It’s really neat to watch our kids come alive here. Neither of them are the shy type, but it has been a big adjustment for them.. to approach children that look and sound different from American kids. Not only that, but the local kids also find them to look and sound strange.
Their early interactions involved a little confusion and a bit of intimidation. But, as the weeks and months have worn on, these emotions have melted into curiosity and acceptance. They have all come to realize that the other is not an alien from another planet… rather, a kid just the same as them.. with a little different coloring.
Before they reached the current state of play, it was fascinating to watch their interactions change as they dared to investigate the strange and unknown. Often, the local kids would want to touch the odd, light-colored hair of our children. Sometimes, ours and theirs, would intertwine their fingers and look with wonder at how we can all be the same, but so different at the same time. And the most interesting is when adults and children alike, stoop down to peer into their eyes to check the color. They are often surprised that none of us have blue eyes, an apparent stereotype of the light-haired, light-skinned gringo. Sometimes, people are shocked to learn that Carlos is Ecuadorian. He is considered light skinned, and very tall for this culture.
Although the kids are I are by no means fluent in Spanish, but we have learned enough now to engage other children. We can ask to join in with play in progress and we can invite an onlooker to come into our circle as well. And kids, they have a knack for making their needs and wants know, with little to no words.
In the past week, I’ve taken a step back…refusing to do the inviting for them, and largely just looking on from a distance to see what unfolds.(Or, maybe just prodding a little, by mentioning that I see someone playing nearby). It has come at no surprise, that they really don’t need me anymore. In fact, we even had an instance when Peanut happily grabbed the hand of another little girl and walked off with not a single glance behind. I let her get a full block away before scolding her and reminding her of the need to check with me before leaving…only to congratulate her in the next sentence, for her bold initiative!
Monkey has become the true heart-throb of the town, attracting the adoration of every passing girl from ages 12-22, and sometimes beyond! They fawn over him, fight each other to hold him and kiss him, and they even tease him.. having learned to say, “Won’t you come home with me?”. Although they are not serious, I’m sure he would also happily walk away with any of them.
It’s nice to see them fitting in, becoming apart of this friendly small town. I genuinely appreciate the welcome and acceptance, as I realize that we have passed the warming period and have officially graduated from tourists to residents.
Now, if only the rest of the world could see how simple it is, to understand that friendship and acceptance have very few barriers. That culture, religion, and physical appearance have no relevance on the kindness of the others. What if we could ALL just see beyond the surface, do a little investigation, and come to the understanding that we are no different from each other?