Wednesday, April 10, 2013
I was recently asked to talk about a travel memory. This is hard. My notebooks are filled to the brim, the corners bent down to easily access some of my very favorite days and some of my best memories, and yet, even with crumpled corners, I still end of re-reading my journals cover to cover.
One bent corner talks about my time in Egypt. The page is dusty, the watercolor and ink bleeds through the paper onto the next page. Reading about that day brings me right back to that courtyard, right back to that heat reflecting off the pavement, right back to those kids with their arms outstretched wide.
The sun was hot on my face as I waited in the courtyard behind the orphanage, a box of bananas at my feet, for the children to wake up from naptime. I could hear tiny voices inside, pulling on sandals, the pitter patter of small feet running down the stairs. Then, suddenly, the doors flew open and the children came running toward me. I had expected them to be timid and shy toward a new stranger, a tall blonde with a messy ponytail, and bright pink finger nail polish, I wasn’t sure what they would think. But they came running at me with open arms and smiles from ear to ear. Each little hand reached out to grab mine, run their fingers through my hair, take pictures with my camera, take turns wearing my sun glasses, reach out to be hugged and held. While I couldn’t speak their language and they couldn’t speak mine, we didn’t need words to communicate. We could show it with a quiet nod, a smile, a squeeze of the hand. Mushy banana’s coated their arms and hands, the smell of warm bananas filling the air. One little girl put the banana in her pocket, while another little girl offered up hers in exchange for mine. A little boy spent the entire snack time picking up everyone else’s banana peels and collecting them in a small red bucket, while another little boy sat next to me smiling as he ate. We spent the rest of the afternoon drawing with sidewalk chalk, and playing tag. Later that afternoon, as I made my way back to the ship, my heart felt heavy and it was then that I knew I wanted to work abroad. The banana has long since been washed from my hands, but years later, I still know that I want to work for organizations that make the world a better place. I know I want to work for the children playing in that courtyard, and for all the children who reach out to us with an open hand in hopes we will take it and guide them to a better future. I want them to know I am here and I am ready.
This cup is for all those little kids...I am still here.