May in Review

So the month of May was pretty fantastic. We had a day long celebration for Godparent’s Day (about half the pictures below are just from this event!), and I walked away with the worst sunburn and the most terrible tan lines of my life. It was all worth the teasing from the kids for the next few weeks. There were the Mother’s Day celebrations as well as the alfombras for the Blessed Virgin Mary. I was fortunate enough to spend an evening with the university students too. Oh yeah, and there’s all that life in between the big moments.

Here is my life at Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos El Salvador in photo review. Also! That ugly black spot disappeared from my camera sometime during the shenanigans.

Paz y bien.

We kicked off the month of May by celebrating Godparent’s Day with NPH-style Olympic Games as well as a poetry/short story contest. It was awesome!

We kicked off the month of May by celebrating Godparent’s Day with NPH-style Olympic Games as well as a poetry/short story contest. It was awesome!

A tía with some of the girls before the start

A tía with some of the girls before the start

Happy spectators

Happy spectators

Getting some hula-hoop practice in

Getting some hula-hoop practice in

Team Italy, minus one member who forgot about the group picture haha.

Team Italy, minus one member who forgot about the group picture haha.

Team El Salvador, also missing a member

Team El Salvador, also missing a member

The messiest and muddiest potato (or in our case, bean) sack race ever!

The messiest and muddiest potato (or in our case, bean) sack race ever!

A hotly contest finish resulted in a run-off race between four teams, as you can see.

A hotly contest finish resulted in a run-off race between four teams, as you can see.

Haha, more like flying than running.

Haha, more like flying than running.

I love that as he slides across the finish line, his sister is in the background cheering him on even though they’re on different teams.

I love that as he slides across the finish line, his sister is in the background cheering him on even though they’re on different teams.

You could only advance forward by moving the newspaper, but you could only use the last piece of paper. It involved a lot of hopping and shouting haha.

You could only advance forward by moving the newspaper, but you could only use the last piece of paper. It involved a lot of hopping and shouting haha.

The most intense and hilarious game of leap frog EVER!

The most intense and hilarious game of leap frog EVER!

…as you can see, it was a lot of laughs.

…as you can see, it was a lot of laughs.

Obstacle course!

Obstacle course!

Your team only finished and time-stopped after every member did a hula-hoop dance.

Your team only finished and time-stopped after every member did a hula-hoop dance.

This team went the extra mile and got a little muddy to secure the win for the longest chain of objects.

This team went the extra mile and got a little muddy to secure the win for the longest chain of objects.

Lots of intense thinking during the crazy phrase/word scramble

Lots of intense thinking during the crazy phrase/word scramble

One team member had to walk across half the field with a cup and plate of water. Object of the game was to fill your bottle the fastest.

One team member had to walk across half the field with a cup and plate of water. Object of the game was to fill your bottle the fastest.

In order to be the first to sing the song, they had to run across the field and then jump in the hula-hoop….

In order to be the first to sing the song, they had to run across the field and then jump in the hula-hoop….

Falling, sliding, accidentally shoving/knocking each other was completely optional. It was totally funny.

Falling, sliding, accidentally shoving/knocking each other was completely optional. It was totally funny.

Love it. Love this little boy!

Love it. Love this little boy!

Toddlers, toddlers everywhere!

Toddlers, toddlers everywhere!

After 3.5 hours in the sun and mud…guess who forgot sunscreen and needed a shower like yesterday?

After 3.5 hours in the sun and mud…guess who forgot sunscreen and needed a shower like yesterday?

Mass! I love being a Eucharistic Minister here.

Mass! I love being a Eucharistic Minister here.

University boys being silly (and serious in the background, haha)

University boys being silly (and serious in the background, haha)

My face was super red and stayed that way. This little fruit “apparently” was the same color as my face.

My face was super red and stayed that way. This little fruit “apparently” was the same color as my face.

Walking around the track after Mass. I promise that not all of the girls wear the same color blouse, haha. It just looks like that because of this picture.

Walking around the track after Mass. I promise that not all of the girls wear the same color blouse, haha. It just looks like that because of this picture.

Some of the coolest friends one could ever ask for.

Some of the coolest friends one could ever ask for.

May 3rd was a very long day, and this is the last picture! I ended my day by visiting my friend in the clinic while she was working, and I got a cute surprise when I walked in. This little guy!

May 3rd was a very long day, and this is the last picture! I ended my day by visiting my friend in the clinic while she was working, and I got a cute surprise when I walked in. This little guy!

Year of service boy reading to the toddlers = win.

Year of service boy reading to the toddlers = win.

Secret cake tastes more delicious.

Secret cake tastes more delicious.

If you recall the Mother’s Day post from last month, here is just a glimpse of the boys performing their silly skit.

If you recall the Mother’s Day post from last month, here is just a glimpse of the boys performing their silly skit.

The girls dancing with the tías

The girls dancing with the tías

“The single and without children table” is what we called ourselves, ha.

“The single and without children table” is what we called ourselves, ha.

All of the female caregivers, kitchen staff, directors and then us two volunteers!

All of the female caregivers, kitchen staff, directors and then us two volunteers!

“Haha, maybe one day…”

“Haha, maybe one day…”

Let’s try to make Ashley dance. Ha. Note the laughter on EVERYONE’S face.

Let’s try to make Ashley dance. Ha. Note the laughter on EVERYONE’S face.

Just a slug, making his way down the wall outside the girls’ house. During the rainy season, they are literally everywhere in the morning.

Just a slug, making his way down the wall outside the girls’ house. During the rainy season, they are literally everywhere in the morning.

Two beautiful year of service girls

Two beautiful year of service girls

This girl got the fun and slightly embarrassing surprise of being able to kick a few penalty shots with a professional goalie! He blocked the first one but missed her second shot.

This girl got the fun and slightly embarrassing surprise of being able to kick a few penalty shots with a professional goalie! He blocked the first one but missed her second shot.

It was awesome. His nickname is “Motor”, and he’s arguably the most beloved/famous member of the regional professional team FAS.

It was awesome. His nickname is “Motor”, and he’s arguably the most beloved/famous member of the regional professional team FAS.

Just cheesin’ it

Just cheesin’ it

My friend making one of my favorite things, canoa! It’s a fried plantain split open and then stuffed with a pudding like filling.

My friend making one of my favorite things, canoa! It’s a fried plantain split open and then stuffed with a pudding like filling.

This year of service boy decided to make sweet bread for the whole place! It was delicious. He’s so thoughtful and giving, bet you wish you were that awesome.

This year of service boy decided to make sweet bread for the whole place! It was delicious. He’s so thoughtful and giving, bet you wish you were that awesome.

One of the year of service boys, who wasn’t actually celebrating his birthday, came along to help us during the birthday party. This is one of my favorite moments from that day.

One of the year of service boys, who wasn’t actually celebrating his birthday, came along to help us during the birthday party. This is one of my favorite moments from that day.

This is a close second, haha. It seems to define our relationship well.

This is a close second, haha. It seems to define our relationship well.

I love the “main street” and its giant trees.

I love the “main street” and its giant trees.

Making alfombras, or carpets, in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. First the designs are drawn with chalk and then are filled in with various colors of fine wood shavings. Here is the babies’ house/year of service girls doing theirs!

Making alfombras, or carpets, in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. First the designs are drawn with chalk and then are filled in with various colors of fine wood shavings. Here is the babies’ house/year of service girls doing theirs!

And this is what it looked like afterward…awesome!

And this is what it looked like afterward…awesome!

Boys’ house caregivers and some year of service boys working on their alfombra.

Boys’ house caregivers and some year of service boys working on their alfombra.

Though all of them were absolutely beautiful, the boys’ house alfombra was my favorite. Here it is!

Though all of them were absolutely beautiful, the boys’ house alfombra was my favorite. Here it is!

Girls’ house caregivers and some year of service girls working hard.

Girls’ house caregivers and some year of service girls working hard.

The finished product!

The finished product!

Ninth grade boys working together…

Ninth grade boys working together…

…and this is what they came up with. How creative and cool are all of these kids?

…and this is what they came up with. How creative and cool are all of these kids?

Look who I found hiding out in the doorway nearby while I was taking pictures!

Look who I found hiding out in the doorway nearby while I was taking pictures!

The eighth graders start with the chalk drawing…

The eighth graders start with the chalk drawing…

…and finish with this!

…and finish with this!

Seventh grade start with the drawing…

Seventh grade start with the drawing…

…and finish with this beautiful image.

…and finish with this beautiful image.

The youngest students were the angels who processed with the Virgin Mary to the chapel. How cute are they?!

The youngest students were the angels who processed with the Virgin Mary to the chapel. How cute are they?!

Front of the procession

Front of the procession

On the way to church

On the way to church

We had a small celebration to do with the university students and the two caregivers in charge of the students. The evening began with a lot of laughter. This game was hotly contested…

We had a small celebration to do with the university students and the two caregivers in charge of the students. The evening began with a lot of laughter. This game was hotly contested…

…as you can see. It was great. I wish you could hear them screaming over each other and laughing trying to sort out who really won. Ha!

…as you can see. It was great. I wish you could hear them screaming over each other and laughing trying to sort out who really won. Ha!

His voice had just cracked while explaining some really complicated instructions. They were giving him a very hard time, haha.

His voice had just cracked while explaining some really complicated instructions. They were giving him a very hard time, haha.

So much for taking a nice picture...haha I love these guys.

So much for taking a nice picture…haha I love these guys.

With my big brother! I hardly see him since he’s out studying and working in the big city Santa Ana.

With my big brother! I hardly see him since he’s out studying and working in the big city Santa Ana.

 

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April in Review

The month of April was, to say the least, awesome. A lot of fun and cool things happened here at NPH El Salvador, not least among them being Holy Week and Easter. Lent is my favorite liturgical season, but there’s something about Holy Week that I can’t explain. I love it! It was very neat to have experienced new traditions here with my NPH family.

Here is the month of April in photo review at Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos El Salvador! I included a lot of pictures in this post (more than usual) because of how much went on and simply due to the fact that I cannot make a decision on which picture to use. I hope you don’t mind that (but really, why would you mind more pictures?)

Also, I should note that at some point after Easter, something happened with the inner workings of my camera, and now a black mark appears in the corner of every picture. Unfortunately I have not been able to figure out how to make it go away.

Enjoy!

Paz y bien.

The boys are working (mostly) on some drawings, but near the end of the afternoon they spent more time goofing off than working, ha!

The boys are working (mostly) on some drawings, but near the end of the afternoon they spent more time goofing off than working, ha!

On our way to see FAS play! (FAS is a professional soccer team!)

On our way to see FAS play! (FAS is a professional soccer team!)

Our special treat to the boys was going on the field. In this shot, the players are going back inside to change before the game. Those are my boys lining the tunnel. How cool!? The leading scorer in all of El Salvador is the guy in blue about to give out some high fives.

Our special treat to the boys was going on the field. In this shot, the players are going back inside to change before the game. Those are my boys lining the tunnel. How cool!? The leading scorer in all of El Salvador is the guy in blue about to give out some high fives.

The story of my life – an unsuccessful group picture, ha. I got a few of the boys and some of the players looking at my camera.

The story of my life – an unsuccessful group picture, ha. I got a few of the boys and some of the players looking at my camera.

It wasn’t actually raining, but she needed a picture with an umbrella. So we improvised!

It wasn’t actually raining, but she needed a picture with an umbrella. So we improvised!

With the boys and their homework assignment. Kudos go to the Tía who helped them make the very delicious pudín.

With the boys and their homework assignment. Kudos go to the Tía who helped them make the very delicious pudín.

With the girls while they prepare chilaquiles…

With the girls while they prepare chilaquiles…

The finished product, chilaquiles. I know it doesn’t look like much, but I promise you. IT IS AWESOME.

The finished product, chilaquiles. I know it doesn’t look like much, but I promise you. IT IS AWESOME.

How the frontlines look just before dinner time.

How the frontlines look just before dinner time.

Beans and cream for dinner, one of my favs.

Beans and cream for dinner, one of my favs.

The life of that beheaded piñata was short. There was still candy inside!

The life of that beheaded piñata was short. There was still candy inside!

April birthdays!

April birthdays!

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Going for a spin on the track! I gave some of the girls a ride later on because they don’t know how to ride a bike, but they still wanted to experience it.

Going for a spin on the track! I gave some of the girls a ride later on because they don’t know how to ride a bike, but they still wanted to experience it.

Palm Sunday procession!

Palm Sunday procession!

An NPH El Salvador Holy Week tradition is to go to the Lempa River. It’s a 2 hour walk from the foundation. This is a bridge you have to cross. Really. Haha. I opted to walk through the stream. On the way home, I walked across. It was mildly terrifying as you’d imagine.

An NPH El Salvador Holy Week tradition is to go to the Lempa River. It’s a 2 hour walk from the foundation. This is a bridge you have to cross. Really. Haha. I opted to walk through the stream. On the way home, I walked across. It was mildly terrifying as you’d imagine.

She needed to borrow my shoes, but I wouldn’t let her until I took a picture documenting the stark difference between our feet, ha.

She needed to borrow my shoes, but I wouldn’t let her until I took a picture documenting the stark difference between our feet, ha.

All 3 of the gallinas at the river.  Gallina means hen in Spanish. Our nickname for each other happened because of a misunderstanding between the word for flip flop and the word for hen. The silliness will never go away, and the nickname stuck.

All 3 of the gallinas at the river. Gallina means hen in Spanish. Our nickname for each other happened because of a misunderstanding between the word for flip flop and the word for hen. The silliness will never go away, and the nickname stuck.

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In order to cross the strong current to get to the other side, you had to use the rope that the year of service boys somehow managed to string across. They’re awesome.

In order to cross the strong current to get to the other side, you had to use the rope that the year of service boys somehow managed to string across. They’re awesome.

I kept walking around making kissy faces with my algae mustache. The girls hated it, I loved it.

I kept walking around making kissy faces with my algae mustache. The girls hated it, I loved it.

The boy in the middle had just basically fallen off his seat, which happens to be a water jug that caved in on itself. Haha.

The boy in the middle had just basically fallen off his seat, which happens to be a water jug that caved in on itself. Haha.

Walking home

Walking home

Enjoying a lovely sunset. I walked home with 3 girls in less than 2 hours! We were very proud of ourselves.

Enjoying a lovely sunset. I walked home with 3 girls in less than 2 hours! We were very proud of ourselves.

Holy Thursday is my favorite! Washing of the feet.

Holy Thursday is my favorite! Washing of the feet.

On Good Friday, the year of service youth put on their production of the Stations of the Cross. We all lined the field to watch.

On Good Friday, the year of service youth put on their production of the Stations of the Cross. We all lined the field to watch.

I love Pilate’s outfit. It makes me giggle, especially since this guy is always so serious!

I love Pilate’s outfit. It makes me giggle, especially since this guy is always so serious!

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It was awesome watching the guys put the crosses up, so very smooth and skilled.

It was awesome watching the guys put the crosses up, so very smooth and skilled.

This is the thief who defended Jesus and asked Jesus to remember him when he arrived in the Kingdom…well that guy happens to be my little brother, E, who said those words. Although Holy Thursday is my favorite of the Triduum, Good Friday ALWAYS gets me and makes me cry. I lost it, internally, when E said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” This time it wasn’t just words I heard from a lector. It was my brother, hanging from a cross, who said them.

This is the thief who defended Jesus and asked Jesus to remember him when he arrived in the Kingdom…well that guy happens to be my little brother, E, who said those words. Although Holy Thursday is my favorite of the Triduum, Good Friday ALWAYS gets me and makes me cry. I lost it, internally, when E said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” This time it wasn’t just words I heard from a lector. It was my brother, hanging from a cross, who said them.

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Good Friday was…good...to say the least.

Good Friday was…good…to say the least.

Veneration of the Cross

Veneration of the Cross

All of the year of service youth and Padre Ron being silly!

All of the year of service youth and Padre Ron being silly!

Blessing of the fire on Easter Vigil

Blessing of the fire on Easter Vigil

I could make an album just from pictures from that night, titled “Boys who squint because of the flash.”

I could make an album just from pictures from that night, titled “Boys who squint because of the flash.”

Easter morning’s only light at 4:30am was a path lined with these votive candles in sand.

Easter morning’s only light at 4:30am was a path lined with these votive candles in sand.

Padre and the guys before Mass started

Padre and the guys before Mass started

Happy Easter! The sun has risen, Christ has risen! Alleluia.

Happy Easter! The sun has risen, Christ has risen! Alleluia.

With my friend! He studies on the other side of the country, so we rarely see him.

With my friend! He studies on the other side of the country, so we rarely see him.

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Hahaha. This is a beautiful and silly picture.

Hahaha. This is a beautiful and silly picture.

The week’s other Peter Parker.

The week’s other Peter Parker.

“This is my beloved family, with whom I am well pleased.”

“This is my beloved family, with whom I am well pleased.”

One of the tías and her girls

One of the tías and her girls

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Easter Sunday activities…I promise, she clears it and makes a big ol’ splash.

Easter Sunday activities…I promise, she clears it and makes a big ol’ splash.

This kid is awesome. He asked to see the picture, and when he saw it he yelled, “WOW I LOOK SOOOOO COOL!”

This kid is awesome. He asked to see the picture, and when he saw it he yelled, “WOW I LOOK SOOOOO COOL!”

Even the year of service girls got in on the fun.

Even the year of service girls got in on the fun.

I love the smiles.

I love the smiles.

I spent part of my Easter afternoon in the clinic because of a gnarly blister I got on our hike to the river.

I spent part of my Easter afternoon in the clinic because of a gnarly blister I got on our hike to the river.

More homework time in the kitchen, this time it was sopes! Delicious.

More homework time in the kitchen, this time it was sopes! Delicious.

This year of service guy, who is not assigned to work in the kitchen, randomly stopped by and started helping the tía prepare beans without being asked. I love it! Yet another reason why my kids are way cool.

This year of service guy, who is not assigned to work in the kitchen, randomly stopped by and started helping the tía prepare beans without being asked. I love it! Yet another reason why my kids are way cool.

“Haciendo la paja” is what the boys told me (doing the lie, literally). The boys didn’t actually make the tortillas, the girls helped them ha. So I took a picture of them pretending to work.

“Haciendo la paja” is what the boys told me (doing the lie, literally). The boys didn’t actually make the tortillas, the girls helped them ha. So I took a picture of them pretending to work.

Their final product was chilaquilas (though the name is only one letter different from what the girls made – see the earlier picture – it is in fact much different but still just as delicious!).

Their final product was chilaquilas (though the name is only one letter different from what the girls made – see the earlier picture – it is in fact much different but still just as delicious!).

My best friend Katie Ann came to visit me for a little over a week. She’s so cool!

My best friend Katie Ann came to visit me for a little over a week. She’s so cool!

She made friends in the clinic too, haha.

She made friends in the clinic too, haha.

Photographic evidence that I do in fact wash my clothes by hand…

Photographic evidence that I do in fact wash my clothes by hand…

…and then almost cry because the sun is shining in my eyes when I hang them up to dry. Ha.

…and then almost cry because the sun is shining in my eyes when I hang them up to dry. Ha.

Friends making friendship bracelets

Friends making friendship bracelets

After a few days at NPH, Katie Ann and I went to the beach!!! This is looking at the tide pool area at high tide!

After a few days at NPH, Katie Ann and I went to the beach!!! This is looking at the tide pool area at high tide!

First time for me swimming in an ocean, ever. First time for Katie Ann seeing the Pacific Ocean (I’ve seen it before but had only gotten my feet wet.)

First time for me swimming in an ocean, ever. First time for Katie Ann seeing the Pacific Ocean (I’ve seen it before but had only gotten my feet wet.)

Low tide! Such awesome views.

Low tide! Such awesome views.

The tide pool when you can actually swim in it.

The tide pool when you can actually swim in it.

Let’s just say, I was nerding out after witnessing the tides come and go and what is left behind.

Let’s just say, I was nerding out after witnessing the tides come and go and what is left behind.

Lens kept fogging up, which annoyed me, but I did get some cool pictures.

Lens kept fogging up, which annoyed me, but I did get some cool pictures.

Ah, if only that pesky black spot weren’t there.

Ah, if only that pesky black spot weren’t there.

Home (Falls)

Part 2 of the “Home” series

In spite of the fact that the first thing you hear is, Sure feel like escaping, so I hit the road, that’s not what I’m getting at. I believe that with Falls’ “Home” there are many interpretations. One obvious one for me is that of someone who ran away or at least deliberately decided to leave and then much later on realizes the value of home.

That would be a suitable interpretation, of course.

Though I did not run away or feel like escaping (as they sing), I did deliberately (but prayerfully and thoughtfully) make the decision to leave home and move to El Salvador and volunteer with Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos. As I mentioned in the first “Home” series post, I discovered through several experiences and over several years just what home means to me.

Home is not solely a tangible thing. It is not just a physical object, a pile of bricks with paint and glass and flowers out front. It is also the moment when you are surrounded by those you love. That moment or that special grouping of individuals doesn’t have to occur within a house.

On Easter Vigil night, I ventured out to the cancha (soccer field) while the boys were bringing out the cafeteria benches and setting up for the Easter sunrise Mass. That in itself was a comical and memorable experience, listening to some of them gripe at each other or argue about how to best set things up all while working with a few flashlights and very little light from the church’s floodlights, haha. There are no streetlights on the way to the field nor are there lights at the field. The field was in near darkness, save for the stars and sliver of moon. So, I found myself looking up at the sky. So big and so endless and so full of stars. I know that Tennessee is beautiful and that we have breathtaking views, but there is something about being in El Salvador, about being the person that I have become, that makes this sky view so much more special to me than any others I have seen.

We are far enough away and out in the country that I can’t see any lights from Santa Ana (the big city nearby) when I’m in the main part of the ciudadela (as we call it…which is to say, the main NPH campus); though, we do have our fair share of streetlights lining the roads and sidewalks that connect the houses and other buildings. Even in the cancha, one can see a few blinking tower lights and a small pocket of light from a nearby small town. However, the majority of the view is unobstructed by artificial structures, and light pollution is nonexistent.

Anyway, as the boys finished, only a few of them hung around to help with last minute tasks. While I was gazing at the sky, I started to pay attention to the three year of service boys standing a few feet away from me who weren’t actually doing any work, ha. “We’re supervising.” “Yeah…yeah! That’s right, we’re supervising.” Haha. They were cracking jokes, laughing, and having a merry old time standing in complete darkness. At that moment when I tuned in to their shenanigans, I realized I could tell the difference between the 3 of them though I could not see their faces: Wilfrido’s* almost high-pitched, infectious giggle that cracks me up every time; Abraham’s* serious and somber tone that masks a very funny and quick sense of humor; Alfonso’s* sarcastic quips and drawn out sentences pocketed with bouts of near silent laughter.

All 3 very different forms of expressing joy. All 3 forms united in one great big cacophony of joy and laughter. It was music to my ears. In that moment, I felt like my chest had grown in size, like my heart was about to burst. I was just so overwhelmed with how much I love them, these brothers of mine. I was overwhelmed with how at ease and how much at home I felt just by being able to hear them.

Falls sing:

And oh when those city lights are blinding, back across the bridge. Back into acceptance that this is where I live.

While there aren’t many city lights (as in, none) near NPH or even near my parents’ house and certainly not near my grandparents’ house, these “blinding lights” that draw me back toward home are people.

Just like my sisters, parents, and grandparents back in Tennessee as well as other loved ones in different states, I felt and feel like those 3 boys that Saturday night were lights pulling me in the direction of home. With and around them, I too feel loved. They are the blinding city lights that tell me I am home, that I am accepted.

And I know, yeah I know, it all comes back the moment I get home.

When I arrive at a place or moment when I am surrounded by the people that I love, I am reminded that I am home. The interestingly beautiful thing for me is that I have multiple places and many “city lights” with which to draw me home.

Many lights are put in our lives to help us get where we need to be. The blinding lights, at least for me, are the ones that guide me home and that lead me to the people that I love, wherever in the world that may be.

There’s song #2 in the Home series. There’s only one left! Stay tuned for that finalizing post to what’s been a fun series to write.

Don’t forget to give “Home” by Falls a listen on the main page. It’s a nice tune!

*Names changed to protect the pequeños’ privacy.

Lunch Table Wisdom

One Saturday at lunch, I didn’t sit in my usual spot at the table with my girls, las chicas. Because Tía Silvia was off that weekend, I sat her in place and so sat across from the girls I usually sit next to. It’s nice to change things up a bit and see different faces.

That day was not my favorite lunch, as it’s what I like to call “chicken parts” stew. It’s literally all the edible parts of a chicken cooked in a mildly spicy sauce, served with rice and a warm tortilla. Before I even sat down after the long walk to our table, I had given away my chicken portion to a girl who shouted “Quien me da comida?” faster than you can say “chicken parts” stew. Haha. Anyway, it turns out that thick slices of chili peppers were part of the sauce.

Melisa* (whom I normally sit next to, but that day sat across from) had one chili on her plate. At one point, I looked over at her and saw her rubbing the chili on her tortilla. I looked at her with this look as if to say, hey that’s probably not going to end well for you. (Those chilis pack a punch and then some, my friends!) She just smiled and kept doing it.

I watched Melisa take a bite. At first, there was no reaction. I asked her if it was spicy, and she said no. Then a few seconds later, Scarlet* asked Melisa if it was spicy. She shook her head yes. Then her eyes bugged out and she threw the tortilla back on to her plate and grabbed her cup of water and chugged it. Meanwhile, I was nonchalantly sipping my water, observing Melisa’s comical food episode.

As soon as I brought my hand down with my cup and set it on the table, Melisa seemed to have slammed her empty cup down right next to my hand at the same time. She looked at me with such desperation, such longing, such…well I don’t really know how else to describe it other than maybe she was the textbook definition of miserable. I knew her chili-rubbing experiment would end badly! And the results of that experiment were written all over her face.

Normally, the girls say at meal times “hey if you don’t want X or Y, give it to me, okay?” Sometimes, they’ll just straight up ask one another, “hey can I have some Z?” But in that particular instance with Melisa and the chili-rubbed tortilla, all sense of decorum was gone, lost to the warm air being blown around us by the industrial-sized fans on the wall and the residual burn of the chili in her mouth.

I didn’t even have to think. She didn’t have to ask. Her imploring eyes said it all.

I tipped my cup and poured all the water into hers. Ravenously, she tossed it all back. Having still not quenched the fire burning her mouth, she started asking the other girls for water in her frenzied state. Two other girls tipped what little water they had into Melisa’s cup. Mind you, at this point during lunch, a lot of the girls were finishing so there wasn’t much left to go around.

Minutes later, Scarlet (the other girl I sit next to, usually) took a bite of the same fiery tortilla. She had the same reaction. This time, I had no water to give away. Another girl, Lourdes*, just so happened to get more water from another table at that particular moment. She teased Scarlet endlessly with how long she took to pour some of the water into Scarlet’s cup. Then, when she was finally done taunting Scarlet by almost giving her the cup and then snatching it away, Lourdes knocked the cup over by accident.

Water went everywhere.

Scarlet gave Lourdes such a look that would turn even the strongest and most able-bodied of men to stone. It made me laugh, and I couldn’t stop laughing.

What I learned from that lunch table lesson is that sometimes, we watch people make decisions even though we don’t think they’re the smartest ones to make. Sometimes, when we advise them otherwise, people will go ahead and make those decisions anyway. We can’t control what others do or change them, even if we think it would benefit them. Sometimes, we just have to watch people fail.

However, we should be there for them all of the time. Not some of the time. All of the time. No matter what.

What my girls Melisa, Scarlet, and Lourdes taught me that afternoon was simple and yet profound. I knew what was going to happen to Melisa, and when it did, instead of being selfish and saying I told you so, I gave her the rest of my water. And even though Lourdes’ attempt to help Scarlet ended in laughable failure, she still reached out to help after a mild dose of teasing.

From small to big decisions in life, whether it’s a chili-rubbed tortilla adventure or deciding finances or big adult things like that, you’re there for the people you love not because you have to be there for them, but because you want to be. Because you love them.

Sometimes you can’t help them in the ways that they may want or think they need. At the very least, if you’re there for that person in the best way that you can be, I think that counts for something. It counts for everything.

Though, I’ll admit that if you try the chili-rubbed tortilla and can’t handle the fire, I’ll still laugh at you and share my water.

*Please note that I changed the names of the girls to protect their privacy.

March in Review

Well hey there! I’m not so late this time in posting these. March was a very full and fun month, with a bit of adventure in and around the property along with some normalcy. Haha, the kind of normalcy that comes with living with 300+ kids/teenagers/young adults…

Good life is oh so good.

So, here is the month of March at Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos El Salvador in photo review.

We’ve got a lot of land. I’m not sure how much in terms of acreage, but suffice to say that we’ve got enough room for the houses, clinic, school, and soccer field in addition to crop fields. We also happen to have an estimated 100 year old hacienda! How cool is that?

We’ve got a lot of land. I’m not sure how much in terms of acreage, but suffice to say that we’ve got enough room for the houses, clinic, school, and soccer field in addition to crop fields. We also happen to have an estimated 100 year old hacienda! How cool is that?

This was my second time at the hacienda. We had some visitors come through who wanted photos, so I volunteered to take them one Sunday morning. It was a tough job, let me tell you (that’s full of sarcasm by the way…it was awesome roaming around!)

This was my second time at the hacienda. We had some visitors come through who wanted photos, so I volunteered to take them one Sunday morning. It was a tough job, let me tell you (that’s full of sarcasm by the way…it was awesome roaming around!)

You can see the boys’ home and some of the workshops in the background. There’s an old corn field that separates the hacienda from the fenced off part of our property.

You can see the boys’ home and some of the workshops in the background. There’s an old corn field that separates the hacienda from the fenced off part of our property.

This is the second house inside the hacienda.

This is the second house inside the hacienda.

Old kitchen

Old kitchen

The entrance! The hand-painted orange words say, “Entrance prohibited.” The hacienda has some old, dilapidated structures on it, but there are also a few buildings that were constructed within the last decade or so.

The entrance! The hand-painted orange words say, “Entrance prohibited.” The hacienda has some old, dilapidated structures on it, but there are also a few buildings that were constructed within the last decade or so.

All the girls went out to the base of the “hill-mountain” for an afternoon of little games and snacks.

All the girls went out to the base of the “hill-mountain” for an afternoon of little games and snacks.

I chose not to participate in the “run up the hill to find a hidden flag” game. Haha.

I chose not to participate in the “run up the hill to find a hidden flag” game. Haha.

Love them!

Love them!

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“Let’s take a picture with the ‘desert of El Salvador’ in the background.” Haha. It’s not a desert climate, but when you’re in the dry season it kinda feels that way. At the time of this picture, it hadn’t rained in 5 months.

“Let’s take a picture with the ‘desert of El Salvador’ in the background.” Haha. It’s not a desert climate, but when you’re in the dry season it kinda feels that way. At the time of this picture, it hadn’t rained in 5 months.

“Who likes rabbits?” Almost everyone does, it seems.

“Who likes rabbits?” Almost everyone does, it seems.

Just being cool in the office…we wore essentially the same outfit one day. That happens a lot, and we never plan it!

Just being cool in the office…we wore essentially the same outfit one day. That happens a lot, and we never plan it!

Our friends from FAS (the professional, division one soccer team) came again for practice and a little something extra. They threw a little party for our youngest kids! This guy is the main goalie, and the whole city loves him!

Our friends from FAS (the professional, division one soccer team) came again for practice and a little something extra. They threw a little party for our youngest kids! This guy is the main goalie, and the whole city loves him!

I promise they all had fun, even though it doesn’t seem like it here…haha.

I promise they all had fun, even though it doesn’t seem like it here…haha.

Blah! This is adorable.

Blah! This is adorable.

Thanking the team for their visit and support of the NPH family. They are an awesome group of guys.

Thanking the team for their visit and support of the NPH family. They are an awesome group of guys.

With our national director, Tío Olegario. He’s wonderful!

With our national director, Tío Olegario. He’s wonderful!

On the morning of the high school graduation, with all the girls and the girls’ house sub-director. They are all so beautiful! Some of them are graduates while the others are escorts/sponsors. One cool tradition I like here in El Salvador is that at graduations, there is always someone who accompanies you. In a way , it is acknowledging that throughout not only your education but your life’s journey, there are people who help you along the way. So each graduate chooses an “acompañante” or escort for the big day.

On the morning of the high school graduation, with all the girls and the girls’ house sub-director. They are all so beautiful! Some of them are graduates while the others are escorts/sponsors. One cool tradition I like here in El Salvador is that at graduations, there is always someone who accompanies you. In a way , it is acknowledging that throughout not only your education but your life’s journey, there are people who help you along the way. So each graduate chooses an “acompañante” or escort for the big day.

And now for the boys, the boys’ house director, and some of their acompañantes. Such a handsome and sharp-looking group!

And now for the boys, the boys’ house director, and some of their acompañantes. Such a handsome and sharp-looking group!

With my brother on his big day!

With my brother on his big day!

I was asked to go buy one of the boys, my friend R. Here we are in the procession (another tradition) going to the church for Mass. In total, from the school to the church and then back again, we walked about 8 blocks!

I was asked to go buy one of the boys, my friend R. Here we are in the procession (another tradition) going to the church for Mass. In total, from the school to the church and then back again, we walked about 8 blocks!

Leaving the church. The sun was in my eyes, and I can’t take a picture, as usual. This is also one of the few pictures when R is smiling. He’s not much of a smiler in pictures, and I had to ruin the only one where he’s really smiling! Of course.

Leaving the church. The sun was in my eyes, and I can’t take a picture, as usual. This is also one of the few pictures when R is smiling. He’s not much of a smiler in pictures, and I had to ruin the only one where he’s really smiling! Of course.

:)

🙂

With 4 of the graduates who have been with NPH since kindergarten, along with two of the teachers who have been with us from the beginning. So cool!

With 4 of the graduates who have been with NPH since kindergarten, along with two of the teachers who have been with us from the beginning. So cool!

Siblings joined us all at the special luncheon!

Siblings joined us all at the special luncheon!

Such a beautiful family.

Such a beautiful family.

Haha. The March birthday celebration was full of laughter.

Haha. The March birthday celebration was full of laughter.

And accidentally beheading and dismembering piñatas…

And accidentally beheading and dismembering piñatas…

This boy took the arms and legs of the poor piñata, put them on, and walked around like this for a little while. Haha.

This boy took the arms and legs of the poor piñata, put them on, and walked around like this for a little while. Haha.

Birthday girls!

Birthday girls!

The 3 of us tried to take a picture, but it didn’t really work. This is my favorite one out of all the failed attempts haha.

The 3 of us tried to take a picture, but it didn’t really work. This is my favorite one out of all the failed attempts haha.

The boy in green (my “brother”) is teaching the other 3 to be altar servers! Brings back many a memory for me. I altar served for years and then became the coordinator for the ministry at my parish for a few years during college.

The boy in green (my “brother”) is teaching the other 3 to be altar servers! Brings back many a memory for me. I altar served for years and then became the coordinator for the ministry at my parish for a few years during college.

A nice Sunday morning with one of my good pals.

A nice Sunday morning with one of my good pals.

Caught the boys monkeying around on the playground…get it?

Caught the boys monkeying around on the playground…get it?

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With some of the girls from “chicas” before the big game!

With some of the girls from “chicas” before the big game!

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It’s so hard to take group pictures, apparently. As the next few pictures will show…here is the chicas team with Tía Silvia (so the youngest girls from my house. They’re also my hogar.)

It’s so hard to take group pictures, apparently. As the next few pictures will show…here is the chicas team with Tía Silvia (so the youngest girls from my house. They’re also my hogar.)

The chicos (the oldest boys from the babies’ house) with their year of service caregiver and my friend/tía/nurse Luz de María.

The chicos (the oldest boys from the babies’ house) with their year of service caregiver and my friend/tía/nurse Luz de María.

With my girls, hahaha. The front row is the best.

With my girls, hahaha. The front row is the best.

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I took a small turn at being the boys’ team goalie. Didn’t do so bad actually. Fortunately for the boys they’re good defensive players so the ball didn’t really come near me save for one unlucky shot!

I took a small turn at being the boys’ team goalie. Didn’t do so bad actually. Fortunately for the boys they’re good defensive players so the ball didn’t really come near me save for one unlucky shot!

After the game, the toddlers hit the field.

After the game, the toddlers hit the field.

February in Review

Not too late this time…here is the month of February in photo review. It was a very full month and lots of cool things happened here at Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos El Salvador.

Paz y bien.

Acto civico is a short program the school does every Monday morning, in which the kids sing the national anthem and focus on civics and being a good citizen as well as human being.

Acto civico is a short program the school does every Monday morning, in which the kids sing the national anthem and focus on civics and being a good citizen as well as human being.

There is always a skit of some sort in which the whole school learns about a new theme or topic. For example, the month of February was all about friendship and values related to that. The skit was very good and funny, as you can tell…

There is always a skit of some sort in which the whole school learns about a new theme or topic. For example, the month of February was all about friendship and values related to that. The skit was very good and funny, as you can tell…

That same day there was no power in the office, so my friend and I went and took pictures everywhere. We started with the school.

That same day there was no power in the office, so my friend and I went and took pictures everywhere. We started with the school.

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Making piñatas!

Making piñatas!

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“Faith and works have to be united together.” – Father William Wasson (the founder of Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos)

“Faith and works have to be united together.” – Father William Wasson (the founder of Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos)

Our walkabout continued to the old fields. As you can see, it’s a little…dry. Tis the season here, as we haven’t had rain in 4 months.

Our walkabout continued to the old fields. As you can see, it’s a little…dry. Tis the season here, as we haven’t had rain in 4 months.

We both had never been to the milpa (the crop fields) across the river, and we both really wanted to go…so we went.

We both had never been to the milpa (the crop fields) across the river, and we both really wanted to go…so we went.

Can you spot the year of service boy through the sorghum? I can.

Can you spot the year of service boy through the sorghum? I can.

Best walkabout ever. This is a beautiful view, but I want to come back once the rains return and get a shot when everything is green again.

Best walkabout ever. This is a beautiful view, but I want to come back once the rains return and get a shot when everything is green again.

Our little river is a little sad.

Our little river is a little sad.

Cows!

Cows!

Since we still didn’t have power, we decided to have our special lunch at the office in the city. Here, my coworkers are cracking up about something while we wait for transportation.

Since we still didn’t have power, we decided to have our special lunch at the office in the city. Here, my coworkers are cracking up about something while we wait for transportation.

One really cool thing that happened was the visit of FAS (Club Deportivo Futbolistas Asociados Santanecos), which is a regional soccer team that plays in the best professional soccer league in all of El Salvador. They came to host their practice on our field, then they held a short scrimmage with our boys’ team. Just to reiterate the awesomeness, it’s like going to an NFL practice or having an NBA team come to your gym to just hang out. That’s a pretty big stinkin’ deal!

One really cool thing that happened was the visit of FAS (Club Deportivo Futbolistas Asociados Santanecos), which is a regional soccer team that plays in the best professional soccer league in all of El Salvador. They came to host their practice on our field, then they held a short scrimmage with our boys’ team. Just to reiterate the awesomeness, it’s like going to an NFL practice or having an NBA team come to your gym to just hang out. That’s a pretty big stinkin’ deal!

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Coach giving the boys a pep talk before their scrimmage.

Coach giving the boys a pep talk before their scrimmage.

One of our boys (orange shoes) had the chance to run some drills with FAS during practice. They asked for the best player to come participate. HOW COOL IS THAT, YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW.

One of our boys (orange shoes) had the chance to run some drills with FAS during practice. They asked for the best player to come participate. HOW COOL IS THAT, YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW.

The scrimmage

The scrimmage

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The kids were pretty excited to meet the players afterwards. It cracked me up how shy some of the kids were.

The kids were pretty excited to meet the players afterwards. It cracked me up how shy some of the kids were.

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I went to the workshops one afternoon. Look at what the girls made in the bakery workshop. I really wanted one!

I went to the workshops one afternoon. Look at what the girls made in the bakery workshop. I really wanted one!

Sewing workshop

Sewing workshop

“Ashley, are you STILL eating that mango?!” Haha.

“Ashley, are you STILL eating that mango?!” Haha.

I went out for the weekend and spent it with my Salvadoran family!

I went out for the weekend and spent it with my Salvadoran family!

My friend and coworker. She’s the best.

My friend and coworker. She’s the best.

Since I hadn’t been able to visit them since October, we celebrated my November birthday super late in February! It was a great surprise.

Since I hadn’t been able to visit them since October, we celebrated my November birthday super late in February! It was a great surprise.

FAS came again! The kids got to cut class, with their teachers of course, to watch a few minutes of the practice.

FAS came again! The kids got to cut class, with their teachers of course, to watch a few minutes of the practice.

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I love this!

I love this!

St. Valentine’s Day celebration, games, and fun in the girls’ house.

St. Valentine’s Day celebration, games, and fun in the girls’ house.

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A cool view of the backyard.

A cool view of the backyard.

My girls and me right before we played “Amiga Secreta” (which is the same idea as Secret Santa)

My girls and me right before we played “Amiga Secreta” (which is the same idea as Secret Santa)

They had a hard time guessing who her secret friend was.

They had a hard time guessing who her secret friend was.

My nice haul after playing “Amiga Secreta”

My nice haul after playing “Amiga Secreta”

Later that night all the tíos and tías celebrated with our own little party.

Later that night all the tíos and tías celebrated with our own little party.

Couldn’t resist the cheese-opportunity

Couldn’t resist the cheese-opportunity

Haha. Pointing at “love”

Haha. Pointing at “love”

This is my friend and I goofing off per usual. He is one of the drivers and has accompanied me on many of my journeys to immigration as well as the 2 trips to Guatemala. We were having a little fun at our special lunch at the office.

This is my friend and I goofing off per usual. He is one of the drivers and has accompanied me on many of my journeys to immigration as well as the 2 trips to Guatemala. We were having a little fun at our special lunch at the office.

We had a special activity for the younger kids one afternoon.

We had a special activity for the younger kids one afternoon.

He’s so cute!

He’s so cute!

I gave my camera to a friend (one of the older boys is very interested in photography) one afternoon, and I was pleasantly surprised to see the pictures he took. These are awesome! Here’s just a bit of the flora we have around campus.

I gave my camera to a friend (one of the older boys is very interested in photography) one afternoon, and I was pleasantly surprised to see the pictures he took. These are awesome! Here’s just a bit of the flora we have around campus.

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Haha I love these two sisters. One always smiles in pictures, the other one, not so much!

Haha I love these two sisters. One always smiles in pictures, the other one, not so much!

He’s got a Knoxville, Tennessee shirt on! Wicked cool!

He’s got a Knoxville, Tennessee shirt on! Wicked cool!

Caught the boys hanging around and playing after a soccer game one Friday

Caught the boys hanging around and playing after a soccer game one Friday

Talking with my brother

Talking with my brother

Choir practice, getting ready for Mass later in the day.

Choir practice, getting ready for Mass later in the day.

Cutest birthday girl yet.

Cutest birthday girl yet.

The piñata was, well, decapitated. It made good fun for the rest of us!

The piñata was, well, decapitated. It made good fun for the rest of us!

Alegría

What is alegría?

In its simplest form or definition, it means joy in Spanish.

The word “joy” is a nice English word in and of itself. For me, it conjures up beautiful images and can be manifested differently. However, as much as I like sound of the word, I’ve come to discover that I much prefer the Spanish word, alegría.

In my time here in El Salvador, being surrounded by and using Spanish, I’ve noticed that I do that a lot lately, prefer Spanish words over English words. Sometimes there are words in Spanish that, for me, capture an entire thought or idea or whatever…that is, what I feel can sometimes be expressed in one or two words in Spanish rather than several words in English. I think that’s pretty cool.

Anyway, back to the point – alegría. According to my experiences in the Spanish-speaking world (and also Merriam-Webster’s Spanish dictionary), alegría is defined as: joy, cheer, happiness.

Joy, cheer, happiness

Now, there are other, similar words such as: gozo, felicidad, placer. But for some reason, for me, alegría just does it for me. If words could “get” people, then alegría gets me. Know what I’m saying?

In my almost 8 months here, I’ve had an infinite number of joyful moments. I’ve been thinking a lot about it lately though because of two things in particular – a conversation and a photograph.

It was no surprise for me that when I got here, there would be children that wouldn’t want to talk, that wouldn’t come up and ask me millions of questions. There are shy kids, quiet kids…kids just like I was. Well, just like I am. Whatever the reasons may be, we’re just quiet with and around each other. Here’s an example from a previous post:

…almost 5 months had passed when one of the older girls finally opened up and started talking with me; at least it became more than just saying hello in passing. Just a few weeks ago, she felt comfortable enough with me to cry on my shoulder. I would never have expected that when I first met her.

In addition to shy, quiet, and/or reserved kids, the other issue is that I don’t see the university students very often. Those few that I have made connections with just so happened to have stayed here at our main facility for an extended amount of time; or, they were here finishing their years of service and have just recently left the campus to go study and live in our university houses in Santa Ana.

So, it wasn’t until the days leading up to Christmas that I created a bond with two of the university guys. For whatever reason, we just clicked and now get along swimmingly. We’re able to joke and tease each other, but we can also talk about serious things or subjects with much depth.

They both left not too long ago, at different times. The one guy returned for the weekend the other day, and we picked up our usual banter as if he hadn’t left and been away for a few weeks. That moment in itself was joyful and full of alegría when I ran into him.

However, it wasn’t until the conversation left its usual lightheartedness and became serious that I fully understood what alegría is. I’m not one to betray confidences, so I won’t discuss what he and I talked about. Suffice to say though, it was a very deep and beautiful conversation.

It’s not very often (really, ever) that I get those moments with the pequeños. Where all the barriers are down, and life is looked at and discussed for what it is.

That is alegría. Being human. Being human and sharing the human experience with someone.

It is being able to be trusted and confided in. It is joyful, full of cheer, full of happiness. And everything else that I simply can’t put into words. Oh how I wish you all could just feel what I feel by being here!

So there’s the first thing – the conversation. The easier and shorter moment to share with you is a photograph. Well, I lied. It’s multiple photographs…

This is the picture I intially thought of. Keep thinking about it, honestly. She's just so alive and joyful. Alegría.

This is the picture I intially thought of. Keep thinking about it, honestly. She’s just so alive and joyful. Alegría.

You see...

You see…

...what I mean?

…what I mean?

I know for a fact that I didn’t do the word and the meaning justice, but it’s my attempt nonetheless. Alegría, what a wonderful thing.

December in Review

While I shared a lot of pictures in my Christmas-related post, I just couldn’t leave these gems behind! Oh and there are some events/activities pictured here that I didn’t mention in the previous post.

So here is a glimpse of my time at Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos El Salvador in the month of December, in photo review…

Coloring some neat Christmas drawings with the girls one afternoon

Coloring some neat Christmas drawings with the girls one afternoon

With 2 of my dear friends from the office at the employee Christmas party

With 2 of my dear friends from the office at the employee Christmas party

Almost all of the employees (caregivers, office staff, clinic staff, cafeteria staff, teachers, psychologists, and directors – we’re missing some of the maintenance and farm employees as well as a few nurses) …I think we’re around 100 people or so.

Almost all of the employees (caregivers, office staff, clinic staff, cafeteria staff, teachers, psychologists, and directors – we’re missing some of the maintenance and farm employees as well as a few nurses) …I think we’re around 100 people or so.

Blah! Love it.

Blah! Love it.

This picture makes me smile. Every month our national director hands out candy to the kids who are celebrating birthdays. He was teasing these boys and said they shouldn’t get any since we lost the international fútbol tournament the month before, haha!

This picture makes me smile. Every month our national director hands out candy to the kids who are celebrating birthdays. He was teasing these boys and said they shouldn’t get any since we lost the international fútbol tournament the month before, haha!

We didn’t plan to dress alike (even our hair was done the same!), but what we enjoyed more than that was discovering that we have the same tan lines on our feet…haha.

We didn’t plan to dress alike (even our hair was done the same!), but what we enjoyed more than that was discovering that we have the same tan lines on our feet…haha.

The 3 amigas!

The 3 amigas!

Tío/Tía Christmas party, complete with embarrassing games! We refer to all the caregivers as Tío or Tía.

Tío/Tía Christmas party, complete with embarrassing games! We refer to all the caregivers as Tío or Tía.

All of us minus the one taking the picture!

All of us minus the one taking the picture!

They're so much fun. The 2 on the left are former pequeñas who are now employees. The one on the right is a university student who also works at our home. They’re all so wonderful!

They’re so much fun. The 2 on the left are former pequeñas who are now employees. The one on the right is a university student who also works at our home. They’re all so wonderful!

Me with all of the tías of Casa Santa María

Me with all of the tías of Casa Santa María

I made this one day while I sharpened a humongous box of colored pencils. I learned the coloring trick after watching the kids decorate so many letters. It’s quite nifty and cool!

I made this one day while I sharpened a humongous box of colored pencils. I learned the coloring trick after watching the kids decorate so many letters. It’s quite nifty and cool!

Goofing around in the cafeteria while doing letters…

Goofing around in the cafeteria while doing letters…

Waiting around for an activity to begin

Waiting around for an activity to begin

We went to the river a lot in December. This is the first time I went with all of the kids (that other time was at a different location farther upstream with just the youth group), so it was a lot more fun because all of the girls who couldn’t swim well or who just wanted me to cart them around kept me occupied the entire time. In this photo, there are 3 girls attached to me.

We went to the river a lot in December. This is the first time I went with all of the kids (that other time was at a different location farther upstream with just the youth group), so it was a lot more fun because all of the girls who couldn’t swim well or who just wanted me to cart them around kept me occupied the entire time. In this photo, there are 3 girls attached to me.

This picture is misleading, as there is a 5th girl attached, you just can’t see her! But oh how much fun I had. I was really sore for the next few days though, haha.

This picture is misleading, as there is a 5th girl attached, you just can’t see her! But oh how much fun I had. I was really sore for the next few days though, haha.

The older girls wanted me to jump off the bank with them, but first I had to climb up…with their help and way too much laughter.

The older girls wanted me to jump off the bank with them, but first I had to climb up…with their help and way too much laughter.

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Our choir went to a local hospital to sing at Mass and then go caroling in different locations within the hospital.

Our choir went to a local hospital to sing at Mass and then go caroling in different locations within the hospital.

They were so good and everyone was rather impressed!

They were so good and everyone was rather impressed!

At the end of every set, they sang “Feliz Navidad and Prospero Año” and threw their Santa hats in the air.

At the end of every set, they sang “Feliz Navidad and Prospero Año” and threw their Santa hats in the air.

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Love it.

Love it.

Every year on Fr. Wasson’s birthday, we have Mass and then remember him in a special and fun way by eating his favorite treat afterward…donuts!

Every year on Fr. Wasson’s birthday, we have Mass and then remember him in a special and fun way by eating his favorite treat afterward…donuts!

The girls being silly (and strong)

The girls being silly (and strong)

With my most favorite little one! I love her smile.

With my most favorite little one! I love her smile.

Christmas decorations at work!

Christmas decorations at work!

Last day of work before Christmas! We even matched (not on purpose – that’s how cool we are)

Last day of work before Christmas! We even matched (not on purpose – that’s how cool we are)

The next few photos are from dinner on Christmas Eve. Almost all the younger girls wore pink, fuchsia, or purple!

The next few photos are from dinner on Christmas Eve. Almost all the younger girls wore pink, fuchsia, or purple!

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Second trip to the river. This time the boys came.

Second trip to the river. This time the boys came.

My brother and me. He said, “hey Ashley climb up the bank and jump with me! Right now!!!” Of course, he had to help me climb up the bank haha. The picture isn’t very good, but it’s still a nice reminder of the fun we all had that afternoon.

My brother and me. He said, “hey Ashley climb up the bank and jump with me! Right now!!!” Of course, he had to help me climb up the bank haha. The picture isn’t very good, but it’s still a nice reminder of the fun we all had that afternoon.

With my friend and favorite tía!

With my friend and favorite tía!

Torneo de Fútbol

As I mentioned in a previous post, I spent the last week of November at NPH Guatemala, for the 7th annual NPH International Soccer Tournament. The tournament is held every year in honor of NPH founder, Fr. William Wasson. Five of the nine homes join together to play a lot of fútbol, laugh, and so much more.

This year, the tournament was named after Ryan Rossi, and NPH was so blessed and fortunate that the Rossi family could support us. Without them, the tournament would not have been possible. Welcome to our NPH family!

I went with our directors, the drivers, and one of the office employees. So basically, we were the smallest cheering section of the 5 countries, haha. I tagged along to document the experience in addition to helping take care of the girls. It was such an incredible experience on so many different levels! In 6 days time, I took almost 2,600 pictures. That number doesn’t include what I deleted on the go, and I can’t take credit for all of the pictures, as I did hand my camera off to some of the kids who love taking pictures as well.

So, here is the rest of November in photo review – this time from NPH Guatemala!

The boys checking out the field minutes after we got to NPH Guatemala

The boys checking out the field minutes after we got to NPH Guatemala

The weather was much chillier than anything the kids have experienced in El Salvador. For me, it felt like fall in East Tennessee (so, it was awesome, haha), but the girls didn’t let the cold stop them from having fun and being silly the first night there.

The weather was much chillier than anything the kids have experienced in El Salvador. For me, it felt like fall in East Tennessee (so, it was awesome, haha), but the girls didn’t let the cold stop them from having fun and being silly the first night there.

Here I am checking out the week’s schedule, trying to memorize it haha.

Here I am checking out the week’s schedule, trying to memorize it haha.

Looking sharp

Looking sharp

Our teams with the Rossi family parents. They are such a great family!

Our teams with the Rossi family parents. They are such a great family!

This year’s tournament logo

This year’s tournament logo

El Salvador’s first match: our girls versus Guatemala

El Salvador’s first match: our girls versus Guatemala

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Our national director came up behind me and scared me, haha. I’m not crying in this picture, but laughing instead.

Our national director came up behind me and scared me, haha. I’m not crying in this picture, but laughing instead.

The girls won! We started and finished every match the kids played, win or lose, with prayer.

The girls won! We started and finished every match the kids played, win or lose, with prayer.

The boys’ first match was against Mexico.

The boys’ first match was against Mexico.

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Just a few minutes after our loss to Mexico, we went over to watch another game. Here’s one of our kids sitting with one of the players from NPH Mexico. That’s an example of being part of the NPH family right there!

Just a few minutes after our loss to Mexico, we went over to watch another game. Here’s one of our kids sitting with one of the players from NPH Mexico. That’s an example of being part of the NPH family right there!

Oh don’t pay any attention to the awesome backdrop we had over at the girls’ playing field.

Oh don’t pay any attention to the awesome backdrop we had over at the girls’ playing field.

Girls’ first match of the second day of the tournament – versus Nicaragua

Girls’ first match of the second day of the tournament – versus Nicaragua

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Boys’ first match against Guatemala

Boys’ first match against Guatemala

Girls second match of the day – against Honduras. Also, the girl in focus is readying herself to block the kick with her back. She did that countless times during the match. I was so impressed! She never did complain about her back hurting or being sore…I know I would haha.

Girls second match of the day – against Honduras. Also, the girl in focus is readying herself to block the kick with her back. She did that countless times during the match. I was so impressed! She never did complain about her back hurting or being sore…I know I would haha.

The United States, Mexico, and El Salvador all in one.

The United States, Mexico, and El Salvador all in one.

Boys second match of the day – against Honduras

Boys second match of the day – against Honduras

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That’s what I like to see, helping each other out.

That’s what I like to see, helping each other out.

My boys! Such a fierce looking group, no?

My boys! Such a fierce looking group, no?

Boys against Nicaragua for a spot in the semifinals.

Boys against Nicaragua for a spot in the semifinals.

We lost…and closed the game like this.

We lost…and closed the game like this.

“Let’s all pile on Ashley!” What’s unfortunately missing are the photos preceding this event, in which 6 girls all piled on top. We were all hanging out and having fun in the grass, as we had the entire morning/early afternoon free on the third day of the tournament.

“Let’s all pile on Ashley!” What’s unfortunately missing are the photos preceding this event, in which 6 girls all piled on top. We were all hanging out and having fun in the grass, as we had the entire morning/early afternoon free on the third day of the tournament.

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Girls against Mexico for a spot in the semifinals.

Girls against Mexico for a spot in the semifinals.

Culture night. A thorn between 4 roses.

Culture night. A thorn between 4 roses.

Girls game against Guatemala for a spot in the finals. We lost.

Girls game against Guatemala for a spot in the finals. We lost.

I spent my Thanksgiving at NPH and in Antigua! That’s pumpkin pie sitting in front of me 

I spent my Thanksgiving at NPH and in Antigua! That’s pumpkin pie sitting in front of me 

Seconds after the time ran out and the Guatemalan girls won the final match, on their home turf! Congrats.

Seconds after the time ran out and the Guatemalan girls won the final match, on their home turf! Congrats.

The final match between Honduras and Nicaragua was a good one.

The final match between Honduras and Nicaragua was a good one.

The Honduran boys celebrating their win with their national director

The Honduran boys celebrating their win with their national director

More celebrations on the field! This photo makes me happy.

More celebrations on the field! This photo makes me happy.

Both our girls’ and boys’ teams won the “Most Disciplined” award. We’re awesome!

Both our girls’ and boys’ teams won the “Most Disciplined” award. We’re awesome!

It can’t be a journey without at least one meal at Pollo Campero!

It can’t be a journey without at least one meal at Pollo Campero!

With the girls in Antigua’s town center on our fun/outing day in one of my favorite cities

With the girls in Antigua’s town center on our fun/outing day in one of my favorite cities

Taking the traditional photo with the arch in the background

Taking the traditional photo with the arch in the background

We were standing under a tree looking for someone when I turned and saw the bird poop. Haha! He literally just finished making fun of me for having to buy size 41 sandals (like a women’s size 11 in the US) in the market. Payback’s the best.

We were standing under a tree looking for someone when I turned and saw the bird poop. Haha! He literally just finished making fun of me for having to buy size 41 sandals (like a women’s size 11 in the US) in the market. Payback’s the best.

November in Review

I’m breaking up the November photo review into 2 parts. This first run of pictures includes everything up to the fútbol tournament which took place at NPH Guatemala. More on that later…

For now, here are my experiences at Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos during the month of November in photo review. It was a wonderful time full of many things, people, and activities. It was the month that was, and was not.

Enjoy!

The boys being silly when I brought my camera out.

The boys being silly when I brought my camera out.

My “brother” and me during the October birthdays’ celebration, haha.

My “brother” and me during the October birthdays’ celebration, haha.

A party so good it puts you to sleep.

A party so good it puts you to sleep.

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Went on walkabout with my camera one night, found this nice sky.

Went on walkabout with my camera one night, found this nice sky.

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The fun and not so perfect art of wheelbarrow racing

The fun and not so perfect art of wheelbarrow racing

An afternoon of games and playing with the hose on the field!

An afternoon of games and playing with the hose on the field!

December birthdays!

December birthdays!

I know I show you a lot of piñata pictures, but it never gets old for me watching them have so much fun!

I know I show you a lot of piñata pictures, but it never gets old for me watching them have so much fun!

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The remnants of piñatas can be used for hats you know.

The remnants of piñatas can be used for hats you know.

Someone in the girls’ house wrote my name on the list of November birthdays, how sweet! Haha and my name is Ashley Cole, not Colo.

Someone in the girls’ house wrote my name on the list of November birthdays, how sweet! Haha and my name is Ashley Cole, not Colo.

All but one of the tías during their surprise party for me. They’re so sweet!

All but one of the tías during their surprise party for me. They’re so sweet!

Here’s my birthday haul. It was such a beautiful day full of surprises and lots of love. My face hurt at the end of the day because I laughed and smiled so much.

Here’s my birthday haul. It was such a beautiful day full of surprises and lots of love. My face hurt at the end of the day because I laughed and smiled so much.

Milkstache

Milkstache

These next 3 photos are proof that you are never too old to have tons of fun on a trampoline.

These next 3 photos are proof that you are never too old to have tons of fun on a trampoline.

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My favorite Tía and me at an activity for the kids!

My favorite Tía and me at an activity for the kids!

It’s a privilege for me to witness child-sponsor interactions. Beautiful!

It’s a privilege for me to witness child-sponsor interactions. Beautiful!

As part of a spiritual workshop in which we hosted 4 other NPH homes, we went on a tour of important cultural/religious sites in El Salvador. On a wall in the museum for the martyred Jesuits at the University of Central America there’s a collection of portraits of influential Latin American bishops. Here’s a picture of the bishop (bottom left) who ordained Fr. Wasson (the founder of NPH) right next to a drawing of Monseñor Oscar Romero, who was killed for standing up for the poor during El Salvador’s civil war. This is seriously one of the coolest things ever. And it’s a bit of divine providence too.

As part of a spiritual workshop in which we hosted 4 other NPH homes, we went on a tour of important cultural/religious sites in El Salvador. On a wall in the museum for the martyred Jesuits at the University of Central America there’s a collection of portraits of influential Latin American bishops. Here’s a picture of the bishop (bottom left) who ordained Fr. Wasson (the founder of NPH) right next to a drawing of Monseñor Oscar Romero, who was killed for standing up for the poor during El Salvador’s civil war. This is seriously one of the coolest things ever. And it’s a bit of divine providence too.

This is a Sister who works at the NPH Dominican Republic home. She’s so cool! I wish she could stay here with us!

This is a Sister who works at the NPH Dominican Republic home. She’s so cool! I wish she could stay here with us!

Here’s the whole group (minus 2 university students) from the Spiritual Workshop 2013!

Here’s the whole group (minus 2 university students) from the Spiritual Workshop 2013!

Fr. Ron blessing the kindergarten and 9th grade graduates during Mass

Fr. Ron blessing the kindergarten and 9th grade graduates during Mass

She’s so beautiful!

She’s so beautiful!

There really are no words to describe the level of cute and adorable that you see in this picture.

There really are no words to describe the level of cute and adorable that you see in this picture.

Such a beautiful family, inside and out.

Such a beautiful family, inside and out.

Getting ready to throw their caps…

Getting ready to throw their caps…

They did it! So proud of them.

They did it! So proud of them.

Looking good in their graduation shirts

Looking good in their graduation shirts

My friends from the parish came down for a visit! St. Thomas the Apostle has got some great parishioners, let me tell you.

My friends from the parish came down for a visit! St. Thomas the Apostle has got some great parishioners, let me tell you.

The quinceañeras and their escorts on the way to Mass

The quinceañeras and their escorts on the way to Mass

So pretty!

So pretty!

I love this picture, a lot.

I love this picture, a lot.

And this one too. All joined in for a blessing for the girls.

And this one too. All joined in for a blessing for the girls.

“Hey look at our socks! Take a picture!”

“Hey look at our socks! Take a picture!”

The whole group lookin’ pretty good!

The whole group lookin’ pretty good!

Our birthdays are in November, just days apart. How cool!

Our birthdays are in November, just days apart. How cool!

They did a total of 4 dances, all very well done and more than I could ever dream of doing haha.

They did a total of 4 dances, all very well done and more than I could ever dream of doing haha.

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Cake time!

Cake time!

One of the tíos and his boys. They’re both always so happy.

One of the tíos and his boys. They’re both always so happy.

Before the dance started

Before the dance started

The 4 Amigos/Muskateers. I love these guys. Now 2 of them have left for our university house in the city and the last guy will go in a few weeks…so I’m both happy and sad. Happy because they’re moving forward with their education but sad because they’re leaving me the lone amiga/Muskateer!

The 4 Amigos/Muskateers. I love these guys. Now 2 of them have left for our university house in the city and the last guy will go in a few weeks…so I’m both happy and sad. Happy because they’re moving forward with their education but sad because they’re leaving me the lone amiga/Muskateer!