On our first full day in Batey 50, both our group from Quinnipiac and the kids were a bit hesitant to reach out and start making friends with one another. During the tour around Batey 50, a little yet quite outgoing girl grabbed my hand. She told me her name was Angelina. I introduced myself and she repeated my name back to me to make sure she had gotten it right.
After spending most of the day shoveling and meeting other residents of Batey 50, Angelina and I met up again before heading back to Casa Pastoral. A group of us sat along the train track outside the bus. The kids played with our phones and our hair, which Angelina continued to refer to as “pelo Americano” or “pelo de un caballo”. I got a kick out of her comments and her sassy attitude throughout the week.
The next morning we arrived back in Batey 50. The kids surrounded the bus and reunited with their friends they made the previous day. I didn’t see Angelina anywhere so I assumed she was off somewhere in the Batey. All of a sudden, I noticed an older girl was yelling something and was looking over the crowd. It took me a minute to realize that it was my name she was calling over and over. I didn’t recognize her, but I began walking over to her to see what was going on. Beside the girl, disguised by the crowd was little Angelina who had been shouting my name with the help of her older friend. I was shocked that she had been waiting for me personally and had asked for help to find me.
Throughout the week, Angelina and I spent time together dancing, laughing, taking pictures, and watching people play basketball. Although we may not have been able to communicate as freely as we do with peers on a normal day-to-day basis, it was amazing to see just how easy it is to form a bond with someone even though you may not speak the same language. It was truly heartwarming knowing I had a friend in the Batey to look forward to seeing each day, and that she and all the other children were looking forward to seeing us. I feel so fortunate to have been able to have this experience and form relationships with the most genuine and accepting people I have ever met.
Even though it’s been just over a week since returning home, I still find myself thinking about Angelina and the other people I met in Batey 50 and wondering how they are doing. They have made such an impact on my life; I hope to return someday soon and visit my new friends.