Monday, May 29, 2006

ABP House Revisited

After a week that was unnecessarily long due to the fact that I counted every second of it – including at night, during which I woke up to keep the counting going, fell asleep at odd hours, and then woke up again to resume it all – finally Saturday morning dawned.

We had arranged transportation to visit the girls at the orphange again that day, and we planned to spend the morning going shopping for some additional items for the Ang Bahay Parola girls, using some money generously donated by Tim’s parents – Gene and Darlene. For this installment of the donation, we decided to get a large variety of underwear (sounds odd, but that is what the staff said they needed) as well as some more everyday clothes for the girls – focusing on the older girls this time.

As we walked over to SM, I remembered that when Tim went shopping for the first round of clothes, he told me that he would not be picking out underwear for the girls without me. I basically understood why. It is a little odd to see a grown man buying a large size range of little girl underwear, and possibly even little girl clothes, but most people draw the line at underwear.

In addition, sadly, this is a place where apparent exploitation of children/teens by forign adult men (and vice-versa) is common. I have become so accustomed to seeing much older expat men walking hand-in-hand with girls looking approximately 12 years old that it is almost commonplace, but even so, we want to always guard against the appearance of looking improper. This has even been something Tim is very conscious of in his play and roughhousing with the girls at the home.

Anyway, for all of those reasons, I was in charge of the underwear buying. When we got up to the children’s section, another reason he didn’t want to do this himself became obvious. Even if you try to be subtle as a shopper, you are instantly surrounded by 5-6 sales women trying to be helpful and asking what size your child is and if she is fat or not (their helpful attempt at getting sizes), and so he would have stuck out even more. We made our purchases of a wide variety of underwear and undershirts and headed to the teens section. We picked out a number of outfits in this section, sorting through all the incredibly inappropriate shirts with highly sexual phrases on them and picked some that would be appropriate. Here again you have to do somewhat of a reality check. Granted – we were in the teens section, but the same clothes that fit 11 year olds here also fit many people in their mid 20’s. I’ll go out on a limb and say maybe that is why the teens section needs to have clothes with “Oral Me” (with a spoof of the Ora-Gel product logo), “This Shirt Would Look Better on Your Floor”, and other such phrases.

Whatever…maybe every country in the world has such things, and I just don’t notice because I don’t have kids. After we had all the stuff we needed for one day, we went to check out and got 3 free wristband watches (fuzzy and hot pink) with our purchases. Given the size of our purchase, we should have been entitled to 15 of them, but I was not going to get all upset having a common sense math argument with the woman right before visiting the girls. We'll let the orphange staff let the girls fight over those- we won't get involved! :)

We got home in time to spread out the items so Tim could photograph what we got to show his parents (this purchase used only approximately 1/3 of the donation).

[About 40 pairs of underwear!]

After this we finished up a few things around the house, and left to meet our driver. We had a good time playing with the girls as always. When we arrived, the front entrance was locked, and so we came around a different way. The girls saw Tim first and started shouting out the windows “KUYA TEAM!, KUYA TEAM!” (With the Filipino accent, "Tim" sounds like “Team” and they spell it "T-e-a-m" as well…when they write my name, they spell it correctly which really impresses me, because it is not a common name).

[This is (by height): Manilyn, Jessica and Girlie..I'm blindfolded, trying to guess which one is which!)

The social worker was there and asked if we could spend some time tutoring the girls in their English because the home was applying for a private school and the girls needed to interview. We did this, and asked typical questions such as “What is your name?”, “How old are you?”, “What do you like to study?”, “Do you like sports?”. Ike was there to translate for some of the girls.

After this, we watched the dances that some of the older girls had made up “for praising Jesus” and then we all headed up to the upstairs play area. Some of the neighborhood boys saw Tim and came up to play as well. Tim plus the allure of the girls usually brings them out. I felt a little bad because I could not toss them around like I usually do. I have been having an enormous amount of pain in my back, which normally I tolerate, but lately has been extreme – not even allowing me to sleep well. I was able to lift them up for pull ups for a while, but then had to turn them over to Tim.

[Here's a video of the girls jumping rope]

We also brought along large sheets of butcher paper and PlayDough this time which was a big hit. Some of the girls drew pictures of Tim and I, which was really cute. One of the other girls noticed Tim's picture had no hair so she drew some for him and labeled it “This is hair for Team.” They made roses, animals and food (which they served to Tim) out of the playdough, which got incredibly dirty almost instantaneously from their hands and the table they were playing on.

Lately when we go there, almost all of my time it spent with Manilyn. She is the “Little Keysi” from previous posts and she is getting very attached. I am trying not to get too attached, but it is hard not to. She made us a card which was so precious. She had it in her bunk bed all ready for us. She has started asking me questions such as “If you have a baby, do you want a girl or a boy?” followed by “Which is your favorite child at this house?” (which I tell her everyone is very special and I can’t answer that, and then I ruffle her hair). She understands English very well, although does not always speak it clearly, so you will see a lot of pictures of us together where I have a strange face on trying to figure out exactly what she is trying to tell me.

Tim has also his group of girls that are very attached to him. These include Michelle (which is also attached to our driver, Ike), Jessica, Daisy, and Girlie. I worry about all this, of course. I wonder if we can possibly be doing any good to spend time with them when it will end in 2 months and they will be sad. For example, they still ask us when Elizabeth is coming back and honestly do not seem to understand that she is back in the U.S.

[Today, the girls told me that I had "Small ears- like a mouse." This resulted in mass amounts of laughter from the other girls...I've never had anyone comment on my ears before.]

After the visit with the girls and goodbyes from everyone – which spilled out to the street as usual, as they all crowd at the gate to say goodbye – we drove back in the rain. We cleaned up and got ready to go out for dinner, since we wanted to have a nice evening together. We decided to go to Global Café which has very good food and a quiet atmosphere. It started to rain really hard while we were inside eating, and we walked home in the rain, but it was not too bad. It felt relaxing to go to sleep with the sound of the thunder and the rain outside.

[I took some videos of the girls, and have been experimenting with some other video-hosting options, so let me know if any of you have issues viewing these, each is about 20 seconds long:]

Here's the girl's practising their dance.
Here's Girlie and Michelle on the swings.
This is Kendra playing "London Bridge" with the girls.
Here's some more girls playing, and Manilyn talking to Kendra
And saying "Good bye".


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