The day that all of us who had sponsored children in Guatemala had been waiting the longest for, Child Fun Day, started a little rough. When I went to shower that morning, the water was scalding hot, and I couldn’t get it to cool down. After fully shutting off the hot water and only leaving on the cold water, I discovered that nothing was coming out. Not one drop. There was no cold water. Now, I can take a cold shower and survive. Sure, it’s unpleasant, but it’s doable. But there’s no way to take a shower in water as scalding as that hot water was. The sink, by the way, was the same. I started getting nervous. I left the cold water tab on so I could hear if it came on, and I started making sure everything in Evelin’s backpack of gifts was together and my bag was ready for the day. Meanwhile, the clock ticked on, but I was still okay on time. Thankfully, since the zoo we were going to was very close to the hotel, we were going to be leaving 45 minutes later than usual.
Finally, after I was about ready to give up, a sputtering started coming from the cold water. I hopped in the shower immediately, and got about a 3 minute shower of sputtering water until the cold disappeared completely again. I quickly shut the water back off, but not before turning the handle in the wrong direction and getting a face blast of really hot water. Oh well, 3 minutes was enough to feel cleaner, thankfully. Down at breakfast, everyone else looked as out of sorts as I felt, too. We learned that a pipe had burst. One family in our group even had “rain” coming from their ceiling that morning as the leak must have been right above them! Like we said, any other day, we’d all take not showering in stride, but on the day that you’re meeting your sponsored child and a family member? You do want to look decent for them.
With that all behind us and prayers said for the hotel staff, David and Emily, our Guatemalan leaders, gave each us a different color balloon before we boarded the bus. Our sponsored child (or children) would be holding that same color balloon, so that we could find each other easily. I thought it was a nice idea that really helped avoid any chaos at the busy zoo entrance. I was given a red balloon, and by now the nervous excitement was really kicking in.
We drove to the La Aurora Zoo, a very nice zoo in Guatemala City. There were a lot of field trips going on that day, and we walked through groups and groups of kids before we finally found our Compassion people. Suddenly, there was Evelin with her red balloon. She ran up to me as soon as I got close and gave me a big hug. “Nice to meet you!” she said, in English, with a huge smile. “Mucho gusto!” I replied. Our translator for the day, Andrea, told me she had been practicing that while waiting for me to arrive. Any bit of nervousness I may have had was completely erased immediately. Clearly, she definitely knew who I was and was happy to see me, as she couldn’t stop smiling. Her mother, Rafaela, was with her, who was very happy too, as was her project director, Sergio, from GU930, where she attends. I told her I liked her shirt, a pink Frozen one. She asked me who my favorite princess is. I smiled at such a typical 8 year old girl question. Her favorite, by the way, is Elsa. Her mom later shared that the shirt was purchased with gift money I had sent, which made me very happy. I pulled out a small scrapbook I had made to show her some pictures as we waited to get in. Since Evelin only lived 45 minutes away, I asked if she had ever been there before. Yes, this was her 3rd time, they replied. Great, she could show me around, I said! We talked for a little while and looked at the photos and then it was time to enter the zoo.
some sample pages
Just inside the first entrance, there was a huge gorilla statue. Evelin giggled and whispered to her mom, who just smiled back at her. Andrea told me she was telling Rafaela that the gorilla looked like her mom when she is angry. I loved the sense of humor of this beautiful little girl! And her relationship with her mom, where they could joke with each other, reminded me of my own relationship with my mother.
Evelin had asked me what my favorite animal was. The elephants, I replied. Hers were the giraffes, which were right inside the entrance. At this zoo, you could also pay 10Q (about $1.50) to go up a ramp to feed them. Naturally we had to do this. Evelin had never gotten to feed the giraffes before, and she was very excited. She had no fear as the giraffe, Pula, used her big tongue to lick up the food.
These were actually the first pictures I got, because I was so focused on being present with her. We saw the elephants next. Sergio is a huge animal lover, and sometimes we would even be ready to move on and have to wait for him! He was having a great time. He also took a lot of photos, and I was told they would be given to the family.
Evelin took my hand pretty much from when we entered, and continued to hold it the entire day as we walked around. She’d look up at me and smile with a huge grin about every minute or so. I just loved this girl so much, and there was no place on earth that I’d rather be than holding her hand that day. When we saw the panthers, she commented on how they weren’t pink 😉 She also liked seeing the baboons, because they reminded her of the Lion King. Each time we saw a new animal, Evelin would proudly tell me how many of the animal there were in English. This is a smart girl. I already knew, as her Compassion reports say she is above average in school, but seeing it in person, I can definitely tell. She told me she wants to be a teacher like me. I know she can accomplish that or anything else she decides to do. Her mom said that maybe she can learn English, still being young. I commented that it is said that it’s easier for kids to learn another language. I was extra glad, at this point, that I had found a bilingual book to include with her gifts.
When we came upon the fish pond, which Evelin was eager to see, she told me I would be “delighted by the fish!”. We let her feed them, too, which she loved.
Before lunch, we also came across an enclosed area you could enter, which had lots of large birds, like parrots, along with free roaming lemurs! I had never been that close to a lemur before. Some people, including Sergio, touched them. Evelin and I were a little more cautious.
It was then time for lunch. They had ordered ahead from Pollo Campero, a big fast food restaurant in Guatemala, and we all found tables in the food court area. Since the meal was fried chicken, our ever awesome Guatemalan leaders had ordered me a special order of grilled chicken to eat. I never had to worry about not having something to eat the entire trip, due to my celiac disease and inability to eat gluten, thanks to them being so on top of it. Granted, almost all of my meals did consist of grilled chicken and vegetables, but that was fine with me.
During lunch, I was asked all kinds of questions. They all wanted to know everything about me. Sergio also asked us all questions around the table like “Who is your favorite woman from the Bible?” and “What man from the Bible would you marry?” Like I said, he definitely had fun! I also got to hear a lot more about Evelin’s project and the things they do there. One of the things that they’re big on is having pets, since Sergio is such an animal lover. They have several pets, including a guinea pig, fish, and birds, and it teaches the kids responsibility and respect for animals. They’re also teaching the kids badminton there. They celebrate all birthdays out at either McDonalds or Pizza Hut. There was lots more, too. It was great to hear more about her experience, especially after having seen other projects that week. They told me next time I visit I should come visit their project, and I said I would love to. I watched as Evelin and her mom carefully boxed up their leftovers and placed them back in the bag to bring with them. In the US, we don’t think about throwing away what we can’t eat. But that was another meal for them or for her siblings back home. Other sponsors later shared that their kids did the same.
After lunch, Evelin wanted to go back and see more animals. We did for awhile, but the sun was becoming more prolific, and you could tell she was slowing down. She had been sick the day before and was worried she wouldn’t be able to come. They said she woke up feeling better this day. I had to wonder, though, if she had just said she was feeling better, when really she wasn’t. I’m sure that’s what I would have done if I were her, too. She started getting a headache in the afternoon, and then her forehead started to feel warm, like a low-grade fever. We sat in the shade for awhile and took a break. Honestly, I was glad for the rest, too. Andrea went to find Emily, one of our leaders, to see if they had some medicine. They did, of course, because they were prepared for anything, and brought back Children’s Tylenol for her to take, with plenty extra to bring home and last probably the next two days. An important gesture, because after going on home visits, I’m pretty sure that’s something most families can’t keep on hand at home.
By the time she had a little rest and took the tylenol, it was about time to give gifts. When Evelin heard this, she perked right up, and was ready to go to the picnic area we were meeting to do it. Watching her open her backpack full of gifts was pure happiness for me to see how happy and excited she was. Our tour leader, who was watching for a little while, said she forgot all about that headache and that just when she thought Evelin’s smile couldn’t get any bigger, it somehow would with each new thing she pulled out! I think her favorite was an Elena of Avalor doll, and seeing her eyes light up at it was just priceless. With each item, she would thank me and hug me. This girl is so so sweet.
I was also able to get a few gifts for the family in there (a flat sheet, bowls, and cooking utensils) along with a gift for each of her siblings. I was thrilled to get a letter about a month before the trip that listed her siblings’ names and ages, so that I could buy gifts for them. They’re not registered with Compassion, and they’re both older. Her sister, Darlin, who is 15, usually helps Evelin write her letters, so I know that she must often take her or pick her up from the project. I got her a necklace and her brother Erick, who is 12, a fidget spinner. Rafaela said that he had been asking for one, which made me happy! They are becoming very popular in Guatemala too. She said that the older siblings would be very excited because they weren’t expecting anything.
Among some of the other things I got her were a tiara, a book of Bible stories in Spanish, a bilingual book, a sparkly cross bracelet, a jump rope, a pink Chicago shirt, a blanket, coloring pages, a notebook, crayola twistables, princess chapsticks, headbands and hair accessories, and I’m sure more that I’m forgetting.
This girl is so very special to me. I chose her for sponsorship about a year ago knowing that I would be traveling to Guatemala and meeting her. It wasn’t a decision I took lightly, and it actually took several days and lots of prayers. But then I saw Evelin, and God told me she was the one. And clearly He knew what He was doing, because I couldn’t be any more in love with this girl if I tried, and she gave so much love to me in return. We were paired together for a reason, and now share a bond that is even so much deeper than sponsorship. As I mentioned in an earlier post, less than 1% of sponsored children get to meet their sponsors. With how many tours and individual visits there are, it’s kind of hard to fathom when you think about it. But for Evelin, I am forever grateful that I got to be there in person to tell her how loved and special she is, and to hug her and hold her hand. She’ll grow up knowing and remembering this, and that is such a blessing.
Andrea captured a video of her giving a message to me, which I adore. If only I had thought to record one of the times she sang for me…
She was so excited to be able to bring her new backpack to school the next day. Her mom said she was going to be in a contest for queen of the school, after this day, and I already knew she would win because I brought her the tiara. We prayed some more together, and I asked Rafaela if she had any prayer requests. She said that many members of her family don’t go to church and don’t know God and asked if I would pray for them. Of course I will. Clearly, this is a Godly family, and I am so thankful that Evelin is being raised knowing Him and valuing her relationship with Him.
We all gathered together for a large group picture. As heavy as that backpack full of gifts was, Evelin eagerly put it on her back as we walked over.
Then it was time for the hardest part: saying goodbye. We took one last picture together as we hugged and I told her again how much I loved her. She told me the same and her mother thanked me and told me they were praying for me, along with my prayers for them.
I couldn’t have asked for an absolutely more perfect day. And the thing is, if you asked any other sponsor there, I’ll bet they would have said they same thing. Each sponsor and child matched together so perfectly- it was just amazing to witness their joy during the day, too! Child Fun Day clearly is a very very special day.
After all of the excitement, we made a stop at a nearby market to do some shopping. I was able to buy a few gifts, along with a scarf and a necklace for myself. The market was very pretty, and we were pretty much the only people there. The translators bopped around to help us out, but my limited Spanish includes enough to help me get by in this situation. I was also pretty proud of myself for the prices I got through bartering, which we were told we had to do. We then made one more quick stop at a mall to go into a grocery store to purchase some coffee- something all of us wanted. I’m not a coffee drinker myself, I was buying it as a gift for my parents, so I listened to the coffee experts when selecting which bags to get. Apparently they did a good job choosing, because now that I’m home and my parents have been drinking the coffee, they’ve told me multiple times how great it is!
inside the very nice mall
We had dinner at the hotel that evening and I went to bed tired but still on quite a high from the day. I thought about Evelin, back at home, and I’m pretty sure she felt the same way!