I’m so excited when I get up in the morning, I get dressed and am out on the verandah before anyone else is even out of bed. I get my notebook and look through all our ideas and brainstorming from the night before and jot down a few new ideas. I’m so focussed on what I’m doing, I don’t even realise Uncle Peter has come out onto the verandah until he speaks.
“How did you sleep?” I startle, then smile when I realise who it is.
“Yeah good, I’m really excited about today. How was your sleep?” He nods and smiles in response, then goes back inside to wake up Aunt Kathy and Quentin so we can get going. I am buzzing about, talking constantly, even before Aunt Kathy has her morning coffee. I can see she really isn’t focussed yet, but I can’t help myself and keep talking about my ideas on ways to raise money and how I would want the program to run. I’m hoping we can donate money directly to a school, most likely a boarding school, where the children can live and get their education. I figure once we raise enough, we can send the money directly to the boarding school to cover a child’s living and education expenses, that way the child will be getting everything they need to give them a good future.
It feels to me as though everyone else is dragging along really slowly today. I’ve finished scoffing down my entire breakfast before Quentin even gets back to the table. His plate isn’t loaded up as much as it was on our first day here, but it’s still pretty full. Uncle Peter looks disapprovingly at his plate, then glances to Aunt Kathy as though he is checking with her whether he should say something or not, but she isn’t really paying any attention to anything other than her steaming mug of coffee. I notice she has barely even combed her hair properly this morning. I ask her if she is okay and she gives a little smile and says she is fine.
“Just didn’t sleep very well is all.” She goes back to her coffee, while Quentin digs in to his gourmet breakfast fit for a King (or Queen). He looks like a garbage disposal with the way he shovels fork-fulls of food into his mouth.
An hour later and we are finally on our way. Aunt Kathy has done her hair and has perked up drastically since this morning, which is a relief.
First we go to a supermarket, which isn’t like the supermarkets we have back home. Everything is close together and the shelves are dirty. They have trolleys, but they are smaller than the ones I’m used to. Uncle Peter and Aunt Kathy grab a trolley each and we fill one with non-perishable items and the other with fresh produce. We grab large bags of rice, flour, tinned food, two-minute noodles, soap and toothpaste and put them in the ‘non-perishables’ trolley. Then we get a large box of bananas, two whole watermelons, boxes of apples, oranges, carrots, tomatoes, broccoli and cauliflower and put them in the fresh produce trolley. We walk around the entire grocery store, which isn’t very big really and we check every shelf, grabbing anything we can buy in bulk that would be enough for all the orphans. Uncle Peter talks to one of the people working behind the counter and they do a good deal on a crate of fish, chicken, steak and eggs for us, which we are really excited about.
Our shopping fills the boot of the taxi we have hired and Quentin and I have to hold things on our laps and try not to move our feet too much, due to the groceries packed in around our legs. The orphanage is still quite a drive away, even though we went to their closest grocery store. By the time we get there my legs are cramping and my feet have pins and needles in them. Aunt Kathy opens the back door of the car and a couple of children are already standing by her side. She hands them items to take inside and before I manage to escape the confines of the taxi there are at least a dozen children holding out their hands to collect items and take them inside. The grocery store didn’t use plastic bags, so everything is loose, except for items that are in boxes or crates, so it takes a while for us to get everything out of the car.
I grab the box filled with bananas and walk through the large wooden door, into the front foyer. The door is old and not glamorous like the ones back at our hotel. It is on an angle and it faded and has holes in it. The foyer has an old stained rug on a concrete floor, with slatted windows that have most of the slats missing. There are pictures on the walls, mostly photos of the children with tourists over the years. They are faded and in broken frames. There is a tall cupboard in the corner with only one door on it that has torn clothes and pieces of fabric spewing from it’s shelves.
A girl around my age comes over to me and holds out her hands to take the box of bananas from me, pulling me momentarily from my assessment of the room. I hand the box to her and follow her through a crooked doorway into the kitchen. The kitchen and dining room are together in one large area. There are three large window frames, but only one of them has a piece of glass in it. The floor is tiled most of the way, but it looks as though the tiler ran out of tiles and left the last part as raw concrete. There is a yellow bench along one wall that looks like it is made from wood, but it has swollen and is broken on one end, beneath it there is a shelf, just off the ground, where plastic and wooden bowls and plates are stacked. There is a small concrete sink next to a doorless cupboard that has some food on it and I look around for another pantry. Surely that’s not all the food they have here for all these children? There is less food on those shelves than what we have at Aunt Kathy and Uncle Peter’s, and thats only for us and Paige. Quentin’s mum’s pantry is just as full as ours and that’s for just the three of them. There would have to be at least 50 children here and all their food could easily fit on a single shelf in that tiny cupboard.
The girl puts the box of bananas on the bench and it moves slightly from the weight and I worry it will break. A small boy is standing at one of the plastic tables with his finger in his mouth, watching all the food being brought in. His eyes settle on the box of bananas and he takes his finger from his mouth and lets out a cry of surprise. I watch him as he slowly creeps up to the box and uses one of the plastic chairs to stand on so he can look inside. He begins to cry and I approach him to see what is wrong. He doesn’t seem to understand what I am saying, so one of the older kids comes over and helps us.
“He happy cry” The boy is about my age, maybe a bit older and he smiles at me as he tries his best to translate.
“He’s happy? Why is he crying if he is happy?” I look from the older boy, back to the younger one and he wipes his tears with the palm of his hand, then jumps down from the chair and wraps his tiny arms around my leg.
“Lots of banana for us, enough to have a whole one each. Agus never had whole banana to his self” The older boy points to the smaller one who still has his arms wrapped tightly around my leg when he mentions the name ‘Agus’. I gently pull the small boy from my leg and kneel down to give him a proper hug. I look up at the box of bananas and try to remember how many bananas I’ve had in my life, but I’ve had too many to count. My eyes well up as I try to imagine what it would be like to never have had a whole banana to eat before.
Agus pulls away and I see he is smiling. He runs from the room, headed back out to the taxi, likely to see what other surprises we have brought with us. I blink away my tears and glance back at the box of bananas and take a deep breath before following him, taking a moment to realise just how lucky I am and how much I have taken for granted in my life.