It took two weeks. Two weeks, and I was a different person. Nothing could’ve prepared me for what I experienced. And if someone would’ve told me what was about to happen, I wouldn’t have believed it. The children are responsible for this. Here’s what happened:
At the beginning of my time in Nicaragua, I was all business. I was there to take pictures and gather news content. I said to myself that I didn’t have time to go outside to play with the children because I might miss something important inside. But the truth is that I was only trying to not get emotionally attached. I found that that became more difficult to do with each passing day.
Finally, I gave in. It was difficult to ignore their faces. The children gazed inside through the windows, waiting for someone to give them a few moments of their time. The first week I was cautious. I spent time with children but I still didn’t want the emotional connection, although that was inevitable. They were all so sweet.
The second week at Nicaragua we went to a different community. During the home visits I met Brandon (pictured above) and Luis David. I spent some time with them and was really looking forward to seeing them at the clinic. I was extremely happy when they showed up. They rode their bikes to the clinic and were showing me the tricks they could do when Luis David’s mom asked him if he wanted to accompany her somewhere else. He said, “No, yo aqui estoy con mi gringuita.” (No, I’m with my American right now.) That’s when I knew that it was going to be very difficult to say bye when the time came.
The next day, I sat at the doorsteps with Mary, Maggie and the children that were there. We were making conversation and then one of the kids asked, “En donde esta Kevin?” (Where’s Kevin?) We asked for the name again to make sure we’d heard correctly. Yes, they were wondering where Kevin was. Mary, Maggie and I looked at each other in confusion because there was no Kevin traveling with us. Then another kid said that Kevin had been there last year. I felt like I couldn’t breathe when I realized that they were expecting their friends from previous years to come back, and that they would probably expect us to come back too. At that moment I wanted to leave to not give them false expectations, but I couldn’t do that. They wanted to spend time with us and I knew that the right thing to do was to stay. I played tag, kickball and ran around the building just to chase the children. It was hot and I was sweating in my scrubs but it was worth it to see them smiling and laughing.
Too soon, it was our last day at the community. I thought of all the children that I’d see there and I was tearing up before we even arrived. It was tough to say goodbye. The kids would come up to me and hug me tightly. I felt like crying every time. I thought of the good memories that I’d made with them and that’s something that I’ll never forget.
There’s no exact words to describe it, but it’s like they warmed my soul. For a long time I didn’t like to form relationships too quickly, not even with people my age. It made me feel vulnerable. But the friendships I formed with the children were special. The children helped me find a piece of me that I didn’t know I was missing and they will always have a place in my heart.