Monday, August 12th, 2013.
Child Visit Day.
When I woke up, I was super excited. I was so excited for everything the day was going to have to offer. Playing in the ocean (something I've only done a couple times in my life), playing, eating ice cream, hugs, conversation...all of these things with my beautiful sponsored child, Celeste.
But, during our hour long bus ride to the beach location where we would meet our children, my mind took off on a race of questions and wild thoughts. What if the bus broke down and Celeste didn't come? I hope she comes! Will she be shy? Will she come running to me? Will she let me hug her? Will she want to talk to me? Will she be talkative? Will there be awkward moments? Will she like our matching necklaces? What if she thinks I'm weird? I am pretty socially awkward...
It continued like that for a full 60 minutes.
Then we pulled up to the location...
It was official. In just a few minutes, I would be seeing Celeste. No backing out now. (Kidding, of course)
Our bus pulled up on the pathway and after a few minutes wait, a bus pulled up next to us. A bus full of children.
As quick as you could blink, all of the sponsors were at the windows, searching for a glimpse of our sponsored child. I could not find Celeste. It turns out that she was on another bus. The local kids came together on a bus. The kids on the bus pictured above were kids from other cities, other than the one we were in.
After an agonizing amount of waiting (probably about ten whole minutes, haha), my name was called and I flew off the bus. It was time to meet Celeste. I saw her and recognized her instantly. In just a few seconds, we were hugging for the first time. After hugging Celeste, Celeste's grandmother (I never did learn her name, everyone just called her grandma) was hugging me too. It was a beautiful moment.
Isn't she beautiful?!
After greeting each other, we walked over to where the tables were and we sat together for awhile. I gave her the necklace that a friend had given me to for Celeste and I showed her the matching necklace that I had too. We put them on and wore them the entire day.
We went and changed into our swimsuits and hit the ocean. At this moment, the shyness that we had been experiencing for a few minutes, was broken. Celeste talked non-stop for the next 5 hours. She really gave our translator a run for her money, telling entire stories before stopping to take a breath. I'm not sure every word of what Celeste was saying was translated, but with my knowledge of Spanish and the summaries from our translator, I (mostly) knew what was being said.
We spent the next few hours just playing together. Swimming in the ocean, hopping over waves, getting brave and swimming to where we couldn't reach the ocean floor anymore and then getting nervous and swimming back closer to shore. It turns out we're both afraid of sharks, haha. When the ocean got boring, we headed over the pool area where we proceeded to splash each other, tell stories, talk, wave at each other under the water, and just enjoy being together. Celeste has the sweetest, happiest smile.
There were two water slides by the pool and Celeste just LOVED THEM. She went on them, oh...about 1,000 times. As soon as she would land in the water, she'd say "Otra vez!" and go running back up the stairs.
Oh yeah, did I mention that Celeste wanted me to catch her each time she went on the slide. Sometimes I did catch her:
And sometimes, I almost drown her. Oops.
After swimming for awhile, we decided that it was time for a break and I suggested an ice cream treat. Celeste responded with a loud, "Si!" and ran over to the ice cream stand. We sat together at a table. I was almost more focused on getting cute pictures of Celeste than eating to eat my own ice cream. If you know me at all, I love ice cream, so this is pretty unheard of, haha. Seriously, how cute is she?
While we were eating, I suggested that we take a picture with funny faces. Apparently, I was the only one who got the memo. Also, I'm pretty pale...
After ice cream, we spent a little more time swimming and chatting it up. Then it was time for lunch. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of us at lunch. I didn't bother to get my camera out while we were eating. I have to admit, though, lunch was pretty awkward. I'm super comfortable around kids, but not so much around adults. Sitting across the table from Celeste's grandmother and the pastor's wife from Celeste's project, there were many, many long periods of silence. Every once and a while, one of us would come up with a question, which would be answered, and then we fell back into silence. Grown-ups are scary, haha.
After lunch, we headed back to the beach to wade in the ocean and play in the sand. It was during this time that Celeste asked me to bury her in the sand. We had a little help from our translator and some other sponsors and children. Celeste thought this was great. She was smiling the whole time.
At this point, we headed back to the table, because Celeste told me that she brought along all of the letters that I've written to her. Let me tell you, writing is one of my favorite things, and I typically do it 2-3 times a month, so bringing all of my letters was quite a task. It was cool seeing everything I'd written her and to know that she's received everything.
After reading some letters, and sharing our favorites with each other, we headed to change into our clothes. I presented Celeste with matching tie-dye shirts that I had made for us to wear. Celeste's grandmother was amazed that I had made them. She said she had never seen anything like it before and asked how I made it. I demonstrated how I twisted up the shirt, rubber banded it, and put the dye on. She thought it was just the coolest thing. Made me wish I had made her one too. After changing into the shirt, Celeste's grandma mentioned something along the lines of, "Now I won't lose her, her shirt is so bright!" Cracked me up!
After changing, it was time to show Celeste the bag of gifts that I brought for her. This was the first time, since the very beginning of the day, that Celeste showed shyness. I think she was embarrassed and a little overwhelmed that I had brought her gifts. She opened the bag, looked through everything very quickly, and zipped it all back into the bag.
When we were finished with gifts, we had about a half hour left to spend with each other. We walked back down to the beach to walk in the sand and walk in the shallow part of the ocean. I spent a few minutes talking to our translator and when I turned around, I saw that Celeste had written this in the sand:
"I Love Kayla."
Goodness gracious, I just about melted into a heap right there on the beach.
At about that time, our tour guide announced, "20 minutes left!" Ugh. You could almost feel the anger in our group at that statement, haha. Celeste and I made our way back to the table. At the table, the pastor's wife from the project presented a letter that she had written me. Two whole pages! She gave an brief summary of the project, how many kids are there, activities they do, and about the kids receiving letters. She informed me that I am the most frequent letter writer at the project, and let me tell ya, that made me feel awesome! The rest of the letter was about how much she appreciates the love I have for Celeste and that she can tell I am a strong Christian by the way I talk to Celeste in letters. The letter was so moving. I will definitely keep it forever.
We spent our last five minutes together praying together and then taking one last group picture for the day:
Hondurans are short :)
As we made our walk back to the bus, Celeste had a death grip around my waist, making it almost impossible to walk, but of course, I wasn't about to make her move. We were all smiles until we got within sight of the bus, and Celeste broke down into tears. Oh goodness, I could not handle that and we both cried together. A few last hugs and encouraging words that I would return to visit as soon as I was able to, and we went our separate ways onto our buses. I'm not sure what Celeste did on her drive back home, but I crashed and was dead asleep for a full 60 minutes. I was physically and emotionally spent.
After some reflection at the hotel that night, while my roommate took a shower, I wrote this in my journal:
Meeting Celeste was everything I ever dreamed it would be. She was this little ball of sunshine and joy the whole time we were together. Just being able to hold her hand, play with her hair, and she her beautiful smile in person, was worth every dollar I saved for the trip.
Celeste was a non-stop ball of energy. We ran from the pool, to the beach, to the ocean, back to the pool, to the ice cream stand, on and one. Not a moment of rest! But, I had a blast! She's a very fun girl. She was literally excited about everything. I felt the exact same way.
Leaving her at the end of the day was hard. There were no tears until we were walking to the buses, then Celeste started crying, and that was the end for me. But, I was just so happy about the whole day, that the tears didn't last long.
God sure paired us up well. Perhaps he knows what he's doing. ;)
I hope that in the next few years, I'll be able to make another trip to Honduras. I would love to meet the teenage version of Celeste!