Christmas Day at the orfanato was PERFECT.
The day began with baloney and egg sandwiches, french fries, and apples for breakfast.
Victor, Alzira, Santos, Helder, and Adini in the kitchen.
The weather was very hot but we were thrilled that it did not rain. We set up tables, chairs, and bamboo mats under a huge cashew tree, our current dining hall when it's not raining.
Simba patrolling for food during breakfast.
After breakfast all the little boys (whose clothes have worn down to almost nothing from playing) got new shirts and shorts that people sent from America. Look how handsome they are now!
Manuel, Samito, Mauricio, Canito, Belson, and Dionisio in their new clothes.
Next was Capture the Flag and it was SO fun. None of the kids had ever heard of a game like this before but all were able to understand the rules easily (unlike when I tried to do baseball last year and couldn't stop people from returning to bases they had already passed). We made a border across the whole property with little stones and the kids decided that one side was Mozambique and the other was Congo. I think this is the best Capture the Flag group possible. The thrill and enthusiasm that comes from the kids here is so energizing. Even Mama Maria played and chased and caught people. I think this was the most fun spectator experience I've ever had. Victor has malaria so he couldn't play but was laughing as he watched the entire time. Though everyone has shoes now, most still prefer to play soccer and other running games barefoot, so there were tons of feridas ("wounds," another one of my favorite Portuguese words) happening but no crying. All the ones with feridas were the ones who didn't want the game to end the most. I can not WAIT to play this again.
After Capture the flag most kids were too tired to go on, but some continued playing other games that I'm not going to attempt to explain. I'll just say they were fun and funny as well.
Back, Knee, Foot Game.Macua game involving bridges, singing, and carrying people shorter than you.
Finally it was time to eat dinner. We had chicken, rice, a gourmet salad created by Victor (that included Italian salami, feta cheese, and three kinds of beans nobody here had ever eaten before), french fries, and refrescos (soft drinks). All the food was REALLY good.
Rock, Carlitos, and Ruben.
Clara, Minoca, Leonora, Silas, and Tercia.
Victor's siblings: Estefano, Miqueias, and Carmina. Simba patrolling for fallen food again.
Ofeita, Belson, and Isac Pequeno.
Victor's parents went to Cuamba to visit his oldest sister Madalena for Christmas but all the other brothers and sisters, nieces, and some cousins were able to come to the orfanato. Estefano traveled from Pemba in Cabo Delgado Province, Carmina traveled from somewhere in the jungle a few hours from here where she has been working for an NGO, Heliane came from Niassa Province where she has been working this year, and Miqueias from Nacala where he is in his last year of agriculture school.
Sisters, Cousins, and Nieces: Laura, Carmina, Artimiza, Estalinda, and Heliane; Front: Milena, Vana, and Amelia.
Victor's Family: Estalinda, Laura, Charles, Artimiza, Victor, Carmina, Estefano, Miqueias, and Heliane; Front: Amelia, Milena, and Vana
Finally it was time for presents!
Kids lined up, waiting to receive gifts.
This year we received amazing gifts for the kids. The church in Utah compiled cards, letters, and presents for everyone and sent it all in big boxes. We were also able to add things from South Carolina, Seattle and a few other places as well. And every single child got a GREAT present. I don't even know how to explain what it was like when the kids opened them but I have honestly never seen anything like it. I knew the kids would be excited but their reactions were so far beyond that. It was like pure jubilation.
Kids opening presents.
The kids really went CRAZY over their presents. Everyone was screaming and clapping and jumping up and down and ripping everything open and then exclaiming huge joy over whatever they found. Even though they have had stickers and candy before it was like this was the first time.Many kids brought their cards and letters to ask what they said and after reading several and seeing how the kids were listening so intently and smiling I started even getting really emotional - a card or letter would say something like "welcome to our family" or "we have your picture and are praying for you." To read this and then look at the child's face and see how meaningful and what a big deal this is to him or her -I can't really describe this but all the kids, since they have ended up living in an orphanage, have obvioulsy come from some kind of tragedy and place where they did not have someone able to care for them. So when you see them listen to a letter where a family is saying, "we are praying for YOU" - it's just really big. I just wish all those who have written to the kids, not just this Christmas but ever - if you could see what a big deal it is - it's really a big deal. The other thing that was so funny - one child asked if "this" was to eat, about to put a big chunk of playdough in his mouth. We were like, "No! Not this one!" Everyone thought it was really funny. After that we saw all the kids scrambling to bring all their candy to find out if it's "to eat." Little Caneto ran full speed to his bag and then returned as fast as he could, out of breath, with a little pixie stix in his hand, demanding excitedly, "What is it?!!!" I said it was to eat and he was jubilant all over again, ripping it open and running off. He reappeared a minute later with all these nerds (the candy) in his palms, out of breath again, asking if it's to eat, as if he would collapse if he didn't get an answer soon enough because he couldn't wait another second to find out. Another kid came with pez candy and another with tic-tacs. The girls remembered they had learned about tic-tacs from Ashlie and were happy to "see them again." I don't think I ever really realized how exciting American candy is! It's like toys and candy at the same time.The day finally ended with an orfanato picture slide show and a huge cake made by Janete.Thank you so much everyone who made this Christmas Day possible for us. We had SO much fun. Thank you so much for all the gifts and letters you sent, as well as the financial support that made it possible to have a huge feast today with special food! Not just this month but all year - every single thing that is received here is greatly, greatly appreciated and makes ALL the difference. Thank you. God Bless you. And Feliz Natal! (Portuguese for Merry Christmas!)