Debbie & Fiona

Trip Start Jan 14, 2013
Trip End Apr 11, 2013

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Flag of Costa Rica  , Alajuela,
Thursday, February 14, 2013

Vivian and Ivy made two friends while we were in El Castillo.  They were neighborhood girls, Debbie (7) and Fiona (4.5).  One day they just appeared in our front yard, friendly and curious.  Desperate for Vivian to have somebody to play with, I gave them chocolate cake and they stuck around.  At first, the girls were shy.  But soon, everybody was playing a game of futbol, and Ivy was screeching with delight.

The next time the girls visited, they brought some of their toys.  A hula hoop (they call it "hula hula"), and a plastic dump truck.  They were so excited to share their toys with Vivian and Ivy.  I was so grateful for their presence.  Vivian is incredibly gregarious, and I think she has been lonely at times here in Costa Rica.  I offered them some more chocolate cake (this time they requested an extra piece for their mom, which was actually quite sweet).  Vivian showed them her toys.  Debbie and Fiona were most thrilled by the cheap blond Barbie knock-off we got here in Costa Rica.  

The following afternoon, Vivian wanted to visit with her new friends, so we walked to Fiona and Debbie's house together.  Their one-room house was tiny.  I am guessing it was less than 250 square feet for a family of 4.  My guess is they used an outhouse as a latrine.  The modest yard was strewn with garbage, including empty oil containers, coke bottles, and dog poop. Two plastic swings hung forlornly from the one lime tree in the yard.  The only other evidence of children were two rusty kid's bikes leaning against the house. One of the bikes didn't have a seat.  It was hard for me to reconcile the fact that the two happy, well-kempt little girls we know actually lived in this house.
Meanwhile, Fiona and Debbie were absolutely delighted to see us.  They came running outside all smiles and squeals.  Their mother seemed less thrilled.  I don't blame it her--I wouldn't be pleased to have a strange woman suddenly appear unannounced in my front yard to solicit play with my young daughters either.  After a few formal pleasantries, we were quickly chatting amicably in Spanish about our daughters. Despite our outward differences, we definitely shared the universal camaraderie of motherhood. 
My intention had been to ask the girls to come play at our house, but they were so excited to show us their stuff that I hesitated.  Debbie (the 7 year old) immediately launched into a flurry of activity.  She started barking orders at her mother and soon emerged from their small house with a "table", (an upside down cardboard Avon box), complete with a tablecloth, (an abandoned embroidery scrap), and 3 plastic kid-sized chairs.  I sat on the ground, but that perplexed Debbie who ran back inside and insisted her mother bring out an adult-sized plastic chair for me.  Ice cream was graciously offered.  I marveled at this little girl's impeccable manners.  Debbie reminded me that good manners are free, but invaluable. 

Then Debbie proudly brought out her art supplies.  She had a little bag full of half-worn crayons, a couple pads of paper, and a pristine box of Magic Markers.  As the girls sat coloring peacefully together, I watched Debbie carefully replace each marker back in its box before switching colors (she also patiently replaced Vivian's).  These markers were clearly a prized possession, and she took great care of them.  I thought of the hundreds of sets of markers Vivian has run through because she forgets the put the caps on them and they dry out, or because they fall to the floor and become chew toys for Stanley.  The thought made me cringe at our privileged carelessness.  Fiona and Debbie's family may have been less wealthy in a material sense, but they were more than our equals in dignity and generosity.
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Rosann on

What a lovely, lovely story. Perhaps everyone would hold small treasures more valuable if we had less.

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