Today was my home visit.
It came up sporadically; I was informed of the home visit approximately 30 minutes before we left. Regardless, I was excited to be able to interact with the parents of one of my children.
We walked a bit down a street I’d not ventured down many times before, passing by various stores, restaurants, and apartments. The chickens in cages and fresh smells of street food amazed me. We met up with one of my student’s mothers about halfway down the road.
The first thing she insisted on was buying a watermelon for all of us. Though my teacher and I insisted it wasn’t necessary, she said she’d eat some too and therefore it was a reasonable purchase. I appreciated the hospitality, which she continued to extend once we arrived by offering us bottled water.
The apartment was on the small side, but it was very organized. One thing I immediately noticed upon arrival was the two small bunk beds beside the king-sized bed, both perfectly made up. I asked her if she had any other children besides the one in my class. She told me she had another child, a girl of 8 years. I tried to imagine their family. She seemed like such a warm, sweet person that I was sure her children would be similar.
When I told her I was from America, she commented that my mother must miss me a lot. Looking at the two empty beds, I imagined my mother back home, looking at my empty bed, my empty room, and remembering that I am not there. I nodded.
It was hard to think, though, that many of our school’s parents feel the same way every day. These children, as young as twelve years old, are sent off to live at the school for the majority of their time. Most of the parents only get to see their children two days out of the week or less. I imagine them, missing their children, but thinking that for them, this is probably the best way. “I miss them too,” I say.
Through a lot of translation and slow speaking, I understand that her husband currently works for a factory and she used to work at a restaurant. We bond for a moment over the shared restaurant experience, but I know my experiences is not quite the same. Although it was difficult, my restaurant job was just a summer job. For many people, it’s a livelihood.
Hearing her stories, experiencing her hospitality, it brings a whole new level of humanity to my students as I imagine their families and upbringings. They’re children, still, separated from their parents at a young age, taught to grow up in such a short time. I feel affection for them, the families they’ve been separated from, and the parents that want only the best for them. It reminds me of my own family and of the fact that, often, familial love remains the same.
I went back to the school, and I showed her son a picture of the two of us together. He laughed and then realized that the picture was taken literally inside of his house. (Surprise?) The other students found it cool and asked if I could come to their houses, too.
I wish I could get to know them all in this way. I wish I had the time to visit all of their families and understand all of their stories. Unfortunately, I don’t. But I imagine anyways.