This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
This story is copyrighted by pdkstories, all rights reserved. Distribution, including but not limited to: posting on internet sites, newsgroups, or message boards, or in book form (either as a whole or part of a compilation), or on CD, DVD or any other electronic media, is expressly prohibited without the author's written consent.
We all slept in a little later than usual. I was up first, even before Carlos could announce his usual words, "I'm hungry." I awoke all four and told them to put on their shorts, shirts, socks and sandals and we would go down to the dining room for breakfast. After breakfast we can come back up here and you can change into your "San Pedro clothes."
We did just that and left for San Pedro about 10:00 AM. After we arrived and I stopped the SUV, they were unbuckled and out the doors before I could even shut off the engine. They immediately went looking for their friends and I heard them announce to everyone that I was now their father. I called them back to me and quietly told them not to brag about me adopting them as it might make some of the others sad. They kind of hung their heads and said they wouldn't say any more.
Padre Juan and Padre Miguel came up and asked how everything went. I told them it was perfect and I was now officially their father. They congratulated me. Padre Juan gave me a hug.
We walked over to the building site and I was amazed at how much the contractor and his men had accomplished. The foundation was in and the first floor walls were up and they were working on the flooring for the second floor.
I talked with the contractor and he explained that he would be installing piping to run water from the gravity fed water tower for the two bathrooms and kitchen. He also said he was running piping and would be installing a large propane gas tank so there would be hot water in the bathrooms and kitchen and gas for a large commercial refrigerator and a six burner stove. I said that would be great and did he have room to add a large commercial washer and dryer. He said he thought so but would check it out. Also, he said barring any delays he should be finished in about two weeks.
I called a meeting with both Padres to discuss the running of the orphanage, furnishings and other matters. I started with Padre Miguel.
"Okay," I said, "let's make a list of what we need to furnish the new orphanage."
With a grin Padre Miguel said, "Well, we need beds."
I laughed and replied, "I was thinking about putting bunk beds in both the boys and girls side of the upstairs along with a three drawer chest for each child to store their clothes and personal items. Also, several tables and chairs for playing games and doing homework."
He agreed with that. I then said, "Of course, we will need tables and chairs for the dining area." "And don't forget pillows, bed linens, dishes and eating utensils."
I asked, "You can't do it alone with all your other duties to the village. Have you thought about who is going to oversee running the orphanage?"
He replied that there were two sisters who had lost their husbands in the flood, their children were grown and had left the area to look for work in larger cities. He hadn't talked with them but felt they would be agreeable to taking charge of the orphanage.
I said, "That sounds good. We will have to furnish their living quarters and I will pay them a salary. I leave that up to you to work out with them."
I then turned to Padre Juan and asked, "How much more can we do here and how long should we stay?"
He replied, "I would like to stay until the orphanage is completed, furnished and the kids moved in."
I said, "That should be about three weeks. The contractor said he hoped to finish the building in about two weeks, then another week to furnish it and move everyone in."
He said that would be fine as he needed to get back to his church. He felt he had neglected it enough even though the lay people did a good job of keeping everything going.
I then said, "This is on a more personal note. I'm going to need some help with these four when we get back home. Do you know of anyone in your congregation that might be interested in helping me out? I have a two bedroom apartment over my garage that they could use. I need someone that could keep the house clean and help with cooking."
He thought for a minute and then his face lit up. He said, "I have the perfect couple and I think they would be interested. Their name is Hernandez, Rolando and Alicia. They also have a six year old little girl named Marta. She would be good company for Maria Theresa. They all three speak good English. Rolando works as manual labor for a construction company, but has not been getting much work lately. Alicia works in a school cafeteria when school is in session. Yes, I think they would definitely be interested."
I said, "That sounds promising. Do you think Rolando would be interested in maintaining the yard, shrubs, flowers and grounds? You know I have 40 acres. I would get him a truck for his use, both personal and for work around the grounds. They would live in the apartment rent free and I would pay them a salary."
He said, "Yes, I think it would be advantageous for both you and them."
I replied, "We'll get together with them when we get back."
I further stated that I would call and schedule the Lear to pick us up in three weeks. I also told him that the five of us would be around most of the time, but would also spend a couple of days each week in Veracruz as I had passports to pick up and shopping for furniture/supplies for the orphanage. He agreed.
The next few days were spent just generally cleaning up around the village, helping the kids with their baths since we were still using the tubs outside, and doing all the laundry by hand.
Padre Miguel came to me and said the two sisters were excited about taking over and running the orphanage. He had talked with them about furnishing their quarters in the orphanage and they stated they didn't need much, maybe twin beds and a large chest for the clothes and belongings. Also a small table to eat on and a couple of easy chairs. I said I thought that sounded fine and would include those items when I went back to Veracruz to do the purchases for the orphanage.
About the middle of the week I called my four over and said I needed to go back to Veracruz for a few days and explained about acquiring the furnishings for the orphanage. I asked them if they wanted to go with me or stay here and play with their friends. They unanimously said they were going with me as there was no McDonalds or swimming pool here! I laughed and said okay we will leave in the morning.
We left about mid-morning arriving in Veracruz shortly after Noon. As we entered town while at a stop sign I turned to Carlos and said, "You haven't said anything, but are you hungry?"
He laughed and said, "Si, for McDonalds!" The other three quickly agreed, so a stop was made at the next McDonalds.
After arriving at the hotel and entering our suite, I asked, "Well, what do you want to do for the rest of the afternoon?"
All four said at the same time, "Swim."
I grinned and said, "Really!" That brought giggles from all four. "Well, get your bathing suits on and watch TV for about 30 or 40 minutes in order to give your lunch a chance to settle and we'll go to the pool." We went to the pool and swam and horsed around for several hours. I wasn't worried about the boys swimming abilities and Maria Theresa was doing very well for a 5 year old. I spent some time with them in the deep end so they could dive and jump off the diving board. Maria Theresa was a little hesitant about the board so I said I would get in the water near the board and she could jump off and I would grab her. After the first jump there was no stopping her. I was exhausted trying to keep up with her.
After going back to our suite and showering the chlorine off, I suggested a short nap before dinner. Tomas said he wasn't sleepy and asked if he could quietly watch TV. I said yes and turned on the TV in the living room for him. I set my watch alarm for an hour. After getting up I went into the living room to check on Tomas. He was curled up on the couch sound asleep.
I woke him and said, "Who said they weren't sleepy?"
He sheepishly grinned and said, "I was watching and couldn't keep my eyes open."
I woke the other three and said, "Let's have an early dinner and try and find a movie to go see."
They looked at me questioningly and it dawned on me they had never been to a movie. I explained what a movie theatre was and they were all for it. I called down to the concierge and asked if there was a movie theatre close by that might be showing a movie suitable for children. He said let me check and I'll call you back. He did a few minutes later and said there was a theatre a couple of blocks away that was playing a Disney film called Nanny McFee and it started at 7:00 PM. I thought the kids would enjoy it so I told the kids to put on shorts and shirts and we would go down to dinner and then to a movie.
We went down and had a quick dinner and then left to walk to the theatre. It was a few minutes until 7:00 so I stopped and purchased two large tubs of popcorn (which the kids had never had) and 4 drinks. We walked in and fortunately it was not crowded so we found seats about halfway down and towards the middle. They started in on the popcorn and after the first few bites inhaled the rest. I think I was able to get a couple of handfuls.
The lights dimmed and the movie started. I had to explain about the previews for upcoming movies. They were entranced with the size of the screen. When the movie started they were on the edge of their seats. Marie Theresa was actually standing so she could see. I picked her up and sat her on my lap and asked if that was better; she shook her head yes.
They really enjoyed the movie and I was glad it was dubbed in Spanish as I thought they might have trouble with reading sub-titles, especially Maria Theresa.
We left the movie and stopped for an ice cream cone on the way back to the hotel. I quickly got them into bed as it was almost 10:00 PM and we had a lot to do tomorrow.
Tomas still insisted on sleeping with me.
I awoke before the kids the next morning and decided to make a few telephone calls before waking them. First, I called and arranged for the Lear to pick us up and take us back to Baltimore. Then I called my attorney and explained what purchases I needed to make for the orphanage and asked if he could recommend anyone. He said he knew of two and gave me their names and addresses. I thanked him and told him we would be leaving in about three weeks. He told me I was a good person and hated to see us leave.
I then woke the kids for breakfast which we again ate in the hotel's dining room. We then went and picked up their passports; then on to the first of the two furniture stores. When I told the clerk what I wanted and how much his ears perked up. I figured he must work on commission. Fortunately they had almost everything in stock including bed linens, pillow, utensils, plates, etc. and what they didn't they could get in a week. I explained that the building wouldn't be ready for another two weeks so that would be fine. I asked about delivery and he said there would be a small delivery charge, but stated he would talk to his manager to see if he could get that waived since it was such a large order. The manager agreed to waive the delivery charge so I wrote them a check on my Veracruz bank account for the full amount.
We left the furniture store and I asked the kids what they wanted to do. All four said at the same time, "Go swimming." I laughed and said, "Now why didn't I think of that."
We returned to the hotel, went up to the suite to change. I think the kids had their bathing suits on before I could even shut the door. Then they began hurrying me to get mine on.
It was about 11:00 AM so I said, "Since we had a late breakfast we will swim until about 1:00 PM and then eat some lunch.
Tomas said questioningly, "We can only swim for two hours?"
I grinned and replied, "Well, our eating machine, Carlos, will be hungry by then." With that he stuck his tongue out at me, but was laughing too.
I didn't tell them that we could order lunch from the dining room and have it served at the pool. I thought I would save that as a surprise. We played around for about an hour and a half when I told them I had to get out for awhile and for them to stay in the shallow end.
I dried off and ask a passing waiter if I could see the luncheon menu including the kids menu. I quickly scanned the menu and order hamburgers and fries for me and the three boys and, of course, chicken tender and fries for Marie Theresa along with cokes for all. The waiter said it would take about 20 minutes.
After about 20 minutes I got the kids out of the pool and said, "It's time for lunch."
There were groans and complaints, "Do we have to leave now?"
I laughed and said, "No, we are going to eat right here. It should be here in a few minutes."
Carlos asked, "We are going to eat here?"
I saw the waiter coming with a loaded tray and replied, "Yes, and here it comes now."
They quickly took seats at the two tables we had pulled together. The waiter served all of us.
Thomas said, "This looks good."
I replied, "I think you'll find these hamburgers better than McDonalds."
They quickly dug in and the boys said they were better than McDonalds.
Marie Theresa stated, "My chicken tenders are better than McDonalds too."
I smiled at her and said, "You are going to turn into a chicken as many chicken tenders as you eat." She copied Carlos from this morning and stuck her tongue out at me.
After finishing lunch I said, "You are going to have to wait for 30 or 40 minutes before you can go back in the pool, so let's work a little on your English." I had been working with them a little at a time with their English. They had picked up quite a few words of objects, but, of course, had trouble with the grammar and putting sentences together. I knew that as soon as we got home I was going to have to hire a tutor to help them with their English. My Spanish had improved quite noticeably also.
After about 45 minutes of pointing to objects around the pool I said, "Okay, back in the pool."
About 3:30 PM I called them out and said that's about it for now. Up to the suite we went and had showers to wash off the chlorine.
I said, "As hard as we all played in the pool, I think we need a nap." Nobody grumbled so I took that as a positive answer. I told them that as usual we would eat dinner at the hotel and then take it easy the rest of the evening. I asked what they would like to do tomorrow.
They looked at each other and Carlos said, "How about going back to the Zoo?"
They all agreed and I said with a straight face, "Carlos just wants to visit his relatives again."
He said, "What relatives?"
I replied, "The monkeys!" With that I received another tongue being stuck out at me.
We got up early, ate breakfast, and arrived at the Zoo at 9:00 AM just as it opened. We spent about three hours enjoying all the animals. We left at Noon, had lunch and went back to the hotel. I told them to change and we would go back to San Pedro. We arrived there about 4:00 PM.
I noticed the contractor was going great guns with the construction of the orphanage. I met with Padre Miguel and gave him the invoice I had received from the furniture store. He looked it over and said, "I think this is everything we need." He then called the two sisters over who were going to run the orphanage and introduced me to them. They both seemed really nice and were excited about taking over. When I explained I would also be paying them a small salary they seemed very appreciative. Since the orphanage was providing them with living quarters and meals they didn't need much.
I found Padre Juan and told him that I had scheduled the Lear to pick us up and he said that would be good. I told him we would go to Veracruz the day before to settle up with the hotel, etc. and we would be close to the airport for a 9:30 AM pickup.
I talked with the contractor and he stated that since the weather had been so cooperative he would be finished a couple of days early. I asked him if one of his men could take a bulldozer and level the homes along the river bank that had been partially destroyed by the flash flood. He had no problem in doing that and said it would only take a couple of hours.
I decided there was no need to go back to Veracruz since I had taken care of everything while we were last there. Anything that came up I could handle by 'phone. I did call the furniture company and told them when to deliver everything.
We hung around San Pedro doing what little things needed to be done. After about 10 days the contractor came to me and said, "We are done!" He presented me with the contract showing what I owed him. I immediately wrote him a check on my Veracruz account and he departed.
We immediately went to check out everything. It was done just as we wanted and the contractor had even taken the time to really clean the place up. The two sisters were elated with their living quarters and the kitchen.
By 'phone I made arrangements with a supplier of propane to maintain the tank and fill it up as needed sending the bill to me.
About mid-morning the next day two trucks pulled up with all the furniture and everything. There was an extra man with each driver and they graciously help set up the beds and everything, even putting the dishes and utensils away in the kitchen cabinets.
I realized that we had forgotten to include two cabinets to store the linens in. I talked with Padre Miguel and he said just stack them on one of the tables. He had two of his parishioners who were very good at woodworking and they could build a couple a cabinets. The children could just hang their towels at the end of each bunk bed.
We then begin making up beds and getting the children out of the school building and moved into the orphanage. They were all excited and looking forward to sleeping in their "own" bed that night.
I told both Padres that we would be leaving the next morning to return to the US. Padre Miguel got tears in his eyes, grabbed me in a bear-hug, and said he would really miss us.
I told him we would stay in touch. I also informed him that when I was last in Veracruz I had added him jointly to my checking account and that I would be depositing money each month for use as he saw fit; groceries, clothing for the children, etc.
He said, "You are too much. I don't know what we would have done if it hadn't been for you. This is your village too. I have talked with all the villagers and they agree. We are going to change the name of our village to San Pablo in your honor."
With that, I clouded up and could only squeak out, "Thank you."
We got up the next morning and prepared to leave. I think every child in the village, including mine, were crying and hugging. I received a hug from every adult and every child in the village. It was a very emotional departing.
After about an hour, we were finally able to break away, get in the SUV, and head for Veracruz.