Saturday, June 13th.
Oof. There aren’t really words to describe this day, but I’ll try anyway. I think I woke up around 6 AM and couldn’t go back to sleep. The plan was to meet all the kids at the zoo. After breakfast, we piled in the bus and headed out.
Upon arrival, we had some waiting to do so the tickets could be handed out and coordinating done. I had to dash back to the bus to retrieve red and white bracelets that I got for her and I to each wear. (Peru’s colors are red and white.) So finally we started approaching the gates and honestly I wasn’t sure how I’d recognize her. I had a picture, but it was pretty old, and I had no idea how she would look today. Here’s the only photo of her I had:
Angely is 8 now. As we approached the gates and people started meeting up with their kids, I saw one girl with her eyes right on me, and I knew it had to be her! (I’d sent her lots of pictures of me and our family!) She had a huge smile on her face! That first hug – I don’t know if there’s anything else on this earth like it.
It was a long hug, but that’s to be expected. I think I have 5 pictures of it! My roommate, Kristie, did a great job. I met her mom, Angi, who was there also. Our translator for the day was Francesca. People often ask me if it was odd having to work through a translator, but I assure you it was not. We had been with translators all week, and it was pretty natural at this point. We just conversed as usual and waited for the translator to, well, translate. I know a tiny bit of Spanish, but it would have been too difficult and time-consuming to try to think things out so I just spoke mostly English all day.
After hugs, I gave her the bracelet I had gotten for her. For some reason, I couldn’t figure out how to tie it on so Francesca did it for me. Plus, my hands were shaking!
To my surprise, she had brought some gifts that she had gotten while they went on a family trip to northern Peru (to the Ecuador border). It was so sweet, and I wanted to give my gifts to her right then but had to wait! I also got some recent school pictures of her which I adore. They’re on my refrigerator right now. She also wrote me a note that Francesca read to me in English, but Kristie later translated in writing for me.
Then it was off to the zoo! I asked Angely what she wanted to do first so we headed toward the coastal section. Did you know that there are penguins that live on Peru’s coast? Me neither! We also saw some playful seals – a dad, a mom, and a baby seal!
I half paid attention to the animals. We didn’t get all the way through the zoo, but we had fun in the parts that we were able to see. We stopped at a stuffed animal stand, and I told Angely I’d get her one. She wasn’t sure what she wanted so I told her we could come back. Next time we came to one, she had decided! She chose a monkey that she consequently named Libby. If you pressed its hand, it made those crazy screaming monkey sounds. It was pretty funny! She hung onto it the rest of the day!
At one point, I gave her my sunglasses to try on and hold onto for a while. I find myself wishing I had just let her keep them. Oh well, I hope that she can get some for her upcoming birthday in September! (Sending a little extra this month.)
We found some birds in a little area that had perches out in the open. We saw an older lady there talking to one of the parrots! We talked to it and he sang a little bit. Sorry about the video quality here as I know it’s kinda shaky, but it’s an iPhone video.
I feel like I need to pause here and tell this story. I asked Angi, Angely’s mom, when they found out I was coming. Angi said she was told about a month in advance, but they told her she couldn’t tell Angely right away probably because there is always a chance that something could happen and I wouldn’t be able to come or something. She said she was able to tell Angely about a week before. Angely started crying when she was told. Our trip leader, Sean, had said that less than 1% of Compassion’s sponsored children ever get to meet their sponsor so to them, it’s like winning the lottery. I don’t know who was more excited to meet who though. It was huge for me to meet her too! It’s been a little over a week since I got back, and it just seems like longer than that already. She said that Angely had marked the 13th on the calendar as El Dia Grande (the Big Day).
After the zoo, we all piled into the bus to go to Pardo’s Chicken for lunch. That was excellent food! We even had chocolate cake – my favorite and Angely’s! We even had ice cream after that!
Our next stop was the park where it was time for gifts! Finally! This was a really special time where we just got to spend time with our kids and give them gifts we had put together especially for them. The cool thing is that on this trip I got to talk to other sponsors who had excellent ideas for gifts so that when I go back, I have additional stuff I can bring! (Yes, I said when.)
We started going through the gifts I had brought for her. I tried to find unique items before going on the trip. I got her all kinds of stuff, but I think her favorites were the sticker book and puzzle which we had to do immediately (for fun – it wasn’t required). I also got her a hat which was funny since she had given me a hat (and one for Andy)! I would also look around the park once in a while and see the other sponsors with their children and families enjoying each other. It was such a neat time!
At some point during our time at the park, Angely’s mom told me that Angely had recently recovered from a skin issue on her chin that caused her to have sores or a breakout of some kind, and that the kids at school made fun of her for it. Apparently Angely just soldiered through it without telling her mom, and someone else ended up telling her. She got pretty emotional while relaying the story. I think I got a little emotional too. She also told me that Angely is just a kind-hearted kid who always thinks of others before herself.
I also found out that Angely is tall for her age and is constantly in the back of lines, group photos, the classroom, and the list goes on. That’s the life of us tall people! That touched my heart especially because I’m so tall. I know what it’s like, but you just have to fully embrace it and realize God made you that way for a reason! I let Angely know that being tall is special and makes her unique. I’m not sure if her father is tall, but in general, Peruvians aren’t very tall. She may have just gotten an early growth spurt, but either way, I wanted to let her know that it’s okay. I’m tall by American women standards! It’s definitely not an accident that her packet was placed in my hand at the concert back in September of 2014.
I really loved painting her nails. I wish I had a picture of the finished product. Just look for them in following pictures! They were a very pretty silver – one of my favorite colors to put on nails! It looked even better on her dark skin. I also had bought some flip flops that I had guessed would fit an 8 year old. I fail at children things sometimes, I think! They were way too small, but she immediately said her sister (Tamara, 4) could use them! What a sweet girl.
All too soon it was time to pray and say goodbye. I don’t know why I had such a hard time praying. It was just one of those times I think I wanted to pray all the things at once and got stuck a couple times, but I’m sure no one noticed! Fortunately, we had some additional time to do group photos and I was able to walk to the street with Angi, Angely, and Francesca so I could wait with them for their cab ride home. Eventually, they had to walk to the main road to get a cab going to their neighborhood so I had to stay back by the bus and the rest of our group. (I also had to say goodbye to Shirley at that point who had been my family group’s translator all week! More on that later in part 2.)
I think my joy meter pegged several times that day, and my heart felt like it would burst. I hated that it had to end at all! We had such a seemingly short day together. I hope she has great memories of that day too. I imagined this day a million different ways prior to it actually happening, and it was better than I imagined! Ever since this day, Angely is on my mind all the time! I hope that I did some of it justice in this post. I wish I had written a bit sooner as my memory of some stuff has faded, I’m sure. The rest of the day was kind of a whirlwind even though it was already late afternoon. I will cover that in my next post though.
(Let me know your thoughts in the comments!)