The Lester File

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Train Trip!

Jan 31, 2010
I arrived with the help of my parents at Union Station Dallas, Tx for a train bound for Chicago, IL. Leaving at 3:40pm. I had a coach ticket and at least 250 lbs. of my most precious possessions ready and waiting to board the train ahead of me. At my father's insistence, I gratefully (although, I would not know how grateful I was until later) allowed him to upgrade my coach seat to a sleeping berth.
The train arrived a few minutes later, then Mom, Dad, and I boarded the train together to check it out. The whole idea was quite strange and almost anachronistic considering the speed and efficiency that comes with air travel. We marveled at the tiny single room, were fascinated by the dining car, and stood struck by the lounge car that showcased windows from floor to ceiling. Chairs were set, staring out of the windows, inviting any passenger to enjoy whatever view happened to cross the tracks.
Dad started to think that the notion of traveling 22 hours in a train like this wasn't such a bad idea after all.
I started to feel the exciting sensation that adventure was approaching or at least that I had won the jackpot. That I had found the best, cheapest, most interesting way to travel long distances. I was going to see America! Awesome.
The train was threatening to leave, so my folks jumped off and we did the bon voyage thing on the platform. My attendant, Charlie, was very nice and assured my ever-loving, ever-anxious father that I would be alright.

5:45pm
I was all settled in my little berth, watching the view quickly go by. The scene began to change from city to town to vast expanse of woodlands and flatlands. But, the most interesting view of all of these was the one in the berth across from mine. A large (too large for a single plane seat) man who looked very much like Santa Clause on vacation was lounging in his seat facing diagonally towards me and had disrobed down to his britches. He caught my brief wide-eyed stare, but made no move to correct his awkward position nor to put clothes back on. So, I smiled to myself, quickly closed the blindes, and resumed my task of figuring out how to lay the seats flat so I could watch a movie that I had downloaded previously on my computer before dinner. The waiter, Lucion, came by to ask when I'd be coming to dinner. 8pm. I closed my eyes for a nap.

8:00pm
I woke up in time for dinner. Most people, passengers and crew alike, always reacted with a little surprise when they realized I was traveling alone. This reaction is probably due to the fact that I look much younger than my years (blessing and a curse), but it also created a kind of Russian Roulette when it came to dining partners. Whenever I came into the dining car, Lucion would seat me with whatever stranger had an open seat. I believe he got a kick out of this small social experiment, but always treated me with extra kindness and understanding.
My first round of this game landed me with a family of travelers from Long Island, NY. They had just been on a trip to visit George W. Bush's library in Austin, Texas. That was the extent and reason for their 3 day journey by train with a connection in Chicago from NY to Texas. In the hour or so that we sat together, I learned very little as they were not a very talkative bunch. I tried to crack a few jokes... to no avail. I finished my veggie burger (which raised some eyebrows from the immediate company) in record time and had a spoonful of ice cream before heading back to the solace of my tiny suite and attempted to get as much sleep as I could get. Thank you, Dad.


February 1, 2010
12:30am
Crash! I woke up to the eery, unwelcome sound of crunching and grinding that was obviously out of place and abnormal for our journey. The train came to a dead halt. I laid awake for a moment waiting for an announcement or for Charlie to come to my door and give me an update, but nothing happened. As far as I knew, we were still on the track and had not derailed, so I put my headphones on and watched a little more of my movie until I learned something new.
About an hour later, a faint voice came through the PA letting us know that there had been some kind of malfunction and the conductor was off the train trying to figure it out. Having lived in Chicago for a couple of years and riding the CTA, I was familiar with this kind of announcement and didn't bother to listen to them speculate about how long we would be standing still. I let myself drift into sleep again.

8:00am
I woke up, this time to a moving train, confident that we had been moving for quite sometime. The announcement came that breakfast was being served so I made ready to play Lucion's game again. As the train began to stir, the rumors began circulating that the train had been delayed 4 hours in the night. 4 HOURS.
With a groan, I started sending text messages to my friends in Chicago who were waiting for me to arrive. Bailey in particular had taken off work to meet me at the station at 2pm for an arrival that would probably not occur until late in the night. I was not in a particularly chipper mood, but I was hungry so I moved upstairs to the dining car.
Lucion saw me and sat me down with two ladies who were also travelling alone. As I sat down, one of the ladies, who had been talking non-stop since I entered the car, nodded towards me and continued telling her lengthy life story to the unfortunate, yet very patient and kind, to the other lady sitting in the booth. I ordered some coffee and oatmeal and started listening myself to the autobiography flowing from this woman's lips.
As I watched her, it became clear that the woman was either completely drunk or had not gotten a moment of sleep during the night. Her eyes closed, one and then the other, and then opened again as she talked. She was getting to the part about meeting her now husband on the internet when she almost fell asleep face first in her french toast. The other lady was long gone, but I was still finishing my food when she looked up seemingly confused that I was alone. She said, "I'm sorry, I don't know what I was saying. If I fall asleep in my french toast, laugh, because you're giggle might wake me up."
She then told me that she was a coach passenger and when the train stopped in the night she had slid off of her chair and onto the pathway in between the seats. The night was a series of slipping, falling, getting up, and then slipping again.
I suddenly realized that I could have been potentially peering at myself if my Dad hadn't graciously upgraded my ticket. Again. Thank you, thank you, Dad.

11:30 am
We were passing into St. Louis I decided to check out the lounge car and take in the view of a city I had never seen before. I was interested in seeing the great Arch and taking in what I could. I wrapped myself in my warmest shawl, grabbed a book and my iPhone, and headed up to the great windows. All of the seats were fixed in their outward staring position and getting past them to be able to sit down was a little tricky. A bit like stadium seating or a movie theater. I didn't want to climb over other people so I picked the chair I wanted and stepped over and onto the chair before sitting down. As I righted myself, the man next to me began to stare.
I looked up and he started, saying, "Where were you raised?? You don't put your foot in a chair!"
Me (laughing a little): "You know what, you're right."
Old man (still very serious): "You young people I guess...."
Me (starting to realize that he is serious, in my best Texas accent): "You are right. I do apologize."
Old man (angry now): "I can't believe you just did that."
I was no longer amused by the old man's ramblings and feeling I had done my duty and politely apologized, I resumed righting myself in my chair and pulled out my iPhone. The old man continued to stare at me, which I ignored, and I continued staring at St. Louis. I needed a drink of some sort because whatever had just happened was just straight out of a Chevy Chase movie.


12:45pm
Time for lunch and the last round of Roulette for the trip. Thankfully, the kind ladies at the Valley View Surgery Center had stocked me well with food and water so that I was never in danger of going hungry. I still went up to the dining car for the sake of taking part fully in the railroad experience. This time, I was seated with two gentlemen from Austin, Tx. One man had sort of squirrely features and gold rings adorning most of his fingers, but he seemed friendly, harmless, and married. The other man smiled a toothless smile, reeked a bit of body odor, and loved to laugh at his own jokes. This was going to be a treat.
I quickly learned (as he was eager to tell) that the toothless man was recently divorced, had three children, and taught computer science at the University of Texas. As a Doctor of Computer Science, he said, he was expected to act and dress a certain way, but he didn't play by those rules and went to class comfortable. Yikes. While the other man left to check on his wife, the toothless professor from UT Austin (whose name escapes me) asked me some pointed, not-so-veiled, personal questions about my marital situation which I politely answered. We began complaining about the delay during the night and mentioned something off hand about wanting a bloody mary and he said "that sounds good. I think i'll join you. Matter-of-fact, I'll buy you one. Deal?" He stuck out his hand and at risk of ruining dinner I shook his hand and agreed.
At that moment, squirrely married man came back and we talked about our iPhones and all the cool apps. I welcomed the change in conversation and patiently finished my food while toothless man attempted to keep my attention and move in closer to "see my phone."
In a final attempt to win my affection, he started accidentally showing off hundred dollar bills and paid for his dinner with one such bill. Upon arrival of his change, which was mostly in $1 bills, he made a joke about the usefulness of such bills at strip joints to which I replied that I was very tired all of a sudden and was going to head for a nap. Thankfully, toothless professor man was in coach.
THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, DAD!

2:00pm
Original arrival time comes and goes. An announcement reverberates through the PA advising that we were about 5.5 hours behind schedule and that the crew was "sorry." Passengers were getting anxious, crew began snapping at anxious passengers, and there were no definite answers for or from anyone about our new ETA. I went back to sleep.

5:00pm
We are within walking distance from Chicago's Union Station, but we are halted again. Waiting for signal clearance. The conductor announces again his apologies and I fall back asleep. I finally order a bloody mary from Charlie and he brings me one along with a serving of delicious bread pudding. AWESOME.

6:30pm
We roll into Union Station and I feverishly text Bailey that I'm off the train and in the baggage claim. She comes around the corner and we begin readying ourselves for the hug to commence when, out of nowhere, a wandering woman blocks her path, asks her for money, and effectively ruins our moment of reunion! It's ok because we hugged it out anyway.

8:45pm
Bailey and I arrive with all of my bags at Aerin's house, we get inside, order a pizza and watch movies on the wall while unpacking. It was a good ending to a strange and unnecessarily long journey. But, i'd probably do it again. Just so I could tell about it later.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Tree that Smelled of HooHah

There was this tree where I went to college that I used to pass everyday on my way to class. It smelled unmistakably of a woman's hoohah and everyone knew it, even complained about it. It got worse during the early summer days and was not the most pleasant way to be made alert and ready for class. Some students actually thought it was some kind of conspiratorial plant; but, I think it was probably cheap and looked nice, so it became part of the campus landscape design accidentally. It was eventually torn down after I graduated so that other innocent students wouldn't be exposed to such foul feminine odor without their consent ever again.

As inappropriate as this post may be thus far, what's more inappropriate is what made me think of that tree and its interesting fragrance in the first place, after all of these years. I have been reading the famous bestselling memoir, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, about a man from Sierra Leone who survived his war torn childhood to come to New York and write about his past. It is a beautiful book so far, one that I would recommend to anyone wanting to know more about the violence in Africa from the perspective of a child compelled to give up his childhood. It is vividly dark (if that is possible), so that you can almost smell the blood he has drenched himself in
(no, this is not where I started to think about strange odors) and yet his innocence is still present even many years later. Perhaps he fought to regain it, I haven't gotten that far yet.

As I read, my mind began to wander to my own past and how fortunate I had been.
The most uncomfortable I had felt in my 4 years of college (aside from obvious growing pains situations) was being forced to endure an unfortunate-smelling tree everyday. I was never forced to become part of a rebel and immature army of raiders and rapists like this boy had. Or to kill my classmates who didn't meet the ridiculous, superstitious expectations of the professor. I am awaking once again the way that tree used to wake me up as I passed it on my way to Spanish class; unexpectedly.

I smile when I remember the day when, sitting down for lunch, I waited until a lull occurred in the conversation around the caf' table. I suddenly posed a sheepish, yet direct question that had been weighing on my heart all year. I asked, "have you guys ever noticed how that tree near Singers smells like hoohah?"
After a moment, everyone screamed together, "OH MY GOD, you noticed that too?? I THOUGHT IT WAS ONLY ME! That tree totally smells like hoohah." It was a good day.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Jealous of My Church: Reflections on Guatemala

I sat alone on the 70th Anniversary of the foundation of my church in Dallas, Tx. It was an event honoring the growth and positive direction my fellow congregates had begun to adopt. My work in Guatemala is only one example of the vast amount of humanitarian aid my church is willing to send out into the worlds of great need. I went to support my Dad who was standing up in support of his fledgling ministry made up of the Latin community beginning to emerge and increase within the church membership. He is a pioneer and a sometimes unpopular reminder that things change. I am still in awe of his timeless innocence and his unassuming character that makes him almost universally approachable, likable, trustworthy. What better time to celebrate that sentiment than at a service meant to showcase the convergence of present, past and future, revisit founding principles, and apply those teachings to the present moment. I was so proud of my Dad sitting at his keyboard boldly performing the salsa praise music that was rarely heard in the large congregation hall, but that his small gymnasium following had come to call Sunday best. My heart swelled further as Pastor Miller, who I had met for the first time in Guatemala, reported on the ways in which my church was touching the lives of people in the farthest reaches of the globe: Ethiopia, India, Bangladesh, Guatemala, Peru, China. I knew of these endeavors, but as I listened their stories and his hopes for our continued patronage, a few strange feelings came over me.

Jealousy.
I was jealous of my church. I wanted to be my church and do the work it was doing. I wondered how I had missed the boat. These were all locations (aside from Ethiopia) of which I had intimate knowledge. Where was my memo about all of this awesomeness? How do I get to be involved? Wasn't I already involved? I felt like I'd been passed over for a perfect position in favor of an institution. This was of course enormously irrational, but I am a 26 year old woman living at home once again. My tether is wearing thin.

Sadness
I feel my life is meant to be spent in service, but my own church seems to swat at my attempts to give my time. Giving it away has been my usual practice, even now. I expect greatness from myself, but I cannot be sure that greatness expects anything from me.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Guatemalan Independence Day

Today was a big day. Guatemala's Independence Day. 182 years of independence from Spain!
Unfortunately, it was not Celeste's day to enjoy.
Celeste (my ward) and I were told to get up early because Andrea would be coming for us at 9am to go to the parades downtown near the government palace. We got up, showered, got ready... and waited. and waited. Finally, we get a call from Andrea at 9:15 that she's left her house and is on here way. Ok, so psyched! Let's do this. Celeste really wanted to see her old high school march on the city streets because she herself used to be a flag girl. We were really excited and really ready... we were still waiting at about 9:45am and Celeste's began getting restless. Guate time is a lot like Tico time!
We get another call right at about 10am from Andrea telling us to meet her at Mira Flores (the nearest shopping mall).
That required a multiple change, unexpectedly lengthy bus ride. First, we trekked to Paiz and waited for the right micro bus to come a long. By micro, I mean the size of a tourist van. The first one came, they told us there weren't any buses coming to take us to the center of the city so we might as well get in theirs. Celeste wasn't buying it and told them to move a long. The REAL bus came and it was a van about the size I was in during my internship days. Enough room for 10, this one was crammed with about 15 including the driver's entire family in the front seats. It was also the s l o w w e s t friggin' ride ever. It took us about 20 minutes to get to the next leg.
After stumbling out of the tiny van, we waited for another bus to arrive. Celeste was restless indeed. So, when the bus we needed passed us, she grabbed my hand and we raced to try and wave it down. It stopped and we jumped on. This was a true "bus" the likes of which I used to ride with my Mississippi girls in Wuhan. Old, rusty, few seats, and tons of people, yet fast as all get out. So, we were on the move. 15 minutes later we arrived where we were told to meet up and no one was there. Or at least we didn't see anybody, so we crossed the scary, barely standing sky bridge to wait by the pay phones on the other side. Neither of our phones seemed to be working or she would have called or picked up her line , right???!
So, we waited and it was hot and we were losing our fervor. We walked up to Mira Flores (the nearest shopping mall to beat the heat and see if she was waiting inside. We did more waiting. Celeste was sad because her high school band had probably already passed. We went up and down, waiting and waiting. It was not close to 11am and we were no closer to getting anywhere near downtown when we get the call. She could see us from across the street AND she'd been waiting in a car for a long time! The car had left and we had to catch ANOTHER bus to get down.
We jumped on to a loaded bus headed down to the parades. I'm glad there weren't any church groups running torches in the streets as is the custom to the detriment of traffic laws everywhere. We got as close as we could and started walking towards the sound of drums and xylophones. It was hot, I brought my umbrella so we had plenty of shade. Celeste was like a kid at her first parade. She wanted to be higher, closer, and she wanted to see every band that passed; however, we were pretty late. They started at about 7:45am and went until lunchtime for a break at about 12:30. We missed her school, but we still saw some great things. We even turned on the tv during our wait to see some of the big bands with huge costumes and dancers. Up close, we saw military bands marching in half time. We saw one group that was so disciplined, they weren't allowed to move at all, not even to take a drink. So, there were people to come by with bottles of water and pepsi to hold up to each boys' lips so they might not die of thirst in their full military-esque uniforms. We stayed until the very last bad went by and people began flooding the streets to find lunch. We waited for a bit and then started looking ourselves.
After a few failed attempts at finding a place that was not full of people, we realized that everywhere was full of the same people we were just brushing shoulders with in the street. We finally came to a 3rd choice restaurant, full of people still, but we decided to take a pizza to go. To go, means wait another 45 minutes in a place that has absolutely no extra seating. It was a shopping center full of internet cafes, a billiards bar, a movie theater, and a karaoke/food court. Celeste tried to wait for an open table inside the actual restaurant (Macarone), when she found one, another woman came up behind her and told her she'd been waiting longer than her. Celeste kindly explained that she was mistaken and the lady, in turn, called her a "liar." Celeste responded that she was indeed NOT a liar and walked away pretty annoyed.
Next, she tried to sit down on a stair step nearby since we'd been standing for hours. As soon as she did, a security guard told her to get up and move a long. She came over to me, defeated, and we took a stroll around the floor. On the way back, we passed the same stair where now there were kids hanging out all over it and the same security guard (to our astonishment) did nothing.
It was not her day.
Since there were no places to sit, we grabbed our pizza boxes and our pepsi and we went to the park to eat our lunch on a shady curbside. On the way, Celeste and Andrea picked out some cute, 10¢ earings from a street vendor and promptly lost them somehow. We retraced our steps, but they were so gone and she was so sad.
It was not her day.
She realized she'd misplaced about 200 quetzales (about $25).
Not her day.

We left the parade grounds and headed to Andrea's house where here sister was cuddling on her couch with her boyfriend in total darkness watching Rocky IV. Random??

It was a good day. Even though Celeste had a few (trillion) mishaps, she enjoyed herself and I had fun getting out of the house. It is now time to sleep. Goodnight!



Sunday, July 19, 2009

Day 8 - Huehuetenango

Pronounced "Way Way - tenango"

The orphanage here is very different from Manchen. It is larger with a huge area for play and recreation. There are two separate jungle gyms and a bunch of swings plus a basketball court. The kids range anywhere from 5 years to 18 years old, girls and boys. Today, Maria was the first little girl I met. She is 5 years old and I don´t think there is a cuter girl on this planet. Soon, when I have internet again on my computer. Erin and I spent about 45 minutes today taking video of Maria and her friends singing various songs that they found hilarious. It is a real treat and I´ll post it straight away.

The group we are helping out this week is a little smaller, but way more organized. This orphanage, also unlike Manchen, is fully privately funded and the man leading this group has spent most of his vast fortune building this wonderful place. >Huehuetenango is nestled in a beautiful valley with a population of about 100,000. Some of the girls from Manchen that I knew in March have moved to Huehuetenango and I was surprised and thrilled to see their faces today. Across the street from the orphanage is a fairground and the rides were up and running at around 10am. The owner allowed us and all of the children to ride for free this morning before regular fairgoers swarmed the rides and every child got to have a turn. I was pulled by my Manchen Rojito, Sandy, to the big ferris wheel that went way to fast for its size and age. I saw my life flash before my eyes, but the view wasn´t too bad.

Tomorrow, we go back and to some groundskeeping as well as an afternoon of playtime. I´ll post pictures as soon as I can.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Day 7 - Continued...

Yesterday, we were not scheduled to go to Manchen because everybody was still being sequestered after the massive escape/vengeance attempt 4 days ago. But, we went there anyway to stand outside and pray for them and their safety. As I went to the door, I could see the faces of the girls I'd come to love pleading back at me from behind the bars of the inner gate. Some were crying, some seemed stoically resigned to the disappointement of being deprived. I knew I shouldn't let them see me, but they knew I was there and they were calling my name. Luz wanted to tell me goodbye. Greisy wanted to give me a note she'd written for my brother, Mike. Maria Jose had written a folder full of letters to give to the friends she had made from our group of gringos, especially the boys she'd met. They were allowed to come into the antechamber one at a time to hand me letters, kiss my face, and tell me they loved me. I was able to touch their faces as well, tell them that I was always thinking of them and loved them more than they could imagine and that I would return in the weeks to come. At that, the huge wooden door was closed and I joined my companions as we held hands and silently prayed for the girls left inside to deal with (and be subject to) the aftermath of a failed prison break.
The truth is that Luz, Greisy, Maria Jose, and all their sisters inside Manchen have better chances at a better life if they stay inside the high walls of the orphanage, take English classes, and become educated. Many of them have families that they want to return to, but either their families cannot care for them or they simply do not want them. But, how do you tell that to a 15 year old girl, whose only thoughts are of a home where they can be free and loved by the people they love, that such a place does not exist? That they have to make it for themselves? And that I will help them if only they'd let me? Too many times I have witnessed the reality of those longings for the outside world when visiting day comes and the girls have been promised a visit from family. They wait and they pray and they wait for people that will never come and when the clock chimes for the last time, they crumble into themselves, inconsolable, to a place where I cannot go until they permit me inside. So, I am here. We are here. Because each of us has a relationship with one or more of the 110 girls living at Manchen, and now it is up to us to continue that relationship and be there.
As I was meditating on my girls and silently willing the walls to disappear, I could hear the locks on the heavy door being undone and suddenly the door opened again. We were being allowed inside. All of us. I almost burst into tears right then and there. It had been 4 days since we were last permitted to go inside. I did not know how much damage had been done or if any of the girls had been hurt or involved. I was a desperate woman. I flung the letters I was clutching in my hands at the people they were destined for, tucked the one for my brother into my pocket, looked to my leader for the final go-ahead, and then launched myself through the door and into the antechamber. The barred gate had not been opened yet, but that did not stop me from shoving my arms through the openings and holding Luz's face in my hands as she was always waiting there for us. As the gate was opened, we finally embraced as a few other girls gathered around for a big group hug. I turned and saw Greisy, with eyes red and swollen from her sobs. A few minutes before, I'd taken a letter from her to my brother and barely had a chance to promise he'd receive it before the door had been slammed between us. The cruelty of that moment was in its brevity and now she looked at me with eyes that told me she barely believed I was there, that I wanted to be there. I held her close as she heaved into my chest with tears still running rivers down her perfect face and we rocked together for another moment. Finally, she cracked a smile we began laughing together at the insanity of the situation. She said, "Te amo," and I answered "Te amo tambien, mi vida." I promised her that my brother Mike would get her letter and we unlocked ourselves with the knowledge that we had been one in our torment of separation. We had connected and now live in each other's hearts and minds forever. We parted and I turned again to see Maria Jose. She had made me a gift. Something she'd begun, but did not finish due to the lock down. It was a little piece of construction paper with a tiny hand-made fuzzball in the corner. She'd used some of the colored sand we'd brought the previous time we'd been able to visit to create a decorative border. I believe, had she had the time, a note would have been written inside the border, but as it was it was perfect. I hugged her and told her I loved her, too.

All of this happened in the space of 20 minutes. I did not get to speak to everyone and many faces were missing from the sea that engulfed us in front of the antechamber. I was shocked when Luz told me that 23 girls were involved in the escape attempt. Only 4 or 5 were friends with the girl who was sent away. All 23 had been placed on highest level restriction and place behind the bars of high security. We could see them leaning from inside their cell against the bars that were punishing them as they watched us gather with the other girls who were not involved in the incident. They had broken windows, light fixtures, and tore up the tiny chapel area inside the antechamber, which indicates that they came very close achieving their foolish goal of escape. They must have been planning this for some time and they definitely made their point, but at the expense of everyone else. All 110 girls have been stripped of computer and television privileges for one month and no one can attend extra-curricular activities such as painting class in that time as well. I remember being glad to see that the girls could enjoy some television in their downtime so that the walls around them might seem less persistent, but now that is over. I understand the necessity for strict enforcement and I do not pretend to know what it must be like to run a state orphanage in Guatemala. But, I am glad that we were allowed a few seconds to share their discomfort and wipe away their tears before leaving for Huehuetenango. After our 20 minutes were over, we said our final goodbyes and pried away the small hands that clutched as us to stay. We walked away solemly, exhausted and sick with sadness. We were told that another visit may be possible in a few weeks, but as I have already written... things change.

Pray for these girls and the continuance of hope that rests deep in their hearts, that it remain a source of strength for them and pray that they never forget how much I love them and that the Lord loves them so much more.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Day 7 - Climb Volcano, Check.

Wow, there is a lot to relate since I wrote last. We have made plans, had them changed, made them again. Those plans included hanging out at the Manchen orphanage with the girls, climbing a volcano in the hopes of seeing some real live lava flow, and playing with the local villagers of Alotenango. Some of these plans were successfully completed, while others encountered major setbacks.

The girls of Manchen are the main purpose of our week long stint here in Antigua. But circumstances have arisen that have made our travel to the tiny, overpopulated, prison-of-sorts, impossible. The first day we arrived to play, hang out, and talk with these special girls, a very dramatic scene began to play out. (Though many of us gringos didn't seem to notice) That day, one girl was suddenly transferred to a different orphanage 4 hours away. She was a gangbanger before being brought to Manchen (probably scooped up by the police) and a rival gang became aware of her permanent whereabouts and made it known that there was a hit out on her. This particular girl was also a lesbian and had a girlfriend at the orphanage and ran with a few other girls who idolized her and her way of life. Unfortuantely, that life includes violence and revenge as well as empowerement. Her leaving brought tears and cries for justice from those she left behind. Those tears turned to rage and two days later, those same girls vandalized the courtyard, breaking glass and attempting to escape. Perhaps they were trying to be sent away as well, so they could all be together again. At any rate, while the orphanage is being put back together and the girls are placed on serious lock-down, we are not permited to visit. Hopefully, we will visit tomorrow, but there's no guarantee.

video