Damn that man
I cursed to myself as we settled into our seats on the plane. Here I am sitting in the one place I never thought I would sit again, and it is all his fault.
A small smile played on my lips as I thought about our conversation the other night. He’d just given me a look and I went against years of resentment and agreed to do the one thing I had resolved not to do.
Before we left I called him to tell him off.
He found it all very amusing, “Everything will be fine Nessie, just relax and have fun.”
Have fun? Unbelievable!!
“Watcha thinking about?”, mom interrupted my thoughts.
“Nothing really, just thinking.”
“Are you nervous? It has been a long time since you have been back, a lot has changed. I think you will have a better time than before.” She smiled warmly at me.
I can tell she is really excited I came along. We are headed to China where my parents are overseeing the opening of a new orphanage they’ve been planning. They have opened three other orphanages in different areas of China and spend much of their time checking in with them and bringing supplies. China is not the only country they do work in, but it has been a sort of pet project for quite a few years now. As I contemplated all the things they do, I felt a hint of pride. They are good people.
I realized she was still waiting for a response,”Oh..yeah. It will be interesting..”
“I wanted to wait until we got there to surprise you, but I can’t. Here.”
Reaching into her bag, she pulled out a brand new Multitab and handed it to me.
“Wow, thanks mom.” I had seen these but never really considered getting one. They do look pretty handy.
“We got it all set up already, so you can get right to using it.” My dad chimed in. He had been reading a Dragon Valley newspaper, catching up on things going on around town.
They both looked at me expectantly.
“Thank you.” I smiled at them. “It wont be much fun to watch me read so you can stop staring at me now”
They both laughed and sat back in their seats. I noticed we were already in the air. I am not afraid of flying, in fact I enjoy it. It is the one thing I would look forward to when I traveled. Being in the air is such a calming and quiet experience. I’ve taken off and landed so many times I hardly notice it, even after all these years.
I played around with the Multitab for a while. Since they weren’t planning on giving it to me until we landed there wasn’t much on there and I couldn’t access the internet while in the air so I ran out of things to do pretty soon. I placed it in my bag and got out the magazine Hugh gave me. I had tried to hold off reading the entire thing so I would actually have something left to read while flying.
“What is that?” My mother had noticed my change of reading material.
“Just a magazine. Hugh bought me a subscription as a grad gift.” I replied as I turned the page.
“That was nice of him.” She gave me a strange smile before pulling out some reading of her own.
I looked back down at my magazine, finding it difficult to focus on the words. I know what she is implying with that smile, but there isn’t anything between me and Hugh besides friendship. I’m basically his sister. Besides you don’t buy magazine subscriptions for girls you have a romantic interest in, right?
Giving up on reading I leaned back in the seat.
It’s not like I have never thought about him that way, I have. Who wouldn’t though? He is hot.
That doesn’t really mean anything, and I don’t see why he would have any interest in me. He has dated a couple of girls in the past and they are nothing like me.
The first one was Ava. She had white blonde hair and creamy skin, very glamorous.
I didn’t like her much, too clingy.
Then he dated a girl named Morida. Red hair and green eyes. She was really beautiful. I know he really liked her and they dated longer. She broke it off with him eventually, I’m not really sure why.
I am glad though, I never thought they fit together. I don’t know if he has dated anyone since leaving for college. He probably has girls falling all over him at University…
I can’t think about that anymore.
I tossed the magazine back in my bag and leaned my chair back to take a nap. Sleep stayed far away and my mind wandered to the week ahead. That is how long I committed to this trip though my parents bought me an open ticket so I can stay longer if I wish.
They will be staying for at least a month and then they will be going to a more remote area with another couple to survey the conditions there and see what services are needed.
Being in this plane and anticipating the experience ahead brought back memories I hadn’t revisited for a long time.
I remember seeing poor people and handing out clothing and shoes. I remember sleeping in sleeping bags spread across decaying floors in the small houses of the families that hosted us. My parents were just starting their work on the orphanages then.
I would spend most days with the host families while my parents went out to network. My favorite time was when we all sat around the table at dinner and then my dad would read me a bedtime story…
“Nessie, wake up. We just landed.” Mom was nudging my arm. I hadn’t even realized I’d fallen asleep.
Gathering our bags, we made our way off the plane and out of the airport to meet our ride.
Dayna, the lead volunteer in charge of the orphanage, drove us out. It took us a few hours to get up into the mountains where the village is nestled.
As we ascended the last hill, the building came into view.
“Here we are.” Dayna said brightly.
We exited the cramped vehicle and carried our bags inside. The building is not palatial by any means, but it is quite beautiful and will serve its purpose well for the children already making it their home.
Dayna led me to a small room. “Here is where you’ll stay, Ms. Nessie.”
That sounded weird.
“You can just call me Nessie.” I insisted.
“Oh, sorry.” She said with a laugh. “The children will be calling you Ms. Nessie. I usually end up using the same names they do for reinforcement.”
“In that case, you can call me that. I didn’t think of that.”
“Alright, please make yourself comfortable.” She smiled and left the room, no doubt to attend to what I assume is a very daunting to-do list.
Tiny. It is better than a sleeping bag on the floor though, I’ll admit. I closed me eyes and exhaled, I really have to try to be open to all this again.
I ventured out to find my parents. I came upon them talking with Dayna about how things were running so far. I heard her say they had just moved in a couple days before and were still getting things set up.
My mom noticed me and left my dad to handle the details. “So what do you think?” She was beaming.
“It’s great mom.” I meant it too. I still traveled with them around the time the first orphanage was completed and it was nowhere near as nice.
She smiled, “Come, let’s meet the children. I know some of them but there are many new kids I have yet to see.”
She led me to a playroom where the children were entertaining themselves.
A couple of the older ones ran to my mom, embracing her. I felt ridiculous as a pang of jealousy shot through me.
Watching her greet them, I felt ashamed for being jealous. These kids have no one else.
Some of them their families couldn’t afford to raise, some lost their parents to starvation or disease.
Some were simply the wrong gender.
Looking at their innocent faces, I acknowledged that the sacrifice of my parents time was not in vain. It won’t heal my wounds from feeling neglected and unworthy, but I can make a conscious effort to accept that these children have needs greater than mine.
“Gather around, children!” My mom announced. “I want you to meet my daughter Ms. Nessie. She came to visit you!”
Some of them said hello, others just looked at me like they were waiting for something.
“Erm..hi, I’m Nes..Ms. Nessie” I stammered. One girl giggled. I realized they already know my name.
My mom stepped in, “How about you kids tell her your names?”
They went around saying their names, which I am going to have to hear a few times to remember. The older kids pointed out the toddler’s names and I was drawn to the little one in the corner, I believe they had called her Jia Li.
I approached her and sat down.
“Hi Jia Li.”
She looked at me with her big eyes, still toying with the loose threads on her teddy bear.
“It’s nice to meet you. Does your bear have a name?”
Sheepishly she looked at the bear and then back at me. She held it out to me. Not sure what to do I took the ragged toy from her tiny hands.
“I wish I had brought you a new bear, Jia.” I looked around the room noticing a distinct lack of toys, and the ones strewn about were in similar shape to this one.
I met her deep brown eyes again. “I think I can help.” I said, talking to myself as much as her.
I offered the bear back to her and got to my feet to talk to my mother.
“Mom, how come there are so few toys for the kids to play with? And the ones that are here aren’t in good shape.”
My mom sighed as she looked over all the kids. “We just can’t afford it. We rely on donations for toys and we have been spread pretty thin lately with the addition of this building. All the money we have goes to necessities like food and utilities, we’ve had to prioritize.”
“Well maybe I could make toys, mom. I’ve made other things at that worktable I have at home, how hard could it be to make some toys?”
“Nessie, that would be wonderful!” My mom’s eyes lit up. Dayna had just entered the room and heard our conversation.
“It would be incredible if you could do that for us. It just so happens that the construction volunteers left a worktable in the storage room. Maybe you could try making some while you are here!”
“How fortunate!”My mom exclaimed.
“I could give it a shot.”I replied.
Handing off the baby, I think her name is Mei, my mom pulled me into a hug. “I’m so glad you came.”, she said softly.
I nodded, giving a small smile. My mind was already working to come up with some toy designs. Excusing myself I headed back to my room.
As I sat on the bed with my notebook in hand, I imagined how I had felt I could sock Hugh in his smug face when he suggested coming here. I have to admit, although I miss being home, it isn’t as bad as I expected.
Putting my pencil to the paper, I began sketching.