Speaking the same language

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.