As I descended the steps from my accommodation to be given a tour of the girls home, I was too tired to be nervous. I had gotten up at 3 am, to be in transit for 8 hours, but the hot air was clearing my flu symptoms and I felt oddly calm. I walked around the premises, trailing after the carer, hearing names I’d never heard before that slipped through my memory like flour through a sieve. Eduviges, Fernanda, Damari…
The girls wander about the compound, supervised by carers called “Tías”, the younger girls shouting and laughing, the older girls whispering their gossip from school. Music blares from handheld speakers in the shape of cars. Neighbourhood boys from the other side of the wall peak in where the concrete is not so high, trying to get the attention of the teenagers who live within, and the girls throw stones at them in response.
I sat on a bench with a bunch of teens, trying to follow their talk but feeling like someone who had gotten lost and stumbled into intruding in a semi-private conversation. The girl next to me is friendly, but the rest are eyeing me in a way that is making me a little uncomfortable. I think back to what I was like at that age, and how it felt when the teacher (aka enemy) sat with us and tried to make nice. This wasn’t the firs time that I was wishing that there was a word in Spanish for “awkward”.
Then it was time for dinner. I wandered into the courtyard, got a plate of baleadas (like thick tortillas), and plonked myself down with a group of girls. I was halfway through my meal when everything went dark; the electricity had cut out.
Not knowing my way around yet, I groped my way slowly back to my accommodation, praying that I hadn’t forgotten my hiking head torch. Luckily I had packed it, so I put it on and then hung it up at a picnic table in the main courtyard. Lots of the younger girls were crying and needed comforting as they are afraid of the dark, but the older girls sat them on their laps and they started to sing. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard a myriad of Honduran kids sing Taylor Swift’s “Call Me Maybe” by torchlight.
When I first arrived in Madrid by accident (after being accepted by British Council to go to China but being sent to Spain instead), I knew within 3 months that I was where I was “supposed to be”. Things just started slipping into place (like finding a great apartment right near my job, or meeting NPR’s correspondent for Spain), with too many *coincidences*; as cheesy as it sounds, this was fate at work. That city that I moved to randomly is where I met Spencer Reece, the driving force behind this poetry project, and it’s that same feeling, like I don’t know where I’m going, I don’t know the destination, but I know that I am on the right path, and I just need to trust that feeling and let go of The Future.
All of my misgivings about coming to this place were misplaced. The girls are amazing. Some are a little stand-offish at times, but most are very friendly, open, talented, beautiful and joyful. Now, I just need to study the board in my accommodation to learn a few names a day, and work on building relationships with these amazing young women.