Let me share a some facts about this little, often unknown island in the Pacific called Ebeye:
- 80 acres of space
- 15,000 people
- 50% of which are under 18
- more densely populated than Hong Kong
- often called the 'slum of the Pacific'
- my home for half of a year in 2007
My facts might be a little different. Yes, I lost count of the number of cockroaches I killed at 47 (because when you get to 47 you know, it all just says the same thing -- A LOT).
The number of nights I had these evil creatures fall on my face while sleeping is tallied at 4. That I know of.
Days without power and no water? Plenty.
Bloody, absessed teeth that flew up into my face while holding a screaming child at the dental office? One.
Number of textbooks to teach from? Zero.
Amount of the most beautiful children in the world I was surrounded by? Countless.
So, what do brownies have to do with Ebeye? Everything.
While I lived there my cooking skills were, um, limited. If it didn't come from a box, it didn't have a place in my kitchen.
Brownies, luckily, come in a box (if you so choose). Oreos come already made. You mix those two together and you have an easy masterpiece, one that grown ups and children alike can enjoy. And enjoy them we did. Class parties, birthday parties, just-to-eat-brownie parties, my fifth graders and I found plenty of excuses to eat Oreo Brownies.
But then I came home. My heart was broken to 31 little pieces and remained behind in Ebeye as the rest of me traveled back to the United States. And my Oreo Brownies? They stayed in Ebeye as well, never to be eaten again by me.
Until I saw one of those fifth graders, all grown up into a high school junior, come to Standford and study in the Junior Statesmen of America program, representing his island nation. I proudly watched as he graduated the program and headed back to Ebeye, head full of knowledge and wisdom. Finally, I had a reason to make Oreo Brownies again.
|See the boy on my lap? Now he is my size, and represents his country well.|
I cannot tell you exactly why, but the tears started to fall. And not just lightly. The kind of tears when your shoulders shake and snot starts running down. I sat down on the couch and, for the first time in several years, cried for my children in Ebeye.
You know, these weren't tears of missing them necessarily. They weren't tears of sadness, either. For some reason the fact that they were asking for something that I was presently doing for them, and the sense of connection across the years and timezones that this represented in my heart... I cried tears of love. And tears of gratefulness. Gratefulness that I had the opportunity to go meet these children, and become a part of their lives, and have them grow me and shape me into a better person.
So, yes, these are just brownies with crumbled Oreo's in them. I have no special recipe for you today. You can go ahead and make some, and you will enjoy them, I am sure. But for me, these brownies hold a piece of my heart. And it is a piece that will forever live where the sun shines bright and smiling children roam.