"Want to walk with me for a minute?" I whisper, and she nods and stands up. I take her hand and we wander a few feet away, to out of sight of the rest of the girls around a corner.
I hug her and she burrows into my neck, still crying.
"What´s up, babe?"
She doesn´t say anything, just shakes her head and stays buried into me.
"Anything happen, or just a sad day?"
She pulls back, shrugs, wipes her eyes.
"I just don´t want to be here."
"Here, like out to lunch? Here at Albergue?"
"I just..." she starts crying again. "I don´t want to be in Bolivia. I want to go far away."
She is 14. She is an orphan. She´s slept under bridges, been bounced around from center to center in the city before landing here. In the house, she is a cheerful presence, laughing and making jokes constantly (she is the one who rubbed flour on her face and announced she was American). She always does her chores without being asked.
"I want to go somewhere far away"... I know that feeling. Don´t we all have days like that? I have no idea what to say. I tell her I feel like that sometimes, too. And I think to myself goodness knows I felt like that at 14 often enough.
What do I need when I feel this way, I pray desperately. I try to channel my mother. I pull this girl close and kiss the top of her head. I rub her back in slow circles and murmur whatever comforting sounds I can think of into her hair.
"I´m sorry you´re sad. We all love you so much and we´re so glad you´re here."
Is it too cheesy to give her a Bible verse... is it forcing faith down her throat, minimizing her pain? But this is the real thing I think of when I feel this way, that I want to be nowhere or anywhere but here, that my emotional clothes don't fit.
"Can I tell you something from the Bible?"
She nods into my shoulder.
"One of my favorite verses says, ´Lord, You are our home.´ Sometimes I feel like that too... like I want to be anywhere but here, like I just want to go somewhere new and start over. Like just... aahhh!" I let go of her and dance like a crazy person for a second, shaking my body and head, trying to convey the whole, 'Nothing works and everything sucks!' feeling. She laughs. "And when I feel that way, I try to think of that. The Lord is our home. He is our house," (I noticed this week that the Spanish Bible translates Psalm 90:1 as "nuestra casa"- literally, our house). I lean my head over my knees and fold my arms up, trying to get the point across of hiding in God, and also still trying to make her laugh. "...I try to imagine I can actually just live in Him, when I don't feel like I live anywhere."
She wipes her face and smiles a little, and nods. I go back to hugging her and we kind of rock for a minute.
"OK. I'm ready to go back now."
2. The girls have BIEBER FEVER. It is ALL about Justin Bieber. We listen to him every morning as we do chores and every afternoon as we hang out outside and they frequently ask us to translate lyrics- this is, for the record, the mark of truly great lyrical talent, if the translation from English to Spanish is exactly the same: ("Oh, oh, oh, baby, baby..."). And the other night I got asked in total seriousness for his email address. Cause you know, Justin and I are bffl.
Yesterday morning was my last breakfast in the house. I am sad and quiet, but trying to be cheerful. The girls have been telling me how sad they are, too. "Hermana, please don't leave." "Hermana, when can you come back?".
Justin is playing over the CD player as we eat our bread and tea... I have an idea.
"Hey, girls. What if I called you next week and said, Hey, I'm coming back to Albergue for a year..."
"...OR, I told you that I could send Justin to be here at Albergue for a year. Me. Or Justin. Who would you choose?"
There is silence at the breakfast table. The girls stare at each other. Finally one clears her throat and offers...
"Um... could we maybe... have both of you?"
I had the absolute coolest goodbye party at the Cochabamba airport. All the other travelers were totally jealous.
Man do I miss them already.
So so so so so thankful for these past two weeks and all of these beautiful faces.