(Disclaimer: This is my blog from yesterday that I failed to complete before our internet cut off at 8:30…expect another one later today)
Brilliant, exuberant, wonderful 11 year old Juan Gabriel.
Today, I looked into the face of this little boy, and wondered how someone, anyone, could not love him.
And yet, as puzzling as this is to me, the truth of the matter remains. After talking at great length with one of the orphanage counselors I learned that Juan Luis's mother died when he was very young and shortly thereafter his father, a successful Naturalist, took to beating him. Once considered a "problem child" he'd been sent to psychologists as far away as Lima.
18 out of the 19 boys in this particular orphanage share similar stories to that of Juan Gabriel. Someone they loved and trusted hurt them and, as a result, each of them came to find a home at Hogar de Menores.
While these boys were not shown affection before they arrived at Hogar de Menores, it is evident that since coming to this place they have been taught and shown what it means to love.
Indeed, the teachers and principal hold their hands, and give them hugs, and seldom ever raise their voices. Nor do they confine them to their bedrooms or even the indoors. The boys are free to roam the premises as they please. Basically, the workers don't begrudge the children the affection their parents so obviously did. It is evident that they love and trust those who now look after them.
Only one out of the nineteen is eligible for adoption due to the fact that no one knows where he came from. Since the other 18 all technically have living blood relatives they will remain in public facilities until they turn 18.
I suppose what breaks my heart about this is that once these boys reach a certain age (13, I believe) they are sent off to an institution (rumored to be similar to what we know as Juvy) outside the city limits. A place where, supposedly, all lessons in trust and love are forgotten.
It breaks my heart and infuriates me to think that, after having come so far, these children, inevitably, will be treated like delinquents.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I just wish I could take them all home with me.
But, enough about that--aside from this rather unsettling discovery, the rest of the day went swimmingly.
This morning Ryan and I (along with two employees from All Ways Travel) went into something slightly resembling a shopping center and where we were able to either locate or order costumes for each of the boys.
We had our first rehearsal with all 19 of the boys today. All I’ll say about that is that the show is really coming along and will definitely be ready for a final presentation on Wednesday. We told the boys that they’ll be getting costumes and they were ecstatic.
We decided to stay and hang out with the boys after rehearsal today which is something we hadn’t done before. Ryan watched a football (soccer) game with the boys while I went exploring around the premises---but, not before I heard the boys screaming ecstatically when Peru scoured a goal.
I went outside to take some pictures of the orphanage.
And then, I met Juanita. She is one of many elder men and women who frequent the steps inside the premises---I usually see them sewing or carving or something of that nature. I was taking a photo when I noticed her approaching me with a wide, gummy smile. Her cheeks had the quality of fine leather while her eyes were framed by a number of deeply entrenched wrinkles. She embraced me and asked me some questions that I vaguely understood (but valiantly attempted to respond to). She complimented my teeth, touched my necklace (a bronze cross), and tenderly shook my hand (multiple times). She then sat contentedly by my side and remained there for quite some time while I conversed with the translator in English.
A while later I was informed that Juanita was a woman that one of the orphanage workers had found in a dumpster and brought to live on the premises. Yet another testament to how truly wonderful a place this is.
I then went on a walk with one of the workers, Juan Gabriel, and George (pronounced: hor-hay). Juan Gabriel and George made off with my camera (I’ll be sure to post some of their brilliant photos) while my guide pointed out one of the oldest churches in Puno, and then led me to see their vast patch of quinua (just for you, mom), and then up to get a better view of Lake Titicaca.
We then had dinner at a wonderful restaurant that we intend to return to in the near future to try some Alpaca Steak. (Also, Brook Davis, you’ll be glad to know that while there was Guinea Pig on the menu, we did not order it.)