I spent a while in East Tijuana at Unidos por Siempre orphanage with María and some of the kids who live there.
One night Angelica was telling a story about how there is an evil spirit in her house. I fake pretended to be a ghost and said “espíritu” in a spooky way, only to be corrected very adamantly to not taunt the spirit and if I was going to say the word to say “espíritus” not “espíritu”, because if you say the singular form the spirit will come and haunt you. I also learned that you can tell if a spirit is malicious based on whether it moves objects and whether it will show itself at night or daytime.
I took a couple hours every day trying to teach Fernando and Stefany the alphabet, as neither of them could read. Probably the most important texts that I have received for a long time were from my uncle (who used to be a special needs teacher) through María’s phone as I had no internet connection, giving me a few tips. After my first tries, much frustration, and feeling hopeless I cut out an extra set of letters to match with my first one. I told the Stefany and Fernando that we were going to play a matching game with a few of the letters and both immediately became more interested in the letters and by the end of my time there though Stefany could barely get through A-F, Fernando sometimes could do almost the entire alphabet. I do not know if I am cut out to be a teacher, but I certainly learned a lot about patience from the experience. Progress was slow and uncertain and I had to stay calm even when Stefany would forget a letter a couple seconds after she had learned it, or when Fernando would run outside to see what the other kids were doing.
My Spanish is good enough to understand most of what is being said and to read simple children’s books, but according to one fourteen-year-old boy my speech is “cuatro por diez”, or in other words I speak like an eight-year-old, which may or not have added to why he was so interested in my romantic life. However, language is not the only way to build a friendship. Letting a little girl sleep in your bed at night because she is afraid of the dark, or the crowding around of two kids playing connect four can do as much to build relationships as long conversations about why someone’s dad only takes one sibling home for the weekend.
Most of my days were spent playing cards, helping with odd cleaning jobs, lazily reading and laughing at dumb jokes. This week was Sabbath living. I was more fully a human being, and less of a human doing.