- Elmer, an older gentleman who has been coming to Honduras every November and December for the last five years, arrived last Monday. So I am no longer alone and I am even living in the volunteer center full-time again. I am enjoying having someone to talk to in English and share the experiences of the children with.
- Saturday was a huge day around here. It was graduation for the sixth graders. We spent lots of time making decorations and setting up for the big event. It was held in the morning and all of the children had at least one family member there. I was surprised that everyone had someone there. These children come from extremely poor families, so I know that it was a major sacrifice for some of them to travel for the graduation. But for several of the families, this is the first child in the family to graduate from sixth grade. You could see the pride on the faces of the family members. It was beautiful to see. You could also see how happy the kids were to know that their family was proud of them. They were so eager to introduce me to their families and I just told them all how smart and wonderful their children are. They just lit up to hear their children praised like that.
The ceremony started with Mass. The whole school was present for both the Mass and the graduation ceremony. It was also the end-of-the-year assembly for all the students. The graduates processed in and then the first through fifth graders that passed to the next grade were called up and received their grades. Then the principal gave out the honor roll awards to the top students in each class. Finally, the sixth graders received their diplomas. It was not practiced or really organized very much at all (like most things in Honduras), but it was still extremely special. I was asked to sit at the head table and hand out the diplomas with the principal. It was a huge honor for me. I definitely teared up when I looked at all the kids sitting in their caps and gowns with huge smiles on their faces. When they called the child’s name, he or she came up along with the people he or she had asked to be their sponsors for the graduation. I was asked by two girls to be their sponsor, which was very touching. After they all received their diplomas the president of the class gave a short speech, which also made me cry.
After the ceremony, they had lunch for the graduates and their families. Chinese rice with chicken, meat, and shrimp is a favorite special food around here. I also made six cakes for the celebration. One of the girls that I sponsored, Yossari, only had her mom with her, so she asked if I would sit with them at lunch. They really made me feel like a part of their family. At the end of the meal, her mom even said I was like a member of their family.
Reflecting on the graduation, I realized how simple yet meaningful it was. The kids didn’t need to walk in in perfect lines or shake hands perfectly and we didn’t need to have the fanciest decorations or the most perfect music to have it be a beautiful ceremony. For these kids that have worked so hard to get to where they are and for the families that made sacrifices to allow them to achieve this goal, it was perfect. I cried tears of joy several times just amazed by the beauty of it all. I also cried some tears of sadness because I will really miss these kids. They are the closest things I have to best friends down here. I am so proud of them and can’t wait to see what some of them become, but it will still be a little lonelier here without them. However, in the last couple of weeks I have figured which of the incoming sixth graders will become the leaders of the school and my new best friends. Many of these girls that graduated will be going to our high school next year, so I will see them again. It makes the goodbye a lot easier.
- In celebration of their accomplishments, Elmer and I took the sixth grade girls to town today to enjoy an afternoon of fun. We started with Pizza Hut, which of course everyone loved. Afterwards, they got to play in the play place at Pizza Hut. It is much bigger and nicer than any of the play places that I have ever seen in the US. It even has a mini soccer field. Watching the girls play reminded me that they are still kids. They had so much fun running and climbing and sliding. I even climbed around with Miguel’s son, Emilio, who is 3 and was afraid to go alone. After Pizza Hut we went to the Central Park area where we ate ice cream. It is still very hot here, so it was a much welcomed treat. I could tell that many of the girls were not used to doing anything special like this because they didn’t know how to order or what to do. I ran into my friend who gives tours of the Cathedral while we were there and asked if he would take us up in the bell tower. All the girls got to go up and see the clock tower. It is the oldest working clock in the western hemisphere and the second oldest in the world. I had been in it once before and thought the girls would like it. They really did enjoy seeing the whole city. We took lots of pictures to document the adventure. It was an extremely fun afternoon for me and the sixth graders. I am glad that we were able to do something special for them to show them that we were very proud of them.
- Saturday is the baptisms and First Communions for the kids that are new this school year and haven’t received the sacraments yet. I have been asked to be the godmother for at three kids. It should also be a very special day. Some of the kids are so excited to be being baptized and “receiving Jesus” as they say.
- On top of all these very exciting things, we have had Honduran groups in our house every weekend. Of course, the power went out just as the group was arriving Thursday night. I was literally running around the house trying to find every flashlight we have so they wouldn’t be too mad at me. Thankfully it was only out for about an hour. You just never know what is going to happen around here. That's OK though. It keeps life interesting.