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Two Dragons welcome the sunrise with an improvised dance atop the Andes. Photo by Ryan Gasper.

Mis niños

I’ve never experienced the joys of having a large family before.  My own family at home is quite small, consisting of just my parents and my sister and I.  However, when I came to my family here in Bolivia, I was surprised to find that my family and Morgan’s family were conjoined, and actually lived on the same property.  Morgan’s family lived in the house in front, and my family’s house was just behind, and adjacent to the one in front.  I also realized that I would have the joy of being the older sister of three little siblings, who were all between the ages of 3 and 6, and were constantly overflowing with energy.  Although I am an older sister, I had never had the pleasure of being the older sister to three young children before.  I had no idea how they would react to me, or how much they would accept me into their lives.  However, as soon as I got home, they immediately fell in love with me, and they were my constant shadows from day one.  Mica, who shared my name, was the oldest.  She was in the first grade, and was the more quiet of the three.  NeNe, who was in kindergarten, was quite the chatterbox, and was always inventing new games and trying to play with me at all times.  Lastly, Maxi, who was three, loved to play, but unfortunately, his favorite game always ended up being destroying everything in sight.  However, even though they were all very young and therefore prone to breaking things, my host parents never made them feel ashamed for making mistakes, and always gave them lots of love.  The kids were always loved by all, and were only nudged in the right direction if they strayed.

There was never a quiet moment in the house when the kids were home.  As soon as I walked through the gate up front, they all came running towards me and greeted me with a hug and cries of ‘¡Mica! ¡Mica! ¡Mica!’ NeNe would immediately take my hand and try to pull me into one of her games, and Maxi would chase after me with an empty water gun and pretend to shoot me.  When we would share meals together, the kids would always be running around, never wanting to sit, and had to be corraled by Elsa, Morgan’s host mom and my grandmother, to actually sit down and eat for a minute.  Sometimes after dinner, the kids and I would sit down with my host dad, José, and watch a movie together.

All in all, in my time in Tiquipaya, we became a real family, and I was sad to leave them.  I will miss their joyful smiles and their tight hugs when I walked through the gate.  I really came to value a loving family, and I hope that one day, I will have something similar myself.