Dec 30: FrogFamily’s last full day at the Rancho

Cuteness itself!

Pileup on the slide

After another midnight round of tylenol and antibiotics, Picklebee seems to be feeling better today; I’m hoping this means her fever is gone for good. Carl is starting to feel a bit under the weather, but the thought of this being the last day to work on the bridge seems to be keeping him going. He made a trip into Tegucigalpa to get more supplies for the truss the guys are putting on the bridge to help stiffen the center span. As you can see, most of the planks are on, but they need to wait to stiffen the center span to put on the rests of the planks.

The bridge is getting closer!

Since Picklebee was feeling better, we ventured out this morning to play on the playground outside Casa Suyapa. We had a good time playing with a bunch of kids on the slide and monkeybars. After a bit, the Casa Suyapa kids moseyed on to another activity, so we went down to check out work on the bridge. While we were there, a young woman on a horse galloped by with one of the smaller kids – the Rancho version of pony rides, I guess. Picklebee and Monkeywrench looked on longingly.

Picklebee with friends going down the slide

After lunch, Picklebee took her nap and MonkeyWrench went over to Casa Suyapa again to play, enjoying the palomitas (popcorn), and making a new friend, Paula.

MonkeyWrench and her new friend

Horseback riding

The soccer games are continuing, and I think Henry’s team has made it to the finals – but we’re here at the guesthouse baking brownies for the girls in the Hermanas de Jesus house. Unfortunately, partway though the electricity went out, so hopefully they will be baked okay. But even undercooked brownies are still pretty tasty! However, the electricity outage seemed to restore the internet, which was out all day, so I can’t complain.

I had an interesting conversation with one of the volunteers who had taught here for a couple of years, and is now a school administrator for a private school for low-income children in the U.S.  It was fascinating to hear just how similar poor kids are in the US as here in Honduras.  For instance, she commented how when we bring the brownies down, it will be important to give each kid one piece, and let them know that’s what they should take, otherwise their natural instinct is to hoard, and some of the later kids won’t get their share.  This is different from the sharing I’ve seen so far, but I can see how both could be happening at the same time – making sure you have enough, and maybe a little for later, but still being generous with what you have.

DaddyFrog and Elmer take a wooden part of the truss out onto the bridge

Tomorrow is our last day, so the guys will probably be working as late as possible on the bridge today. It is bittersweet to be leaving – we’ve learned so much here, but are looking forward to being home.

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Dec 29 FrogFamily visits the Rancho clinic

The gang eating dinner

Our time here at the Rancho is starting to feel short now – we leave on January 31st, so only a couple of more days here. The bridge project is coming along – the bridge group split into a couple of teams this morning – one team sawing planks to length up by the bodega area (sort of a general resource area for the Rancho), and a team down at the bridge.

Someone's work commute vehicle

A group of Rancho boys came by today to help smooth out the terrain leading right up to the bridge and to help add the planking there.

View from the opposite side of the bridge

Much of the planking on the center span has been screwed down, but the new planks are thicker than the old ones, so the whole mass of planking is starting to make the logs bend under their weight, so DaddyFrog and Carl are working on implementing a couple of tensioned wires under the logs to solve the problem.

Rancho kids helping offload planks from the truck

In the photo with the view of the opposite side of the bridge, you can see that the guys also had to figure out how to keep the current water piping intact while they worked on the bridge, rigging up a system of ropes to hold up the bendy PVC pipes. Without these pipes, the folks on the other side of the bridge would have not water.

MonkeyWrench enjoying the sun

Picklebee had a bit of a rough night with her fever, but napped well. Because of her being sick, I’ve kept her, (which means me, too, since she won’t let me out of her sight) and to a large extent MonkeyWrench as well, away from the other kids so as to not spread her sickness. I wonder if it isn’t futile, since she probably got it from another kid at the Rancho, and it is already spreading, but it feels like the responsible thing to do. It’s been sad to see the kids, like Sarai, want to play with Picklebee, but be unable to do so, and I’ve been sad to be unable to interact much with the kids either.

Putting in planks on the repaired bridge

Anyhow, due to our self-imposed quarantine, we’ve spent most of our time down at the bridge and at the guesthouse, although MonkeyWrench is currently down watching the still-ongoing soccer matches with the girls from the Hermanas de Jesus house. The soccer matches are such a big deal that the last couple of nights the kitchen has sent the food down to the kids at the soccer fields, and they eat there. Alice spent time with the Hermanas de Jesus girls last night too, and gleefully arrived afterwards showing off her blue-painted fingernails the girls had done for her.

Dishing up food down by the soccer game

During our time at the Rancho, Picklebee has gotten picked up by so many different kids, all wanting to play with her. I think it’s a good thing, and at the beginning, she was fine with that, but after a day or two, she seemed to get overwhelmed. Now the moment anyone but me tries to pick her up, (including DaddyFrog), she yells “no!” and turns her face away and struggles. I’m not quite sure what to do about it, and am hoping it will go away when she feels less overwhelmed, not to mention sick.

Turkey vulture

When Picklebee got up from her nap, she had a fever of 103.7, so I gave her some more children’s tylenol, then headed down to the bridge to get DaddyFrog. We went to the clinic here at the Rancho. They took her tempature again, and it was still quite high, so they called the Rancho doctor, who was in Tegucigalpa. They gave us more Tylenol and prescribed her an antibiotic. She seems more comfortable at the moment. We’re actually pretty lucky to have such easy access to decent medical care here in Honduras.

Medical clinic at the Rancho

So, New Years is only a few days away, which makes me think about some resolutions. Planning on implementing any resolutions of your own?

The Rancho even has an ambulance!

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Bridge, bandaids, for the FrogFamily at El Rancho Dec 28

The girls were pretty tired yesterday, so we ended up having a quiet evening in the guest house, eating peanut butter and jelly for dinner and getting the kids to bed early at 9:30 PM. 🙂 Early. <sigh>

work on the bridge goes on

Several of the folks here have reported being bitten by insects during the night, so we decided to do a morning wash of all the bed linens. The upper bunks have some sort of poop on them – gecko? – so it’s probably a good idea anyways. The guys headed out early to start on the bridge project, but MonkeyWrench and Picklebee had slept in. After breakfast, a feast from the Rancho kitchen of sweetened milk, rolls, hardboiled eggs, and salty cheese, we got ourselves ready to go down and see how things were going. We were just about to start another load of laundry before heading out, when the power went off. Power outages are pretty common, and I was mistaken in earlier post when I said that the whole Rancho is run off of a generator – the generator is just for the ubiquitous power outages, but it doesn’t seem to kick on automatically. Anyhow, off we went but just outside the front guesthouse door, Picklebee took a tumble on a tree root, skinning her knees and elbows again, so back we went in for some ointment, bandaids, and a couple healing gumdrops. Picklebee is about to almost single-handedly go through all the bandaids I brought. I always put her in pants or leggings under a skirt or shorts so I can try to have something to protect her knees during the inevitable tumble. That’s life! I noticed yesterday that the caretakers for the kids MonkeyWrench and Picklebees age from Casa Suyapa didn’t like them to run on the sidewalks, probably for the same reason.

Picklebee takes a tumble

The bridge project is coming along – the old logs for the center span have been removed, floor boards on the side spans are still being removed, and the logs for the side spans are laying on each bank of the creek. The guys need to be able to use a circular saw, and the Rancho has one in the workshop area, but the only guy with the key is on vacation, and brought the key with him. So they’re trying to decide whether to get permission to break into the workshop area, or find another solution. Always interesting engineering challenges!

MonkeyWrench making a warning sign for the bridge

termite nest next to the bridge

After the girls and I checked out the bridge project, we saw the young kids from Casa Supaya heading down towards the Posa area near the reservoir, so we went over to join them.

Casa Suyapa kids playing at the covered patio at the Posa

One of the girls, Carmen, came up with some chalk, and offered it to MonkeyWrench and Picklebee to use, so they all drew in chalk for a bit. MonkeyWrench spied the CandyLand game going on under the picnic shelter, so she joined on in. I couldn’t figure out the rules, or how they decided whose turn it was, but MonkeyWrench was a good sport and played a couple of times.

Monkeywrench playing CandyLand with Casa Suyapa friends

Picklebee after playing with blue chalk

Picklebee continued to play with the chalk, ending up looking like a performer from Blue Man Group. Sarai was being punished (hanging out, but not allowed to play with other kids) for not having helped with the morning chores, so we didn’t get to play with her this time.

After a bit we said goodbye to the Casa Suyapa kids and walked back towards the guesthouse and stopped to play for a bit at the playground. They playground is fun – with teetertotters, monkey bars, and swings, but I do have to be careful with the girls, since some of the equipment is kind of old. Some of the medium-age girls came by, and they were on their weekly garbage clean up. Another Carmen, this one Sarai’s sister, was carrying a big empty poultry feed bag. We walked around with them for a bit, helping clean up garbage. Honduras in general seems to have a big litter problem, so although I don’t know that the Rancho kids are any better about not littering, it strikes me as a good idea for them to see that someone has to clean it up, or that it will just hang around.

Picklebee examining the slide

We went back to the guesthouse for lunch, enjoying a delicious almuerzo from the Rancho kitchens of rice, chicken (seco – dry, which means not in a soup), and some of the Ranch-made corn tortillas. Betsy had made more guacamole, so that was delicious as well. I am reminded once again by this computer about the oddities of living in another country – somehow the ground in the wiring was set up here so that whenever I touch the USB or headset port on the computer, I get a little shock. You’d think I’d learn. 🙂

Carmen collecting garbage on the Rancho

Picklebee is running a fever – 101.8, so I just gave her some children’s tylenol I brought down with me.  I forgot a thermometer, though, but the clinic at the Rancho was kind enough to lend me one.  🙂

We hope all of you are doing well and are in good health.

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Dec 27 FrogFamily at the Rancho

Casa Suyapa entrants in the "Christmas" category

The activity last night, a sort of co-ed beauty contest, was hilarious. Boys and girls from all houses competed in the categories of “casual wear,” “sports wear,” and “Christmas.” Most of the kids were seated by house and would cheer wildly when their candidate’s turn would come up. Each kid would come out in their outfit, accompanied by some rock music, and parade around the center, stopping to strut their stuff before the judges. It was funny to see that pretty much every “sport” costume involved soccer.

Sports category entrant

It was impossible to resist the little ones all dressed up, but it was also neat to see the older kids having a ball. The dress code was quite tame according to our standards (this is a Catholic school after all!) – no kids in skimpy swimsuits, for instance, but it was nice to have the more innocent air about the whole contest.

Casa Suyapa in the sports category

I ended up sitting with Betsy and Picklebee next to the aisle while DaddyFrog and Monkeywrench sat with the Hermanas de Jesus, the girls dorm that has taken Alice under their wing. A handicapped girl in a wheelchair was sitting next to Picklebee, and partway through the show, she took out a little bag, that you could tell was quite precious to her, and pulled out a mini candy cane and handed it to Picklebee. Picklebee’s eyes lit up, and she said “gracias.” I split the candy cane so that she and the other girl could share it. Once again, the generosity here is amazing.

The generous candy-cane sharer

The show was obviously going to last for a while, so Picklebee and I lit out early to go to bed at 10 PM. I don’t know how these kids manage to stay up so late! Even the wee ones were there at the show. Most of the kids have to get up at 5, too, to do their chores before breakfast at 7 AM.  Maybe that schedule is relaxed over the holidays.

In the morning we all had breakfast of a banana, sweet cookie/bun, and sweetened milk from the Rancho kitchen. We supplemented it with a bit of granola and some fried eggs from the Rancho chickens. Yum! I even had a hot shower afterwards – I’ve finally figured out how to get the hot water down to where we are. I even had to add some cold water to make it comfortable! It’s amazing how attached we are to our creature comforts.

The Honduras NPH school

Marcia, a visiting volunteer from Minnesota, had invited us to go with her to Casa Suyapa, the house for boys and girls about 8 and under. She had several crafts all ready to go – foam snowmen, a foam Noah’s Ark scene, and pages to color on with crayons. Marcia is so open-hearted but is also amazingly organized – she and her husband Dale brought several suitcases of stuff like this down with them to share with the kids. We hadn’t been over to Casa Suyapa yet, so I was eager to go, since the kids there would be the ones who are MonkeyWrench and Picklebee’s age. When we got there, we talked to the house leader, and she told us that in just a bit they were going to go down to the school, and we could do the craft there.

Bathrooms at Casa Suyapa - nice tile!

Bunkbeds in the small girls dorm room

Little Sarai gave us a tour of where she lived – the room with the bunkbeds and cribs, the bathroom, the laundry room, and the playground, all set around a beautiful courtyard garden. MonkeyWrench and Picklebee loved seeing everything, and immediately joined in the fun going on in the playground. When the time came to walk down to the school (about a half mile walk from their dorm), a maybe 7ish year old boy with autism, launched himself into my arms. Alice held hands much of the way with Sarai and another boy, and Muriel and I walked ahead with the autistic boy, carrying him for much of the way. He’s so lucky to be in a place like the Rancho, but it was still heart-wrenching to see – the kids as a whole just need so much attention, and so does he.

Sarai helping Picklebee up the stairs at the playground

Fun on the merry go round

The craft went over very well – the kids were well behaved and enjoyed putting together the foam pieces of the snowmen and Noah’s ark, some fun Christmas stickers, as well as coloring with new crayons. (Don’t you remember the joy of opening a new box of sharp crayons? Ahhh…). It was windy, and the little paper garbage pieces got blown all around. It reminded me that importing our first world culture definitely has its dark sides. Marcia had thoughtfully also brought along little bags of m+m’s for the kids afterwards, and you could hear the sounds of “chocolate!” reverberate throughout the covered gym we were in.

Picklebee doing coloring with a new friend

I have to have my proud Mama moment and add that I was really proud of Monkeywrench in one instance. She had done her craft and had been given an extra line of stickers that she came over to show me. I looked at her and commented that kids here didn’t get stickers very often. She looked back at me and went over to Sarai and gave her her stickers with a smile. I was quite proud of her, and glad she is learning a bit of the kids’ generosity.

Picklebee and Sarai sharing m+m's

The guys have been working on the bridge most of the day, stopping for lunch. The big poles for the bridge were delivered by truck, and then came the difficult part of figuring out how to get them across the bridge.

The logs arrive for the bridge

But with two engineers heading up the project (DaddyFrog and Carl), they figured out some nifty rope and pulley systems, and with the aid of the tractor from the farm, they got them across. They had to head back into Tegucigalpa to pick up some more building supplies. As you can imagine from the tiny hardware store I showed in an earlier post, some supplies can be difficult to find.

DaddyFrog figuring out how to get the logs across the bridge

On the docket for the Rancho kids this afternoon and early evening is the soccer games for the older kids – a big deal here, as you can imagine. We’ll probably join watching in the stands about dinner time, after Picklebee’s nap. The Rancho kids are having a good time on their Christmas vacation, and so are we.  Hasta luego!

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Christmas mass; bridge repair begins at El Rancho

Christmas Eve service at the chapel

It’s the day after Christmas, and we’re sporting fresh mosquito bites. How different from what I’m used to. At the moment, MonkeyWrench is off with “Gramma” Edie watching an impromptu soccer tournament, while Picklebee is taking her afternoon nap, despite a drummer practicing in a neighboring building and boys setting off fireworks.

Last night’s candlelit procession to mass was beautiful, even with the light rain. The chapel where mass was held is built against a hillside, and has a roof overhead to keep out the rain, but has open sides. Mass lasted from about 6 to 8 PM, and seemed to follow a fairly traditional Catholic mass. I’m not sure how many acolytes have grey converses peeking out from under their robes like one did, though. Father Reynaldo gave a sermon about setting aside the busy, fast-paced, and hectic nature of our daily lives, and remembering the true spirit of Christmas. While that message does resonate with me, I wondered how hectic the student’s lives here truly are. Perhaps for all of us, time just seems to go by so quickly, I don’t know.

Picklebee chowing down on her beans for dinner

In the front of the audience were elderly “orphans” from Casa Eva, who have no family to take care of them in their old age. The boys sit on one side of the aisle, and the girls on the other. Visitors like us sit in the way back behind the kids. MonkeyWrench had been taken off again by a group of girls, so she was sitting up front. A fellow with a guitar played the music for the hymns and carols, while a small choir helped the rest of us follow along in the singing. When the time came, those old enough to take communion got in line for that, while the little ones went over to a nun to be blessed. The chapel was beautifully decorated for Christmas, and everyone seemed in good spirits for the holiday.

After mass everyone went back to their houses, and we had a late dinner of beans, 2 squares of cheese, and half a cooked banana. As expected, Picklebee ate all her beans. We all went to bed a bit late, so morning seemed to arrive too early. But the guys have big plans today, so we got up, ate our breakfast of rice and beans, accompanied with a sweetened milk, and waited to hear if the Rancho had approved the bridge projects the guys wanted to start. While we waited, we washed a bit more laundry, and swept and mopped the floor of the guest house kitchen.

MonkeyWrench washing her shirt

The laundry girls

Picklebee sweeping

Approval from the Rancho came through, so we headed over to the project the guys have picked out, repairing a bridge over to Casa Pasionista. I think this house is not run by the Rancho, but is an independent hospice house. A dying parent with children will often try to come there so they know that their kids will be taken care when they pass away. This also allows the children to assimilate a bit more gradually into life at the Rancho.

Demolition begins

Lucas pulling nails

The bridge is in a pretty bad state, with many boards about to come loose, and the center section tipping precariously. The railing is missing on one side, so an enterprising person strung a long string between the trees on opposing banks of the stream along that side to help keep folks from falling over the edge in the dark. DaddyFrog, GrandpaFrog, Carl, Betsy, and their two boys, along with Dale, a volunteer here from Minnesota, all started in on the task this morning. A couple of the Rancho boys and a fellow with a machete (clearing brush by the bridge) also helped out. Most of the work today involved removing the current railings and starting to take out nails from the boards on the floor of the bridge. I helped out a bit taking nails out of removed railing boards, and MonkeyWrench and Picklebee acted as “nailgrabbers,” taking the nails and putting them in a big jar. These nails will be taken to the metal recycling plant and reused, and depending on their state, the boards will either be re-used or be fodder for a future holiday bonfire.

The "nailgrabbers"

The fellow with the machete found a turtle that he brought up to show the girls, which was a real treat. Picklebee is also quite fond of tortugas. Come to think of it, Picklebee is fond of just about any animal. Depending on whether the long pieces of wood that are needed to construct the center span have arrived, the bridge repair team are currently either constructing that new section of the bridge, or trying to make it safe enough that no one will fall off it in the dark tonight.

The girls and the turtle

Now that Christmas is over, the schedule is returning a bit more to normal, although those kids that do have some extended family went off to visit them today for a week.

Girls running down the El Rancho farm road

The kids still here will have fun “holiday” classes, and the new school year starts in January. Hard to believe that 2012 is coming soon!

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Feliz Navidad from El Rancho Santa Fe

Santa found Monkeywrench and Picklebee!

Today is Christmas day. Santa “arrived” at about 2 AM last night, filling the stockings with a few items, and leaving a couple of small gifts for MonkeyWrench and Picklebee. GrandpaFrog brought a couple of stuffed horses (Picklebee insists one is a donkey) from him and Marsha. After a late breakfast of granola (the older kids help run the kitchen during this week, giving the teachers a break), and hot milk fresh from the cow, we toured the boys houses.

The courtyard at one of the boys houses

Then we started making the trek up to a little pueblo called Tamale y Queso, which means Tamale and Cheese. It’s maybe a 1.5 mile hike each way, and the girls from El Rancho were going to give away some of their own things to the relatively poorer kids there – toys, candy, clothes, etc. Some kids gave away everything they received in their Christmas stocking just that morning.

I had originally come here hoping that my girls would learn about how people live differently in different countries, and how privileged we are in the US. I was hoping they would learn more Spanish, and they have been doing all that. But I didn’t realize that really the most important lesson they have to learn from these kids at the Rancho is their generosity of spirit. This kids don’t have much by our standards, but they are amazing at sharing what they do have, and give gladly. I really am impressed.

A house in Tamale y Queso

We set out on the late side, so the Rancho girls had already started the trek, but we went along behind them. Tamale y Queso is accesible from the Rancho only by trails, and you can tell from the droppings along the path that many horses or donkeys have come that way. Supposedly part of the town is accessible by car, but the houses we all passed were only accessible by walking. Picklebee got pretty tired after a mile+, despite riding on my shoulders much of the way, so after giving away a few things at a couple of the houses, Picklebee and I turned back, letting the rest of the group go all the way into town.

GrandpaFrog, DaddyFrog, and MonkeyWrench at the upper dam

The walk was beautiful, out in the forest, and running along and crossing several times a little stream. The Rancho has about 2000 acres, so there was a lot of beautiful property to walk across. They have an upper dam that we passed that helps supply the water for irrigation and drinking (after treatment). As I had turned back early with Picklebee, I was hoping for a bit of relative solitude to appreciate the natural beauty. The girls from the Rancho started coming back at about the same time, and they were all very solicitous to be sure that we didn’t get lost, or trip, or had problems crossing the streams. As I said, they look out for each other very well, so we had company the way back, and helped some of the littler kids as they made their way back with us.

Monkeywrench with new Rancho friends in Tamale y Queso

We had a late lunch of spaghetti, and Picklebee is now taking her nap. In the schedule for this evening is a procession and mass at 6, then dinner at 8. The Frog Family hopes everyone is enjoying their Christmas day!

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Christmas Eve at El Rancho

Tonight is NocheBuena, Christmas Eve. It’s the big Christmas celebration down here, and everyone certainly had a good time. After the games in the morning, we had spent the afternoon hanging out, talking about projects, and enjoying the holiday atmosphere. Earlier, the kitchen and living room in the guest house had been transformed into a “Santa’s Workshop” and people were arranging stockings, gift bags, backpacks, etc for the kids to celebrate on the holiday. A couple of girls in one of the rooms had even brought some Christmas carols they were playing, so it made the whole guest house quite festive.

Picklebee taking learning Spanish seriously (in the guesthouse kitchen)

We had been told that there would be a Pastorela, a Christmas presentation of some type at 6. As seems to be typical here, it got changed to 7 on little notice so we all had an extra snack and moseyed over at 7. The presentation was absolutely adorable. We hung out under a covered area for about 10-15 minutes, playing with the kids, and trying to keep my camera out of too many curious hands. I was quite impressed at the maybe 8 year old Honduran girl who had snagged my camera and showed me that I could scroll through my photos by sliding my finger on the screen. I had no idea my camera even had a touch screen. Wow.

The highschoolers from the Rancho go to school during the week in Tegucigalpa, coming back home to the Rancho on the weekends. I’ve been told that they are usually at the top of their class when they arrive – the education they get here is usually superior to that at a regular school. The Honduran education system is, well, a system in crisis, but it’s good to know that these kids have a bright future, at least here in Honduras. They all leave the Rancho with a trade, like shoe-making, electricity, carpentry, etc.

Monkeywrench (lower left) kicking the soccer ball around at the school

Anyhow, a group of kids had gotten together to make a video about the Christmas story. “Joseph,” one of the boys, appeared leading a donkey being ridden by “Mary.” Picklebee, who also loves donkeys, was ecstatic over that scene, and kept on pointing and exclaiming with glee “burro, burro!” They come to a man standing by a paddock and ask him if there is room in the inn. He says, no, only in the stable. The scene cuts to an adorable baby wrapped in a swaddling sweater in a manger crib, being looked at by Mary and Joseph. The three wise men, also 8-10 ish year old boys, showed up bearing gifts. Then they show Mary asleep on Joseph’s shoulder, and they cut to a scene walking through a 21st Century store all done up for Christmas, with all sorts of things for sale, and very materialistic. They cut back to Mary, who says to Joseph – “thank goodness that was a bad dream!” It finishes with a moral about remembering the true meaning of Christmas. About 8 minutes in all, and absolutely adorable. Way to go, kids!

Picklebee dancing with Sarai

After that, we all went over to the “Posa,” an outdoor eating area out past the livestock farm, to have dinner. A couple of the girls, one named Marisol, asked me if they could take Alice over. I said yes, so off they went. We all walked the ¼ mile over with flashlights until we arrived at the outdoor area. They had rigged up temporary lights in the trees and a tarp, and lots of Christmas lights, and even brought in a lit Christmas tree. Santa made an appearance, handing out candy canes. I had told Monkeywrench that those were just for the kids at the orphanage, so the kids on their idea went and got Monkeywrench and Picklebee candy canes. It was really thoughtful. I’ve been really impressed at the friendliness and generosity of spirit of the kids here.

Picklebee mobbed

Anyhow, we had all brought our plates and spoons over, so when the coolers with beef tamales (!) showed up, everyone dove in. Yum yum yum! We had gotten one for each of us, but Picklebee didn’t really like hers, but another young boy, Jefferson, who had sort of adopted DaddyFrog, was more than happy to take it off our hands. Every now and then firecrackers and some fireworks would go off, scaring Picklebee but enjoyed by everyone else. Latino Christmas music was playing in the background, bonfires were lit, and everyone had a great time. I was a little worried about the little kids playing by a small bonfire, but no one else seemed to be, and the big kids keep a pretty good eye on the little kids, so I tried not to worry about it. The party will go until about 1 AM tonight. These kids sure have some energy!

One of the girls who borrowed my camera, name unknown

By this point in time, Picklebee had also been carried away by a group of girls, grinning broadly with a small candy cane in her sticky fist. When I was finally able to retrieve her, I walked back to the guest house while DaddyFrog went back to retrieve Monkeywrench, who by that time had been passed off onto another group of girls. I admit that I feel pretty safe letting the girls run about with the other kids, since the whole compound is pretty secure, relatively kid-friendly, the kids look out for each other, and well, the Honduran kids just don’t seem to be able to resist the blue eyes of the girls and don’t leave them alone. Earlier in the evening Picklebee had gotten a bit overwhelmed by all the attention, so I put her on my shoulders for a bit to get away from the press. It was good to see her rally later on.

Monkeywrench has now decided that perhaps Santa just has a key to the room and doesn’t need to come through the holes in the roof. Their stockings are hung on the bunkbeds with care, and Monkeywrench is secretly hoping that Santa will wake her up when he comes in the room, and is currently peering out the window looking for Rudolph’s red nose. Picklebee is staring at her own reflection in the window. Life is actually pretty darn good for all the kids in El Rancho right now.

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