Thursday, January 26, 2012

Cambodia, Day Three. Happy vs. Sad.

Last night we accompanied the women (and the one guy, conveniently named Guy- editor's note, one day later. Guy is actually Glen. So much for the convenience I created in my simple mind.) from the Engagement trip to the Dream House where the Transitions girls live. The plan was Pizza Party and Games! The women had all brought things from home to give the girls so each girl got a huge bag stuffed with gifts: art supplies, jewelry, wall stickers, and more. Plus, someone had lugged a TON of arts and crafts supplies to make t-shirts, plus coffee table books and magazines and more. If you have ever travelled internationally, you know what a heroic (and expensive) effort it is to carry loads of heavy baggage. These ladies brought it!

After the gifts were given, the pizza party began. Also on the table with the boxes and boxes of pretty darn good pizza was a tray of bugs to eat. Yes. You read that right. Bugs. I tried the bug that was not a cockroach. Many of the other ladies ate the cockroaches, after they had been peeled, of course. When in Rome ...

Post-pizza we played games. Standing up and/or sitting down to someone's command which was equally hard when the instruction was in Khmer or English.

After that, t-shirt designing commenced. There were three Angry Birds t-shirt designs and my favorite was by Pirum, cutest boy ever in the history of boys. He is the 9 year old who is fostered by the Transitions founders and staff. Pirum carefully wrote out three letters in fat t-shirt ink on his t-shirt. G. A. P. What else would you put on a t-shirt? Angry Birds of course.

The girls were in fine spirits last night and the house was full of love and laughter. The one exception was one of the newest girls who is really, really struggling. She is dealing with addiction issues and severe trauma from a sickeningly young age. She looks to be no older than 9 or 10 but could be in her teens. It is really hard to tell.

Two nights ago, she was in great spirits. It would have been hard to know that it was this girl who they feared might steal a pen to self harm.

Last night, she started out sad. She showed me the sign language gesture for sad, just in case I couldn't tell from her tears and broken posture. After some food and sugar and time, she lightened and brightened. She sat between Lisa and me and opened her gift bag. She returned to her silly bright self and it was a relief.

It is always easier to watch a smiling girl than a sad one. And it is easy to believe that the exterior expression matches the internal landscape.

But when your adolescent body is still craving crystal meth, when you have been sexually abused every single day since the age of 5, how happy can you really be? How many times was she forced to smile to weather the storm of her pedophile abusers?

It is so hard to put these facts together when you are sharing a space with these children, when you watch them earnestly squiggle a flower or a smiley face on a crisp white t-shirt.

You just have to believe in the Transitions motto: Freedom Begins with a Dream. And you have to keep showing up and reminding these girls they matter.

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