This summer, I had the amazing opportunity to travel with some of my classmates to Costa Rica and Nicaragua on a school field trip. In Nicaragua, we stayed in the beautiful city of Granada, and explored nearby villages. In Costa Rica, we spent time with indigenous people, and also got the chance to stay in the jungle and the mountains.
However, the experience that had the biggest impact on me was our visit to an all-girls orphanage in Granada. As I walked in, three little girls, whom I came to know as 4-year-old Nichole, 5-year-old Belinda, and 4-year-old Diana, greeted me with hugs and kisses. They guided me through their small bedrooms, packed with bunk beds and Disney princess posters, and insisted on multiple piggybacks. We went outside, and the girls pulled out a small toy cradle and began to fill it with big rocks. They began cradling and giggling at the rocks, and despite the language barrier, I knew they were pretending the rocks were dolls.
The contentment in their eyes was astounding and I have never seen anything like it. Their genuine happiness with the only toys they had is something I still aspire to, and will forever. After two hours of fun and play we had to leave, exchanging painful goodbyes. Right before I left, Nichole chased after me, grabbed my hand, placed a small blue and green bracelet in it and said “un regalo”—a gift. I did not have the Spanish vocabulary to tell Nichole, Belinda, and Diana that they gave me much more than the gift of a small bracelet. They gave me the gift of happiness and experience, taught me how to appreciate the simple things, and taught me the ability to draw happiness out of basically nothing. I will forever keep those three girls in my heart.
Written by an amazing eighth-grade student & 2014 EcoTeach Traveler