Yasmin, Yoselin, and Paola came into our room at 7 a.m. to say goodbye before heading off to school. We then rested a bit until Eddy and Aracely woke up (Aracely's school follows the U.S. school calendar, so she is currently on summer vacation). They came into the room and we got our morning hugs. They wanted to use the computer so we watched some videos together. Paulina came in and told us it was time for breakfast, so we headed over to the house. We had a tasty breakfast of huevos rancheros with cheese and coffee.
Humberto had moved the tv and its stand into the girls' bedroom to make room for everyone at the table. There is no cable hookup in there so it is not watchable, but the girls didn't complain. To make room for it, their wardrobe had been placed outside on the covered patio area between the outdoor sink and the bathroom.
Eddy took out his bag of candy. Since last night, he had devouired nearly all of its contents. He played with his Duplo blocks at the table. Paulina asked if we'd like to go to the market at 10 o'clock. We always enjoyed accompanying her to the market. Although a Wal-Mart owned supermarket chain had opened in town within the last couple of years, Paulina still shopped at the colorful local market. You see few gringos there, but the locals are very accepting and friendly to us, especially when they see the kids climbing all over us. Everything is sold here, from fresh fruits and vegetables to meat to crabs and fish to clothing, CD's, shoes, and toiletries.
So we changed our clothes and headed off with Paulina, Aracely, and Eddy. We ran into the kids' cousin Rocio in front of Humberto's office. She hadn't been around yesterday. She said hello but was talking to a boy. She didn't come over for a hug or anything so we played it cool and casual. We know what it's like to be 13.
We walked down Rancho Grande, a direct route to the marker with less traffic than Santander. The Rancho Grande Inn had installed a nice new water feature since our last visit. We sat in front of it with the kids and Paulina took our photo.
We ran into two of (Paulina's sister) Isabela's grown daughters who were out with their own three little kids. Aracely immediately wanted me to pick her up. She was showing off that her godparents were here in front of the other little kids. This reminded us of the time when she was just a toddler and told her cousin Neli that we were "hers."
We continued on to the market. We walked through the outdoor stalls, through the hallway where fish and crabs were sold, and into the huge covered pavilion which had produce sellers in the center and white-tiled butcheries around the perimeter. Paulina went to one of these butcher stalls, where sausage links and various cuts of meat were hanging above the counter, next to an old school analog scale. Paulina bought some beef here. We visited other sellers and Paulina purchased various vegetables and some flowers that she would use as ingredients in tomalitos. She also bought some delicious-looking fresh strawberries. The kids were hungry and asked Paulina to buy them pineapple which had been sliced and wrapped in plastic baggies. Paulina asked if we would like some as well. Despite the fact that this is exactly what the guidebooks and travel doctors warn you about (pre-peeled fruit bought from a random person), it was hot and we were sweaty and the idea of a fresh juicy pineapple slice was too tempting to pass up. It was the best most refreshing pineapple slice ever (and luckily we had no stomach repercussions).
Paulina hired a tuk-tuk to take all of us and our purchases back to the house. Aracely and Eddy are small enough to fit in the way back. Paulina, Craig, and I sat in the back seat.
When we got home, we had some time to play with the kids before lunch. We gave Aracely a Bilingual Memory Mate game and played it with her. It was like Concentration; you had to match a picture with an English word to the same picture with its Spanish word. There were way too many cards, which made it close to impossible. We probably should have only used half of the cards. But we still used them to review English words with Aracely. She demonstrated that she knows the English words for "nose" and "sun".
I wrote in English and Spanish in Aracely's notebook "Craig and Stephanie love Aracely." She then copied our names, wrote her own name, and wrote a few other letters and a heart. She told me that it says "Craig and Stephanie - Aracely loves them very much. Heart." How cute! I had to take a picture of the notebook page. She's writing very well. Last year she wasn't even able to write her name. Her fine motor skills are really developing and she can draw more complex pictures. She also follows directions and takes turns when playing games. She really has grown up a lot in her first year of school! She also counts to 20 in English. We are very proud of her progress. It's amazing how much she had changed in a year. But we were always careful not to make her feel like we were quizzing her or wanting her to perform for us. She can use English words in context, but she still converses entirely in Spanish.
Josue came over and he and Eddy played with Eddy's new Duplo set. Aracely played with the computer. Before we knew it, the other girls got home from school, and Vanesa headed off to school. They all wanted to use the camera so we dug out the older one and told them they could take as many photos as they wanted. It uses rechargable batteries whereas the newer camera sucks down AA's.
Mario returned from class and needed to go to the bank. The kids accompanied him. They always like to go on missions. Paulina served us a delicious lunch of beef and vegetables in a delicious orange sauce accompanied by a fresh strawberry milkshake. We all enjoyed getting pink moustaches. Mario and the kids ate when they came back. With so many mouths to feed, eating in shifts was probably easier. While they were out, Mario had bought Yoselin a pink teddy bear in anticipation of her birthday tomorrow.
After lunch, Eddy started to get a bit tired. He went down for what we would learn was his daily post-lunch nap. It ensured that he was more cheerful in the evening. Mario had the afternoon off from class and went to Solola for their famous Friday market. Our afternoon consisted of enjoying the company of the kids. We started out in our room. Even Terry the dog came in to hang out. Yoselin and Aracely both rode piggyback on Craig at the same time. The kids bounced on the bed and ran around in circles. They climbed on us and jumped on us. By the time things got too raucus and Craig and I were physically exhausted, we suggested a change of venue and activity.
We had the kids sit at the dining room table for a gift - which turned out to be a set of wooden building blocks. When it became obvious that 100 blocks were not enough to go around with the number of kids playing, Aracely had the brilliant idea to augment the supply with Jenga blocks. Some of the Jenga blocks had been drawn on to resemble a cell phone or mp3 player. The kids seemed to be embarrassed by them and tried to hide those blocks from view. We thought that it was very creative and cute. The kids built towers and when Eddy awakened from his nap, he joined in as well.
Aracely wasn't the only kid who was using English phrases at appropriate times without prompting. Yoselin brought out the oldies but goodies "Careful Careful" (which we used to say to them in the old days when they would do something dangerous) and "baby chick" (which they had learned in the Richard Scarry book of English words we had brought to them). The words had not been used at all thus far on this trip, so Yoselin has a very good memory.
Aracely played Jenga with Craig at the dining room table. Yesmy and Josue came over. We played velcro ball outside with Josue and Eddy. Craig and I took turns taking showers. The water was chilly, and we surmised that the power to the water heater might have been switched off. We didn't say anythihg because it felt so refreshing in the hot weather.
Then we saw two new faces, 7-year-old Juanito and his 3-year-old sister Clara. Their parents rent a room from Humberto's brother Mario next door. Juanito spoke to Craig, but Clara was more shy. Craig convinced them to come over to the hallway and play Memory Mate, just looking at English and Spanish words. Eventually, Clara was more comfortable and even did the familiar "Tchhhttt" to get Craig's attention. Aracely, Eddy, and Josue took turns climbing on Craig's back. They were all still small enough to pick up with relative ease. Again, we were amazed by how comfortable Josue was with us and how much less shy he had become.
We brought the netbook out into the hall and watched some videos (Wiggles and Take Care of All of My Children) we had made of the kids on previous trips. The kids loved watching them over and over. Eddy got to see his sisters when they were younger. But both of those videos were before Eddy was even born.
Mario returned from Solola in time for dinner. We had tomalitos (containing the flowering plant that Paulina had bought at the market) and cheese. We shared a bottle of Coke (a big treat for the kids) and had peaches for dessert. We brought the netbook into the dining room and showed Mario and Humberto the videos.
We chatted with Mario and learned that he works with Nurses Without Borders and has been doing medical trips to Senegal for 10 years. He has also traveled to Vietnam and Turkey. Could he possibly be any more likeable?
Humberto made sure that we had Gatorades to take back to the room with us and a fresh ice block for cooling Craig's medication. This was a good segue to talk a little bit about Craig's MS with the family and with physician Mario. We gave Humberto and Paulina a Spanish patient education sheet about MS so they could read about it and explain it to the kids. We didn't want to keep it a secret from the kids in case they might see Craig's syringes and think the wrong thing.
We said our goodnights and went to our room at 10:30. We were exhausted. It's amazing how active a day around the house can be with 6 kids and all their neighbors and cousins. They are always vying for attention, and anything fun that you do with one of them must be repeated with each of the others: piggy-back-rides, "chicken" fights where Craig and I square off, each of us with a child on our backs, etc. They are full of smiles and hugs, and express their affection in very physical ways. It tires us to the bone, but we wouldn't have it any other way.
Before falling asleep, we gathered the gifts that we had brought for Yoselin's birthday tomorrow. We wanted to give them to her as soon as we saw her in the morning. The gifts included a fancy pad of paper, flower barettes, and an eraser shaped like a robot. I had brought a pad of drawing paper for the kids, and I used a couple of sheets as wrapping paper. I stuck it together with stickers we had brought. Even though greeting cards aren't really a part of the culture here, we like to give the kids cards for their birthdays. We used to send them in the mail, with $1 inside. The kids received them at first, but then as time went on, they stopped arriving, obviously intercepted by someone for the cash. Although we don't send them any more, we would hand deliver this one for Yoselin. We signed a card and slipped a 10 quetzal note into the envelope. I wrote the day's events up in the journal and then we went to sleep.
Steph and Aracely
Steph, Eddy, Aracely, and Craig in front of the Rancho Grande Inn
Paulina and Eddy at the butcher
Craig gives Yoselin and Aracely a piggy-back ride
Eddy builds a tower
Yasmin, Paulina, Eddy, and Yoselin
Watching videos with Mario