Friday, July 27, 2012

Put a little love in the mail... (Oreo Brownies)

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
Or, in the words of Lonely Planet, "The people of Ebeye live very simple accommodation; many are one-room shacks and lean-tos of plywood, tin and plastic sheeting, jammed together in tenement conditions with little water. Residents haul drums of drinking water in from Kwaj (the local US army base) on the ferry; piped water is only available at certain times, so fill up containers when it comes. The electricity supply is getting better but blackouts are still common.
Needless to say, Ebeye is not a big tourist spot, but the people are very friendly, especially the children. It's different."

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.
These brownies and I shared a moment.  I was there, making them (and by that I mean, opening the box and adding oil and eggs.  I will not lie) and I headed to my computer and saw that a whole conversation was going on under a picture of this young man and I, mostly in a language I cannot understand.  But there were parts I did get.  Professions of love for me, declarations by many that I was their favorite teacher, and then one young man asking me to make some brownies and send them to him in Ebeye. 

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.


  1. :) I love this post because as I read it, I felt (like I am sure your kiddos in Ebeye feel): Proud to know you. Grateful for the role you have played in our lives, for your tenderness, for your heart, for your love, and the love for life that you share with us :)

  2. Wow, what a beautiful and tasty memory for you and the children. The one thing that stays with kids forever, is a gift from the heart, and that's what those brownies will always be. So glad I stumbled across your blog today!

  3. Love this post. No matter the distance or how much time has passed, it sounds like you and your kids will remain mutually embedded in each other's Oreo crumbles in brownies (couldn't resist!).

  4. Aww...this is a lovely and beautiful post. The great thing about teaching is how you can impact a group of children to be so much more-and grow as a person in doing so. Those children look so happy. :) You are such a wonderful person. ♥

  5. I am so happy to have found this post. Last year I was a teacher at Ebeye SDA and I miss it every day. Sometimes when I miss Ebeye, I google it. And google brought me here. :) I saw a few familiar (younger) faces in your pictures! Your words brought tears to my eyes. My life was so changed by the little island and those crazy kids. I love that you were able to see one of your kids all grown up and they still hold a special place in your heart. I hope in several years I can have a good cry for my kids in Ebeye, too. I hope I never forget how precious they are to me. Thank you for sharing! Happy Sabbath!


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