It's weird being here, abroad, doing something so meaningful and not being able to actually take pictures of the kids. All their smiling faces, playing with hoola-hoops and jumping all over us. What we're doing here is magical. We are touched by moments every single day. I want to take pictures of each cute little face and tell their names and stories, but I can't. In the refugee camps just taking a phone or camera out puts up a wall that blocks meaningful connection with these kids. On one hand, its a blessing in disguise. I am forced to be present. To exist simply in that moment. No phone, no pictures, just me and the kids. They are guarded; they have been through a lot already. Being present is not too much to ask of me.
Yesterday I was on equipment duty (standing guard making sure the kids don't steal the hoola-hoops, juggling balls, etc.), while I was at my "post" I was sketching in my sketchbook when this kid came over and motioned to my pen. I handed it over and turned to a clean page, eager to see what he would draw. He proceeded to draw a tic tac toe board. As soon as he finished the last line of it he quickly looked up at me with a beaming smile, locking eyes to see if I understood. This 8 year old boy didn't speak English, but his smile and his energy said it all. He was totally in the moment, just happy, just being a kid. Me and him spoke the same language for the next 30 minutes playing games of tic tac toe in my sketchbook. He won a few games and he also learned some strategy. It was awesome. These are my favorite pages in my sketchbook right now.
Reflecting on the experience i couldn't help but smile. I handed him that pen and I expected him to draw something. Maybe because i was drawing, maybe because its a "sketch book", but I just assumed he would draw. What he drew was the guidelines for a two person game. He just wanted to play. He's a kid. We played! He doesn't know English but he knows my name now. I am excited to see him tomorrow.