Subtitle: Day 2 in Words
Day one ended with a sauna known as a twin bed shared with Libby in the tropical climate of Haiti. Roosters, dogs, and a roaming cat are just a few of the noises we heard through the night. Snoring, crickets, buzzing and conversations swam through the heavy air as well. It was a late night for Libby when she fell asleep after 10 PM after a long day of travel to this foreign place. Day two started at 5:40 AM. No daylight savings time in Haiti.
At dinner the night before the adults were called to the table to eat. The HCRM children had already eaten their evening meal, but Keemberlie was right by our side as we heard it was time to eat. If Libby had not been with me I could have told Keemberlie to join her friends while I ate dinner, but with Libby by my side ready to eat the same meal with me I just could not look Keemberlie in the eye and ask her to go away. I didn't know what to do. Pastor saw my dilemma and told me to let Keemberlie sit with us. Libby doesn't eat much anyway, so I set them down in the same seat and they shared a plate of food together.
During that dinner I was able to ask Pastor some questions about Keemberlie's story prior to HCRM. I had been told that Keemberlie's grandmother had been in custody of Keemberlie and was sick and dying. However, as it turns out, it was not the grandmother who was dying but Keemberlie. She was starving because the grandmother had no food to give her and she was eaten up with scabies. The Pastor was on a medical missions trip to the countryside of Haiti and the grandmother brought Keemberlie to him and asked him to care for her and that's how Keemberlie ended up in HCRM in the summer of 2009. It was sad to hear this story, but it was also good to know. Over the next few meals it was obvious that Keemberlie was starving at some point in her life as she ate as much food as she could and as quickly as she could. One night we had chicken legs for dinner and Keemberlie ate 2 of them - bones, marrow, gristle and all.
So, our first breakfast at HCRM was no different. Keemberlie sat with Libby and enjoyed a different meal than beans and rice for a change. Libby had no problem sharing her seat and plate, which again, is truly amazing. Libby can be quite territorial at times, but not on this trip. God heard all the prayers of our sweet family and friends and made way in Libby's heart for a water spout to grow and pour out his goodness on precious Keems.
After breakfast the temperature quickly rose to what would normally be late afternoon temperatures in San Antonio. Steamy and sticky we marched on to play games, make crafts and start bonding. Libby and Keemberlie tried watching some "Tom and Jerry" together since no language is necessary to understand the humor. It was cute watching them hover around the DVD player together on the bunk. We gave Keemberlie some new tennies shoes that morning and she was so crazy proud of them. They were actually too small for her, but she didn't care one bit.
Libby is about 1.5 inches taller than Keemberlie, but Keemberlie's arms are longer and feet are bigger than Libby's. It is hard to tell what age Keemberlie actually is. Her birth certificate (which I actually got to see and make a copy of while there) shows that she is 6 years old, but she is just so tiny. That could definitely be due to malnutrition, but they just seem so much closer in age than 2 years apart. When Keemberlie arrives in the U.S. we will have to get some testing done to see if we can determine her age.
The language barrier is a tad more difficult that I had imagined. Some of that is due to Keemberlie being so young and a bit timid. While she is playful and boisterous with her friends, she is, understandably, quiet and timid with us to some extent. She is just figuring us out, I'm sure. Bonding doesn't happen overnight and who knows what all the sweet child has been through in her short life. Grace is what this sweetheart needs, not some big expectation that she should open up to us in a few short hours. And grace is exactly what Libby's child-like faith and ways provided. Libby would talk with her like Keemberlie could understand every word. She told Keemberlie about her beta fish named Daniel and her baby sister, Gracie. She told her about her daddy, "Billy" who "plays guitar and writes songs". And bossed her around as if she could understand. And never did Libby seem concerned or confused that Keemberlie clearly didn't have anything to say in return as she didn't understand a lick of what was being said. It was really cute!
During day 2 we handed out care packages to some of the kids on behalf of their matched families. We also organized all our donated items so we could give them to HCRM. We set up a dressing room of sorts on one of the balconies so the kids could come in 3 at a time to pick out an outfit. We had the clothes sorted by size/gender and the kids came in so excited to pick out their new outfit. We didn't have enough for the older boys, so the next team will hopefully be able to deliver on that. But the rest of the group was taken care of.
The HCRM kids were fascinated with Libby. I don't think they see many Chinese/Asian girls around there so they kept touching her hair, her arms and staring at her in large groups, very up-close! Libby, again, would not usually handle this well, but aside from a few cat-like growls she handled it very well. One little boy, Moise, took a special liking to Libby. He became her guardian and he watched after her with such kindness and innocence. I even saw them holding hands as they walked here and there to play with different groups of people. He ended up being in the background of many of my pictures of Libby as he was always watching after her. Libby was very excited to discover that he is being adopted by another TX family. Moise is a sweetie!
One thing is for sure, Libby learned real quick to sleep through anything. I laid her down for a nap and she crashed, sleeping through heat, sweat, loud talking, loud children at play, pots crashing, singing, doors slamming, toilet flushing... you name it! I was amazed when she slept for 2 hours through all that noise and activity. I laid down with her, but didn't sleep as well. At one point I opened my eyes to find Keemberlie looking from the end of the bed at us. I'm sure she was wondering why in the world we were sleeping in the middle of the day. She looked so curious as she peaked over the railing.
During day two Keemberlie started calling me "mom". When she wanted me to see or hear her she would call on me saying, "Mom" with her sweet little accented voice. Lots of hugs and kisses were doted on Keemberlie on day two. I just wanted to stare at her. And even more, I wished I could speak Creole so I could have a real conversation with her. I wondered often throughout the day what she must be thinking. I soaked up the joy of watching her smile and play all day. We had given her a pink backpack to keep her book that I made and a few other items in one place. She stored it under our bunk and came in and out of the room all day taking her things in and out of the safe space where no other kid was allowed to dig around. I gave her a yellow water bottle and kept it loaded with Gatorade. She drank it all day long with such happiness. But it was always stored under our bed along with her backpack and new tennis shoes. Seeing her shoes tossed along side mine and Libby's was a sweet sign that we were becoming family. Another sign was that I kept going through all my girls' names to finally get to the one I was actually wanting to call out.... "Gracie, I mean, Libby, no, I mean, Keemberlie!"
The night before day 2 I realized that I had to take Keemberlie back to where she sleeps with the other HCRM kids. I hated sending her to her little floor space in a tiny little hallway with no bedding while I knew Libby and I had glorious mattresses and pillows to tumble into. I handed Keemberlie's hand to her nanny in that little hallway and walked away so sad that I could not tuck her in with us. Now, as day 2 was coming to a close I reluctantly and dreadfully walked her back to her nanny to send her to sleep. And this time, even Keemberlie looked sad. She had spent the entire day with us as my daughter and Libby's sister and yet, she was having to sleep separately from us, reminding her and me of the reality of her life in the present... the life of being an orphan. My heart broke as her eyes took on a sad glaze and I turned away knowing she was watching me walk back to my comfortable life upstairs - a life she could not fully participate in just yet. Reality stinks.
I didn't feel like I was being water to my field as I trudged back up the stairs to our bunk room. But I was already stretching the rules in letting her eat meals with us (though I had Pastor's permission). And I just wasn't sure I could stretch them anymore. Looking back, however, her sad eyes are a reminder to me that she had enjoyed her day with us so much that she didn't want to leave us in the night and that is a sign of good bonding. For my own comfort I keep in mind now that her sad eyes that night had a bright side... her eyes were set on family for the first time, ahhh... silver lining to cloudy skies - cloudy skies carrying water for my field.
I shed a tear and tucked Libby in bed. Libby looked inquisitive and said some sweet things and off to sleep we went, preparing our minds and bodies for another full day at HCRM.