share ourselves with the boys, and for raising us to be who we are.  He talked a little bit about his own childhood and the lack of a fatherly figure in his life, and how he has learned so much by being at ProNiño in the past ten years.  He says he has learned from our examples, from our willingness to give, and that it has very much altered the way he sees life.  It was at that point when I lost it and started crying.  I know that we give a lot while we are around, but I don't know if we would do it if we didn’t feel like we get so much out of it.  I can’t imagine that I’m able to give more than I feel I’ve received since I know just how much I have gotten out of every experience at ProNiño.

And to top it all off, when I got my iPhone back this morning, I found the boy who had it overnight played the song we wrote for all the boys on repeat until its battery died. I know that it’s a see you soon rather than a goodbye, but until then I know that I’m going to miss them all immensely.  Luckily I know that I’ll be back within four months for a much longer period of time, and for that I’m grateful.

"Love is the condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own."  ---Robert Heinlein

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Amor es compartir, amor es ProNiño

Although I have only been living here for a month, this whole place feels like home.  I don't know another place in this world where unconditional love is given so freely.  It is the norm rather than an exception.  Paula, Leah, and I have been talking a lot about our time here and what we have to give to the boys.  Often it feels like we don't have enough, there is never enough time or money or whatever that we have to give, but we have found that even if you are willing to give a little bit of yourself, the boys too are willing to share their whole selves, and all the love they have to give in return.

This past week and a half, we have found ourselves being invited to all sorts of events where we could truly just love and support these boys.  A large problem with the volunteers that come down, and its certainly not with all volunteers, is that they come down, love on the boys and develop strong relationships, and when they return home they get caught up in life and forget to send letters and stay in touch.  The boys thrive on the relationships they develop with volunteers, and really benefit from being loved.  These are kids who in many cases have ended up on the street because their parents didn't have the means or desire to care for them.  Nobody should have to grow up without feeling loved on a regular basis, and while its of course a reality in our world, it doesn't have to be for these boys.  I know that after three trips down here, each trip extending in length, and one much longer trip planned for later in the year, there is no way I could forget about this place.  I have seen some of my favorite boys grow from kids into young men, and I can't imagine not being a part of their lives as they transition into adult life as well.  

This week we were invited to go to the boy's school twice.  The older boys asked us to come, and spent the day hanging out with us and introducing us to their friends, and they kept saying they weren't going to perform anything they just wanted us to be at their "Student's Day".  At the very end of the day, after lying to us for hours, the boys went up on stage and did a break dance performance.  They are so multitalented that its impossible to imagine how any of them could have ended up on the streets.  Knowing that its because of ProNiño that these kids not only have futures, but also have a chance at childhood gives me that feeling where your heart feels too big for your chest.  My eyes water with tears of joy looking at their faces, knowing who they are, and being able to call them my friends, and I know I'm not the only one who feels that way.

Yesterday we went back to school for another student's day celebration, and this time four of our favorite boys weren't there.  We ended up spending most of the day with the younger boys, the two older boys that were there, and also with the girlfriend's of most of our boys.  At the end of the day after hours of hanging out with these girls, we pulled them aside for a serious talk.  Since they are our boy's friends, and since we are leaving on Monday, we asked them to watch out for our boys since they are like brothers to us and not to break their hearts.  Both girls started crying, and I think that in that moment we all realized how special they are to each of us. They have such charisma and strength of character that everyone can't help but love them.

Tomorrow is our last day, and our despedida.  I luckily know with certainty that I will be back, and for even longer, but the longer I stay the less I want to return to the states.  I don't know that another place exists in this world that is so full of love.  Where else in the world can a person receive a hundred genuine hugs per day? 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The good and the bad, but always the truth

Today our group finally had an opportunity to perform the surprise we had been planning for so long with the boys.  Last week the group of us, Jenn, Paula, Raquel, Josh and I wrote a song that would fit to the same music as one of the songs that the boys wrote.  We recorded the song later in the week with Leah and began planning the logistics of the performance.  We wanted to make sure the whole foundation could see it at once since we knew that the once it happened they would all find out right away anyway.  It was also extremely important that we maintained the surprise and that the la montaña boys could come down for it since it was those boys that recorded the original song.

We sat down with Lucas, Reginaldo and Bas and came up with a plan to surprise the boys.  We decided that it would be fun if they thought they were in trouble and then were caught off guard by our song.  Bas crashed his car earlier today so he stood up to give them a really serious talk during this party.  He told them very seriously that because he crashed his car the foundation is going to be really tight on money while he saves up for a new one.  They are going to need to cut corners in every way they can, and that there would be no trips for the boys for two months, and the would all only be able to eat two meals a day.  He told the boys they wouldn't be able to drive them to school anymore so they could save gas money.  At first they thought it was funny, but he kept going on and on and on about what a tough time the foundation was going to be having.  Eventually the boys bought into it and some looked extremely worried.  

It was at that point, when we really had their attention, that Raquel went into the room and told Bas to go away because he was being a stupid European.  At that moment we hit the music, all walked into the room together with our Proniño glasses on and glow sticks on our wrists.  As soon as we hit the music the boys laughed a bit because they already knew that we knew the words to their song, but they were going to indulge us. 

That's when they started to realize that the lyrics to our song were different than the lyrics to their song.  All of a sudden we had their full attention and they were dying with laughter and pleasure.  The more they heard of the song, the more they enjoyed it.  Not to mention we had some very gringa dance moves going on.  Needless to say the boys were thrilled with our song, and even the boy who wrote the original song told me he loved ours and approved of it.  I know it can be insulting if someone takes your work and messes it up, but our hope was to make sure that it was different, but something they'd still identify with.  I think my favorite part was the standing ovation we got at the end, as they started chanting "otra, otra, otra!!" (other, other, other!)

Without any more suspense, here is our video! 

Later in the night though, when we arrived home, Leah and I found that both of our wallets had been completely drained of their cash at some point during the party.  I had just pulled money out at the ATM earlier that day, and although I lent some to Kevin and Leah by covering their meals and a taxi, that still left me with $25 work of lempiras in my wallet.  My $15 american dollars were missing too.  It makes me sad that despite all the work we do there, and all the fun things we do for them (like throwing this awesome party) things like that still happen.  I know that the kids' histories are often stronger than their control, but it still makes me sad.  There are many kids who I know couldn't have done it though, because the truth is if they need money for something, and really only the older boys would ever need money, I'd be happy to lend it to them.  I've shown this quality often enough by buying them water/soda and snacks at soccer games, and even lending a little bit of money for them to use an internet cafe.  I'd much rather lend someone money than find out my money has been stolen, but I suppose such is life.

Here are the lyrics to the song, sorry for the poor quality video.

Son los gringos de los gringos
Raquel, Kelsey, Leah Paula y Josh
Desde Hotel Plaza Victoria

Estando en pronino nos conocimos
Y aqui los chicos son nuestros amorcitos (amorcitos)
Estando en pronino nos conocimos
Y aqui los chicos son nuestros amorcitos (amorcitos)

Cada dia en este suelo, con sus abrazos siempre nos llevan al cielo
Siempre estudiando con tanto esfuerzo, sabemos que llegaran muy lejos

Y ahora yo estoy aqui
Para aprender lololo que hay para mi
Son lo mejor que nos ha pasado, y nos gustaria tenerlos a nuestro lado

Estando en pronino nos conocimos
Y aqui los chicos son nuestros amorcitos (amorcitos)
Estando en pronino nos conocimos
Y aqui los chicos son nuestros amorcitos (amorcitos)

No, no podemos vivir asi, si  no estamos alli, por favor, volveremos a ir (x2)

Siempre pensamos en nuestros amigos,
Y aqui aprendemos su gran sentido
Carino, amistad, y una fuerte unidad
Son los valores que compartimos.

Que futuro ustedes tienen, son super guapos e inteligentes,
No los olvidaremos, rompecorazones, rompecorazones…

Estando en pronino nos conocimos
Y aqui los chicos son nuestros amorcitos (amorcitos)
Estando en pronino nos conocimos
Y aqui los chicos son nuestros amorcitos (amorcitos)

Son muchos los voluntarios, pero nosotros los verdaderos
Desde los estados para pronino entero
Los gringos de los gringos

Monday, June 13, 2011

When life hands you lemons, sell bananas

I have been thinking a lot about one of the many wonderful moments I have witnessed since coming down here several weeks ago.  Knowing my personality, the longer I stay the less I will want to leave, especially in times like these.  Last week when we were driving the kids back from school one of my favorite boys, Manuel, the inspiration for my photography project that I'm starting now, started to yell back and forth with one of the local guys in town.  He later told us that the joke around daily, but its the things that he was saying that blew my mind.  While on the surface it seems rude that he was yelling things to this guy who clearly didn't have the best life, the reality is that it shows much more about Manuel, and thereby ProNiño than anything else.  The man's job is selling bananas on the street corner out of a large truck, and the guy is older, and not bright.  Manuel yelled to the guy, "hey! Go study, go to school! You are selling bananas!"  In that moment its impossible to ignore the magnitude of the impact ProNiño has on the boys it serves.  Because of ProNiño the boys like going to school, know without a doubt that they have a future, and know that no matter what they will be successful because they have a support system that ensures it.  Even the banana guy knows it too. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

To love is to share

These boys never cease to amaze me with their kindness and generosity.  Today we went to San Pedro Sula to watch the boys play in a soccer tournament at the Olympic Stadium.  Of course the day was going to be amazing anyway, but throughout the day each just continuously reminded me of why I am so in love with them.  Early in the day we went to buy water for the boys since they didn't bring any, and we bought 40 bags of water (for maybe $6).  A little while later we noticed one of the rival teams was also drinking that water.  When I asked one of the boys if he knew that those were ours, he looked at me and said "amar es compartir" or "to love is to share".  They thought nothing of sharing with their opponents and being friendly off the field.

Later in the day, right before their finals, the boys and profes/coaches invited me into their prayer circle as they prepared for the game.  After their prayer the profe gave a talk about God's will and sportsmanship, and then when he closed it, he singled me out and told me that they, as a team, wanted to give me the trophy if they were to win the game because they feel like I am always with them and supporting them.  I got nervous and blushed, and the feeling of fulfillment was overflowing.  The boys went on to lose the final game 2-0 and I was expecting to see them all come off the field depressed and angry, but instead they were still smiling and laughing.  I asked one what happened and he said, "you know, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.  If someone wins, someone also is going to lose.  Today that was us, its okay".  

While they were changing back into their normal clothes, the coach came over to me and said, I know its not first place, but we still want you to have our trophy.  I could have cried with joy, not for the trophy, but rather for the reminder that there is still so much good left in humanity, you just have to be willing to look for it.  As we were driving in the back of the pick up truck with all the boys, I couldn't help but think this is it, this is life. And I feel so alive.  

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

What can you do, life is addicting

Even on the days that aren't particularly eventful I still find that I often leave Proniño at the end of each day feeling fulfilled.  Since I'm only here for three and a half weeks the idea of taking days off hasn't really occurred to me, so its been twelve straight days working so far, with only twelve more to enjoy here.  I really can't believe how quickly the time has flown by, and I'm so glad I still have more than a week left.  I feel like there are so many things that I want to do but not enough time.  

Tomorrow I'm going up to la montaña again to run another photography workshop and hopefully also have a chance to interview a few of the kids, and maybe even one of the professors.  I keep forgetting that at some point I'm going to have to write a paper about Honduras and this experience, but I've been putting it off because it hasn't felt like something I'm going to have trouble with it'll just be a matter of sitting down and actually doing it.  

Today I went with Kevin to take my friend Jenn to the airport midday after my meeting with the director and the donor from the Netherlands.  It was nice to be able to take a midday break and just hang out since I haven't really taken many breaks.  We went to the airport and then into the city to look at cars.  Kevin sold his truck to the foundation and needs to buy another car to replace it.  We also bought a couch while we were there since his new house is completely unfurnished.  

The afternoon was pretty relaxed once I got back to Proniño, and I just spent time talking to the kids.  I have already interviewed most of the kids that I can interview at Las Flores, so I have been focusing on getting a lot of B Roll and more pictures.  At the end of the day on our way leaving the foundation we decided to go pick the boys up from school before getting dropped off.  It was so much fun to see the boys in a school environment.  Its so funny because the Proniño boys are clearly the coolest most popular guys in school and all the girls love them.  I think it embarrassed them a little bit that a bunch of white girls picked them up from school, but I think they secretly loved it.  We even caught the little guys saying bye to their girlfriends as they walked home.   I'm pretty sure we plan on doing it everyday from now on.  And I can't wait. 

The boy in this video is young, and has as sad and interesting of a story as any of the boys in the program, but one of the things that he loves most is Justin Bieber.  Somehow he has learned the entire song in English despite the fact that he doesn't speak English at all.  On Saturday Wilson will be performing in the local mall as a representative of Proniño, and everyone is so proud of him!

Some of my (future) students

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Photography workshops and fundraising ideas

Today was the first day of formal photography workshops, and it was so much fun!  The boys that I'm targeting are only available in the mornings, and its particularly difficult to get up to the other site because of safety issues.  The fact that I carry around thousands of dollars in camera equipment doesn't help my case.  Nonetheless we made it up to the center, and were able to sit down with the boys and explain the project.  They all seemed pretty interested and excited to start participating.  I went over the basics of aperture, shutter speed, focus, and depth of field in very general terms, and sent them off for thirty minutes of getting to know the cameras.  At the end of thirty minutes I sat down with each boy and we looked through the photos.  The main issues were focus, and shutter speed in different lighting situations, but those are things that they will learn with more knowledge and practice.  Photography isn't as easy as many seem to think, but these boys are already showing raw talent with their vision for their photos.

Several boys are super selective about what they snap the shutter for, while others snap more.  Many of them already have a natural aptitude for composition and really see things in balanced and interesting composition.  The subject matter may be things that they see daily, but they are sharing it in a way I haven't seen before.  Even just after today one of the boy's photos almost moved me to tears as I felt I was feeling a piece of him in these photos.  Granted its a boy I already know extremely well, and its true that maybe he wasn't aware of the emotion that he was capturing in the frame, but still.  I know that I want to teach these boys more about photography, but at the same time I want to be really careful not to touch their individual styles beyond the way that knowledge will shape it.  I don't want knowledge to stifle their creativity. 

Tomorrow I'm planning to have a meeting with the Dutch man who spends more than half the year in Progreso.  We have a lot to talk about, and I'm nervous because I'm not sure I have my ideas as organized as he does.  I'm sure it won't be as formal as it could be, but I'm looking forward to taking the time to really figure out how to make myself most useful and how to best take advantage of the time that I have here.  I am going to write a list tomorrow of all the things I need to get done before I leave, and hopefully that will help me to make sure that it happens. 

The following is a series of shots from one particular boy during the workshop this morning.

A heart too filled with love to ever say goodbye

Today wasn't particularly eventful but nonetheless I felt like it was a great day.   The morning got off to a good start as I got talking to Lucas about a lot of the stuff that goes on in Honduras and a lot of the kids in Proniño.  Despite not feeling the need to talk about any kids specifically, or their specific stories, we talked broadly about a lot of the stuff that goes on and a lot of what we would love to be changed in the country.  I also talked a lot about how I felt about Proniño which is obviously something I feel strongly about.  There are a lot of centers and orphanages in Honduras and San Pedro, and from what I have seen Proniño is the only one that truly gives kids a future.  The kids leave the organization confidant, self empowered, and willing to make their own futures.  

I also had a chance to talk to a guy from the Netherlands who is has been down here working for ten years, and I enjoyed talking to him about fundraising ideas, my own photography course ideas, and the things I'm going to be doing in the fall.  He even offered me a possible place to live with several other european girls who are coming in the fall long term.  I offered him the photos I have taken so far, but also to accompany him to the other organizations he works with the take photos of what they do, and help them raise money.  The way I see it, photography is my gift, and if I can share it with anyone to make this world a better place, fine by me.

Yesterday my friend Leah arrived and with her arrived many of the photos I took in the first five days.  My goal has been to take individual photos of each boy so that they have something of themselves without volunteers to just enjoy.  While its wonderful that all the volunteers come down from the states, often times the only photos that the boys receive are "recruerdos" from the volunteers, so they never have anything to enjoy just of themselves.  I took as many individual photos as I could during the first five days so that Leah could get them printed and I could give them out, and today I was able to do that.  While it was frustrating to not have all the photos of all the kids, the ones who received photos were thrilled.  There thank yous made me so happy.  I never feel like I have enough to give them, especially in terms of day to day affection since I'm never here for very long, but this is something that they don't need to remember me to feel good about.  They can look at it and feel good about themselves alone.  

Later in the day I ended up hanging out with Kevin who has been such a good friend during my time here.  Normally he leaves volunteers to fend for themselves, but since we have become friends, he has made the experience that much better.  It helps to make sure that everything I/we do is truly helping the organization, and also helps to redirect any efforts that may be less efficient.

To build on the previous post, and hopefully tomorrow I will be able to build more tomorrow, I have been finding that the more I get to know the boys the more they see me as a friend.  I have started to feel like they really want to hang out with me for the same reasons I want to hang out with them, and its because of legitimate friendships that have begun to develop.  I'm so happy that I get to tell them that our "despedida" (going away party) isn't a real goodbye, its just a see you soon, because I get to see them again in October once I leave.

I'm certain I will never legitimately be able to leave this place, and for that I'm thankful.  Its a place where unconditional love is not just received but given in return.  No matter what this will always be see you soon because without this place, my life would never be as full as it is feels now.

Monday, June 6, 2011


I think that the water park was more fun than I originally imagined it would be.  I don't remember the last time I went to one, and the boys were beyond thrilled to be out of the foundation and in a place that was pure fun.  There was nothing more expected of them than just being kids. I spent a lot of time in different parts of the park with different groups of kids and just really enjoyed being able to share that time with them.  I even started getting to know different kids better.  I've been really excited that my spanish is getting to a point where I can really joke around with them.  Its not totally there, but its close.  I find that the way to get the older kids to respect me, especially because I'm a blonde American girl, is to just joke around with them A LOT.  So I make fun of them, say things that shock them, etc.  So far it feels like its working, and that we are building friendships on more than them just wanting to hang out because I'm a gringa.  

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Girls can play ball too ya know

After having such a blah day yesterday, today was amazing.  On the weekends the boys come down from la montaña, and so I was finally able to see a lot of the boys I had been missing.  Of course, I still haven't gotten to see Juan Carlos, but I will tomorrow.  During the morning I watched and video-ed the boys playing soccer, and then hung out with them while they sang music and danced.  I convinced Geovanny, otherwise known as Yoba (rapper name), to sing his songs for me, and Luis Reyes did the same.  I also finally decided that to get the word out about the photo course I need to let things be a little less formal.  As protective as I want to be of those cameras, they boys won't learn if I don't let them use them and teach them.  For now I have just been giving them the cameras, and talking to each kid about the basics of taking photos from a technical standpoint.  During the actual workshops I can teach them more about composition, aperture, shutter speed, and subject matter.

Some of them are proving already to be very self critical and very choosy in what they will take photos of.  One boy had a camera for almost thirty minutes, and when he came to show me what he had done, there were only ten photos for me to look at.  I'm so excited that they want to participate!  I still haven't explained everything that the course will entail, but the important thing is that I'm developing a relationship with them, and developing their respect for the cameras and the art.  

In the afternoon today at the last minute the boys and the profe invited me to go watch their soccer tournament and cheer them on.  I should have expected it, but they also found me shoes and a jersey and made me play with them.  Surprisingly I didn't embarrass myself, and they were all really impressed that I actually do play soccer.  One of them while we were warming up said, "damn you shoot like a guy!" and I looked at him and I said "no, i shoot like a woman.  Okay so you shoot like a big woman.  No buddy, I shoot like a woman who plays soccer as well as anyone." SO THERE.  When I actually got subbed in during the game I had a lot of fun really playing, although they play in an entirely different style than I ever have. It was great to really show off though, and I felt like it was a small but great step forward for women  (and gringas everywhere).  We ended up winning and the team played again an hour later, but I decided not to since I had just cooled off finally (it was 95 degrees and HUMID). 

After the game one of the boys asked me if I wanted a carton of orange juice, since he was going to the store.  I had been thirsty all day, so immediately I said yes, but then I realized that I didn't have any money with me, so I quickly tried to say never mind. They all looked at me funny and asked why I possibly wouldn't want one.  I quickly tried to downplay that I didn't have any money with me, but they all looked at me incredulously and the one guy said, but I invited you to have a drink.  The spanish language and Honduran culture are interesting because "te invito" always means that the person is offering to pay.  It was hard for me to accept the orange juice today because I know that these boys don't have money to be throwing around, spending on some gringa that's thirsty.  Their generosity blows my mind sometimes.  I think it must be true when I say there are no better boys in the world than the ones right here.

Friday, June 3, 2011

One week in, never wanting to leave

I can't believe I have already been here for a week.  Its amazing how time just gets lost when there is so much to do and so much going on.  Each day I have been trying to film more and more, and generally it has been working.  I'm having some issues with my memory cards though, and sometimes things just disappear or don't actually record on the card.  It's killing me that it's so hit or miss.  Yesterday I tried to record some volunteers playing soccer and working on a cement pile, and the video just disappeared.  Same with some photos I took during the afternoon of volunteers with their favorite kids. SUCKS.  Its like two hours are just GONE.  The groups that left today had their despedida (going away party) last night, and all the boys dressed up and looked nice for it.  I was glad I didn't have to say goodbye though.

Today was better though, I have been able to take a ton of really nice pictures of the boys, get good B roll video for the documentary, and do some more interviews.  Today, during the day, a group of adults that work for the Fruit of the Loom factory came to ProNiño to drop off some donated t-shirts, socks, and underwear.  I was able to video a lot of it and take some fun pictures of the boys modeling.  Since I'm not involved in the construction at all, I really get to spend my time doing whatever I choose.  The idea is to eventually run some photography workshops to see who is interested in participating in the fall, but I'm thinking that everyone is really interested.  The kids are off from school next week, so I'm going to try to do it then.  My goal is really to be targeting the older kids who are more responsible and interested.  I don't want the course to be so easy its a diversion, I really only want the kids who really want to learn, whether or not they have any experience taking pictures before.  Often times volunteers will let kids use their cameras to take pictures, and the kids just go off and go crazy taking pictures of any and everything.  While I think its great that they do that, I want them to be able to learn enough that they are actually making choices about what is in the frame when they click the shutter.

There are so many volunteers around these days that I really haven't felt like I've had alone time in a while. Sometimes I just need time to be by myself and think and/or do nothing.  We have been with the kids and tons of volunteers everyday, so that has been nonexistent. Maybe eventually things will slow down a bit.  Since I'm only here for three weeks I really want to spend all the time I can with the kids, but sometimes it just gets so draining.

On Sunday we are taking all the boys in the foundation to the waterpark.  Its something they only do every few years, and I'm really excited that we get to make it happen.  We raised about $1500 since March so we can really do anything we want.  There are a few boys that won't be able to come, but we will be able to take them sometime during the week or another weekend.