We did so many things together: fun outings and academic ones, homework in the hallway behind her apartment, homework at my apartment, movie nights with Miss Anna and Ada, tie-dying t-shirts, walks around town, snack walks, “beauty salon,” playing at the park, visiting the hot springs, and even spending time in class when I was her teacher.
One of our regular favorites was going to the park. Unless she had homework, we usually got mangadas (a frozen mango popsicle) and played at the playground. She sure can climb those monkey bars! Sometimes Ada and Kenneth (her baby brother) would come too, and although it could be a lot of little ones to keep track of, we still enjoyed ourselves a good bit. Ada is so good at caring for her younger brother, too. On certain occasions, we would get a special snack like cotton candy or popcorn and go share it with Sergio while he worked at the family hotdog stand. It was precious to see how they interact with each other – sharing food, playing, smiling, teasing, caring. These kids are a beautiful example of how siblings are meant to interact. It’s like they are a united team against the world. For a moment on that corner, I remember thanking God for bringing me into their lives and for allowing me to walk with them.
Another fun memory I have with Estefany is our swimming lessons. Miss Anna and I would take Ada and Estefany to the hotel pool to practice swimming every Tuesday afternoon. It was something the girls truly looked forward to. Each day they would ask us, “We swim today?” Initially, they were cautious about getting in and taking instruction on how to move in the water. But after a session or two, they wanted to jump in as soon as we arrived, and at the end, we couldn’t get them out! The girls dutifully practiced kicking and scooping, but jumping and blowing bubbles underwater were their absolute favorite skills to practice. They would jump in over and over again, sometimes into my arms and sometimes into the empty space in front of me. After practicing in the big pool, they liked to race in the kiddie pool too.
As we laughed and learned, I was regularly reminded how incredible it was that they were learning all this in English! (Except for one particular time when Miss Anna was trying to help them stay afloat by elongating their bodies. They had a hard time keeping their backsides up so they didn’t sink down. “Keep your nalgas up!” she said. They died laughing, but made improvements with the little pointer.) We had so much fun. It was a perfect way for us to be outside, be active, and be together. Miss Anna is a kind leader to me and the girls. She became somewhat of a mentor-friend to me during my time in-country with One Family.
Now that I am home in the states, I realize just what a huge part of my life she had become. I miss joking around with her and having a constant companion. Whenever I needed a buddy, she was more than happy to come along. On many occasions, she accompanied me on trips to the market or the store or just around town. One time, I was looking for flower seeds in town and she became my self-appointed helper. She took me to all the stores that could possibly have them. (In the end, we settled for vegetable seeds which grew just as well.) She loved showing me around her town. She takes to leadership easily and having a teacher as her student was all the more fun for her.
Throughout these experiences, I could see her developing personality and characteristics. Her curiosity and intelligence, strength and persistence enable her to be a natural leader. She never forgets and always works hard for what she wants. I know that because of these qualities, she will accomplish incredible things. Estefany is kind and genuine. She is interested in photography, art, and animals. I hope that she will get to explore these fields more as she grows up.
One Family gave me the chance to truly get to know an incredible young girl and her family. I was able to spend quality time with them, which allowed me to grow personally and relationally. I didn’t know before I started what an incredible impact she would have on me. She became an incredibly important person to me and I am forever and ever grateful for my time with her. I hope one day she and I will be able to spend time together again.