The new home. This home had some differences from the last home but many similarities. Some things were better and some were worse. Some of the kids were nicer and some were meaner. I’m not going to spend time describing the home in detail – it’s not important. People (at Americans) are so obsessed with living conditions. How nice is the home? How good is the food? Do you have hot water? How is school? Do you have toys to play with?
Let me tell you, none of that matters. I would have rather been back with my family in our little block house with no running water (except when it rained) than to be in a new luxury home without my family.
In my later years, I read about the Jews suffering terrible horrible conditions in the Nazi camps of WW2. Those people faced disease, torture, starvation and death and yet they they wanted to live. Think about that: why did they have the will to live? I have everything now but I don’t. What happened to me? What crushed the spirit in me that the Jews thrived on?
I learned how to lie. Lie about everything. Survive without caring. Survive without loving. Lie about how I feel, what I want, what I did. Lies and more lies. Cover up. Blend in. I did what was expected and go with the flow. Going with the flow people and people won’t suspect me. Blend in and stay hidden. Smile and everyone assumes I’m ok. Don’t bring attention. After awhile I didn’t even know who I was anymore. Smile. Smile and seem happy. Smile and do what people want to see. Lie. Survive the day, the night, no one really knows who I am because I don’t know who I am.
Boys or girls thrown together in a room are not family. They really aren’t friends. We co-existed. Tell me – if you know any orphans that came out of an orphanage, do they want to see other children that they lived with in the orphanage? Most don’t. I’m not attached to anyone. I’m just surviving with a smile.
So, I’ve been removed from my family, my aunt, a stranger and now I’m packing to leave the boys home. I say goodbye to the boys in my room and our room mother. No one shows any emotion. Why would they and why would I? We’re barely human. We’re shuffled around from place to place like cattle. No one wants us. We don’t belong anywhere. We’re a burden on the system – someone needs to run “homes” to care for us. People donate food for us to eat and clothes for us to wear. We live in Guatemala and all of us are wearing American T-shirts printed with English slogans and ads that none of us can read. I leave with a couple changes of clothes, one pair of shoes . . . no personal items – remember, they’ve been stolen or broken.
I climb into a van and we begin the hour drive to another “home”. I don’t know where it is. What difference does it make. I could be 5 minutes away from my family but it wouldn’t matter. No one is going to visit me. I don’t know what my “home” address is or where it is. Some boys talk about finding their family when they turn 18. Where would I begin looking? I have no idea where they are or if they are even still alive. I hurt inside. I’m closing down. How could I ever open up to anyone again? How could I trust anyone? I’m dead inside.
We go through the metal gates to the new “home”. There are block buildings with tin roofs scattered around. Dirty children play in the yard. Older children are playing futbal (soccer). There are frames for goals but no net. There are boys and girls in this home. There are workers doing laundry. Large clothes line run from building to building with clothes of all sizes hanging on them to dry. A couple of ratty scrawny dogs run around while children throw stones at them.
This is home, I guess. What difference does it make? I’ve been abandoned.
Months went by at the orphanage but I learned that it really wasn’t an orphanage – it was a boy’s home. In Guatemala, there are children’s homes where the children aren’t eligible for adoption and there are orphanages where some or all of the children are eligible (or are in the process). When I was rescued from the streets, I was placed in an all boys children home.
I began to meet with a social worker which was followed by court appointments. I didn’t know what any of it meant. They asked me a lot of questions. Some things I made up and some stories were true. Some stories were blended together with stories from other boys. Because of my age and confusion over the whole system I soon came to a point where I didn’t know what was truth and what was a lie. All the boys had stories. Which ones were true was up to anyone’s guess.
My meetings with the court were boring. I often missed entire days of school while going out to these meetings. No one told me what was going on. Finally, the older boys told me – I was going through the process of abandonment so that I could be adopted.
Abandonment? What did that mean? I had a mother, a brother, and 2 sisters. That much I knew and I wasn’t making it up. If only I could talk to them. This couldn’t be right. Why would they abandon me forever? I could understand a few months while we worked something out. I could understand a couple of years until I could earn money.
What did all of this mean?
I soon got into the groove of living in the orphanage. Things didn’t change much from day to day. I slowly made friends with the boys in my room and our room mother, Josephine was nice unless we didn’t do our work. I guess some people would guess that the worst part of life here was the conditions or the food. That wasn’t it for me. For me and I think everyone else it was the longing to be back with our families.
Volunteer helpers stopped at the home most days. Some were Guatemalan and some were Americans. The Guatemalans mainly helped with work around the home – laundry, cleaning, cooking, yard work. The Americans came to play with us, teach in school, and do odd jobs around the home. Sometimes groups of Americans would come. They always brought gifts and candy and sometimes they took us on field trips. Most of them did not speak Spanish but we learned enough English to understand what they were saying.
They always talked about taking us home. We never understood what they were talking about. Were they serious? Were they really going to take us home? All of us had been left by our families but we didn’t know if they were going to really take us or not. We loved the attention and affection that the groups would share but they always left. They said they would be back but they never didn’t.
The gifts they gave were either broken, lost, or stolen. By the next day they were always gone. Nothing stayed around the home for long. Soccer balls were broken or kicked over the wall. We learned to survive on very little and we learned to use our affection to get things but to guard our hearts at the same time. None of us wanted to be hurt again.
part 2, the orphanage
My first night in the orphanage was long. The room was made up of concrete bunkbeds with thin mattresses. I shared my room with 9 other boys who all seemed to know each other well. There were other rooms with boys of other ages and one large bathroom. A room mother named Josephine got me settled with my clothes and where I would sleep. The other boys tried to talk to me but I just wanted to be alone. I still didn’t know why I was here or what happened to my family.
In the morning we woke at 6 a.m. and everyone had chores to do. Josephine showed me around and told me that I would help her with cleaning. At 8:00 a.m. a bell rang and everyone ran for breakfast which was eggs, frijoles and tortillas. Everyone ate so fast and some boys stayed to help cleanup when we were done.
School started at 9 in the dining room. From this point on I realized we were living a set schedule every day. Get up at 6, clean and do chores until 8, eat from 8 until 8:30, school at 9, lunch at 1, school again at 2, free time at 3, dinner at 5, homework until 7, showers and bed by 8. The next day it started all over. Everyone else understood the schedule and tried to help me to get with it.
No one talked about their families. Everyone understood that they were either abandoned, too poor to stay with their family, abused, rescued or just lost in the system. I was lonely, sad, angry and confused. I didn’t know why I was here or when I would leave. Where was my mom and why didn’t she come to get me?
This is part 2 of Abandoned, a fictional story of international adoption.