Visit with Amalia and Samantha
Updated: Oct 20, 2018
My first day of Guadalajara visits was with Amalia, who I met for the first time last year, and Samantha, who I just started sponsoring a few months ago. Our interpreter Paula, the always amazing Oscar and I met the girls at their community center, along with Samantha’s brother Ulises, Amalia’s mom, and Amalia’s boyfriend Erick. Amalia rushed over to me and gave me what has to have been one of the biggest hugs I’ve ever received in my life, and then told me—in English—that she was very happy to see me. We have been providing funds to cover tuition for Amalia to take extra English classes for a while now, and she has said in letters that she was looking forward to my visit so that she could show me how much she has learned. I have to say that I was really, really impressed with how much progress she has made! Then Samantha came over and introduced herself and her brother, and we all went inside to open gifts.
Samantha started on her gift bag as soon as the table was set up. The best way I can think of to describe her energy is that I think she must be part squirrel. She was so funny in the way that she took each item out of the bag and examined it, then quickly set it off to the side to move on to the next item. She’s very direct and straightforward, which is unlike most of the girls I’ve met on my visits, who have tended to be pretty shy. When she got to the books that I brought her, for example, she wasn’t afraid to tell me that she doesn’t really like to read much, but she’ll give them a try. (She really prefers video games, but every once in a while she finds a book that’s okay.) When Samantha finished opening her gift bag, Amalia opened hers, which was mostly books that I’ve been steadily accumulating for her since last year’s visit. She seemed pretty happy with everything.
Then it was my turn to take a look at the poster that Amalia had made for me (she also gave me a candy bar, apparently remembering that I have a killer sweet tooth). She wrote me a beautiful message—again in English—that basically left me an emotional mess by the time I finished reading it. I am so completely and utterly not ready for this one to graduate at the end of this year…
After we finished with gifts, we all piled into the van and headed for the bowling alley. Now ordinarily, getting me to go bowling involves dragging me in by force, but when it comes to spending time with our sponsored kids, I’m game for just about anything. It turned out that they had never bowled before, so skill-wise I was in good company. I wish I had had my camera ready when Samantha made the serious mistake of smelling her rental shoes.
After bowling, where I finished in next-to-last place with one of my better scores of 37, we went to lunch at a nearby restaurant, where we were also able to make a FaceTime call to Ward. The girls really enjoyed getting to talk to him for a little bit. Both Amalia and Samantha are big fans of horror movies, so that immediately gave them some common ground with him. After the call, Samantha kept asking when the next visit will be, and whether Ward will be coming, too – I get the sense that she’s a lot more interested in visiting with him than me next time, since he can talk about scary movies and video games! ;-)
During lunch, Amalia, her mom, Paula and I all went to the bathroom at one point. While we were there, Amalia’s mom thanked me for providing the English classes for Amalia, and giving her the opportunity to have a second language. Then, when Paula and I were back at the table (before Amalia had come back), Amalia’s boyfriend Erick told me that Amalia had been very nervous the night before the visit and had stayed up late reviewing all of her English notes in preparation. I already knew that she was a smart girl and a hard worker, but this visit made me even more committed to making sure that I get the funding in place before her graduation from CI so that she can continue through the intermediate and advanced English classes – she’s definitely putting in the work and taking full advantage of the opportunity.
After lunch, we headed over to the mall for some book shopping – maybe not Samantha’s favorite activity, but since this will be my last official visit with Amalia before her graduation, I specifically requested the opportunity to spoil her at the bookstore one last time. Each of the girls was given a ‘budget’ of 4-5 books and turned loose. By the end, Samantha had managed to find 4, and Amalia had 5… but the last one she picked up was the first book in a trilogy. As a big reader myself, I couldn’t buy her just the first book in a trilogy, so she ended up with a couple of bonus books. (I assured Paula that Ward wouldn’t be surprised that I went over budget – he’s known me a long time and is very familiar with my work.)
During lunch, Samantha mentioned that she no longer had a basketball because hers had been lost a few months back. I had asked about getting her a new one while we were at the mall. When Paula told her after the bookstore that we were going to another store to get her one, however, that unabashed straightforwardness came out again (she made me laugh so many times…) when she said “My cousin got a basketball from that store and it was defective, can I have a board game instead?” I have to applaud a girl who isn’t afraid to ask for what she wants – she is no shrinking violet! So we went and got her a game.
I also learned around that time that Samantha isn’t going back to school this year, which was a bit of a bummer. I knew when we started sponsoring her that she had been out of school for a year, and sent an inquiry to try to get more information and see whether she was interested in going back. I was told that she had been home taking care of her grandmother, but was interested in returning. CI gave me the information about the related process and costs, which the family was unable to cover, and I sent the corresponding amount. Apparently the family has since decided to wait until next year to re-enroll her – I’ve verbally okayed converting the EG into a general use EG (it wasn’t an especially high amount), but I’m sad to hear that she’s going to be out of school for another year.
After that, it was time to take the girls home. We went to Samantha’s house first. When we got there, I was surprised to see a glass display case in front of the house containing thong underwear. I opted not to ask about those – after spending the day with Samantha, I was a little afraid she would give me a pair if I did. I met Samantha’s mother and grandmother, and her younger brother, Jesús. I also met her cat and two kittens, who were adorable. We didn’t spend very long at the house, but I look forward to my next visit with her – she is quite a character, and I’m really looking forward to continuing to get to know her.
Then we headed to Amalia’s house. The second we pulled up in front of her house, before the door of the van was even open, she turned to me and said “don’t leave”. This was the first time I’ve been to a family’s home more than once, and it was a strange, familiar feeling to be back in her house, a bit like coming home. I met her older sister and her niece and nephew. We talked a little about her college plans, since Amalia is currently in her last semester of high school, and then it was time to say our goodbyes. Even now, weeks later, it’s hard not to cry as I’m writing this. She is such an amazing young woman, and I really hope she will stay in touch after her graduation from CI. She told me at the end of our visit that she doesn’t think anything in life is a coincidence and that people come into each other’s lives for a reason, and I completely agree with her. The first time I saw her picture on the CI website, there was no doubt in my mind that she needed to be part of our sponsorship family, and I have never questioned that decision for a second. I’m so, so thankful to have been able to come back to Guadalajara and to see her again before she graduates later this year, and grateful to CI for giving me to opportunity to be part of her story.