Merida The Space Between

These Babies

The clock struck. 7 am. A harsh reality on a Saturday morning after a luscious Friday evening in Merida. I lay there hoping someone would make coffee, just this once.

For the past two months, I’ve been getting up early every Saturday morning to go to the orphanage and play with the babies. Babies from 4 days to 14 months who have either been there all their lives, or just arrived, like a package on a doorstep.

At first there are 11 of them, some shy and reserved and refusing to smile, and some with faces soft and tender despite their rather harsh entry into life’s circumstances. We don’t know much about their backgrounds, these babies, just that most have families who cannot care for them for one reason or another. I try not to judge them, the mothers who are often children themselves. Instead I take my cue from the wonderful women, young and seasoned, who care for these kids on a daily basis. They call out their names in passing, like Santa Claus with his list. But what they dole out here is love and compassion; even a gentle admonishment always ends in ‘amor’. “No amor”. “Cuidado amor”.

I try to love them all equally, these babies, but it is impossible. I’m drawn to the ones who give something back, but it’s the ones who have little to give who need me. So I do my best—baby talk being a language as foreign to me as spanish was 24 months ago. At least we’re on a level playing field, these babies and I. My few spanish words are enough to get their attention and they don’t seem to mind that my repetoire of songs are mostly from the Turtles Greatest Hits. Being tossed in the air to ‘I Can’t See Me Lovin’ Nobody But You‘ is universally worthy of a smile as big as a moon.

We’ve weathered the storm of good days and sad at the orphanage, of sick and sick again, but I was not prepared for the inevitable—some of the babies get to go home again. And when their legs are sturdy, they move next door to the Toddler Room because that’s how things work at an orphanage. In a few short weeks I’d lost my heart to Fernanda, Adriana, Victor, Gaby, Christian and Christopher, and now they were gone. Replaced by new little packages left at the door. For the ones who went home, I hoped for the best. And the ones left behind?…

“Me and you, and you and me, no matter how they toss the dice, it had to be. The only one for me is you, and you for me, so happy together!”

In October 2012, I drove 6,800 kms with my artist husband, Ric Kokotovich (, and my dog Iggy, to spend 6 months in our adopted city of Merida. Leaving the fast paced world of Calgary behind, I packed my books, art and entrepreneurial spirit, and set off to explore what lay beyond the borders that had become my life. In October 2013 we hit the road south again, hoping to find out what ‘living the dream’ really means. This is my adventure.

15 comments on “These Babies

  1. Mary Paston

    Sniff sniff sniff..lovely alison….bless you for doing this, for loving for singing and for writing about it…. Here is a nice foto of your nice Pa…who loves you just like you love those babies.

    Sent from my iPad


  2. Linda Wollin

    Beautiful Alison – touched my heart – xo

  3. I would love to do this too. I thought of being a cuddle at the hospital. One day i will.

  4. I can just see your big eyes and smile when you arrive every Saturday. You have lots of ‘cuddle’ to give my friend xo

  5. You continue to amaze and inspire!

    • It’s truly the people who work there, and expats like Janelle and Kimmy who are inspiring! Janelle and Kimmy have organized tutoring classes in English for the teenagers and are always looking for maestras/maestros if you know of anyone. Janelle’s email is and she would love to hear from anyone who is interested in donating some of their precious time to these kids. Thanks for reading Nancy!

  6. One of the words in Spanish that I love the most is apapachar, or to cuddle, which my cleaning lady, Conchi, taught me when she learned I was working with babies. Nothing like a baby in your arms.

    • What a great word Craig – and I’ve heard the babies LOVE YOU!! The orphanage and kids could definitely use some additional positive male energy like yours, so I am putting the word out!

  7. Diane Brown

    I think ‘baby talk’, like ‘doggy talk’ are universal languages both of which usually include a lot of smiling. However, if in doubt you could always switch to that old Sting song, ‘do do do do, da da da da….’

    Sent from my iPad


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