We are almost halfway through our second week and I can feel myself becoming more and more connected with the kids every day. There are kids that I have been building relationships with since the first day and kids that I am just meeting. Today, in third grade I met a boy that spoke Spanish, like everyone else, but also spoke perfect English. When I asked him where he was from, he replied, “Omaha.” I was very surprised by this for a moment because he seemed so integrated, like he had been here his whole life. However, when I thought about it a little deeper, I realized that this was just another example of a perfect blend of culture. I don’t know anything about that boy’s background or how he grew up, but I do know that the rest of the kids at the school don’t care, just as they don’t care that we are not perfect at Spanish or are not accustomed to their culture. They simply care that we are here.
Even though many of us are tired, we woke up earlier than we would during the school year, because spending time with the kids is always worth it. The kindergarten has an endless supply of energy to kickstart the day and if you let one of them on your back, you will not stop picking them up until each one of them has gotten a turn being spun around or thrown into the air. It is a treat to get to eat lunch with them, even though I just sit there while they talk around me. I watch them interact with each other until I feel another child climbing up my back, begging me to run around again. We play with them and teach them until the end of the day when we walk them home. As we walk home, my little friend, Jasmina, tells me about her baby sister, Claudia, and about the dance they are going to perform for us on Saturday. In return, I tell her about my home in Colorado. Even though we have only been here for a week I can feel the language barrier shrink and our relationships with the kids grow everyday.
After all of the kids have gone home, our group can usually be found swimming, playing cards, or planning our reunion in Texas. We have probably expanded our lifespans by at least a year with the amount we have laughed and broken a record for number of mafia games played in ten days. When I signed up for this trip I knew that I would make new relationships, but I could never have imagined that I would be friends with such incredible people from around the world. I think back to our first time meeting at the Miami airport which now seems like decades ago. We were all awkwardly trying to read our school books just to avoid having to talk to each other. Since then, we have gotten to know each other better than I would have ever thought and a group that was made up of strangers not to long ago, has now become family.