Angels & Palm Trees #Autism

Sometimes we have experiences where it is truly a struggle to find the right words to describe them. My experience in Olongapo City is one of those.

Returning to the city I was born in for the first time in my life, after thirty-two years was nothing short of humbling. The journey from Boston was a long one, approximately thirty five hours including extremely long layovers. But it was all very much worth it.

When I arrived it was about to rain and it rained for nearly my entire trip. I remember sitting in the hotel restaurant watching the waves and palm trees through the large windows. I imagine I seemed strange to the hotel staff.

I didn’t inform them of my disability but I’m sure some found it funny that I ordered grilled ham and cheese for nearly every meal during my stay. Trying to create routine and avoid my shellfish allergy became crucial to avoiding meltdowns for me.

I got to reunite with the woman who once took care of me as a baby and I spent a couple of days with her as well. That was beautiful and I will keep those memories and photographs of the two of us now forever.

But the most amazing part of this trip was meeting the children at Gordon Heights Elementary in Olongapo City. When we arrived I was so startled to see how different the schools are there and sadly the heaviness how great the need is there as well.

We searched for the teacher’s name and instead found a banner with my name welcoming me to the school. There are no words for how beautiful that was to me. I was not anticipating any grand welcome. I was simply excited to read to the children and donate the art supplies I had brought for them.

I feel as though I may have learned more than the children that day. They put on a talent show for me. I got to watch as they sang their hearts out and danced before I read to them and spoke to their parents. I spoke of hope. I spoke of my struggles and of overcoming.

My mission with this school and my children’s books is far from over. I’ve asked for a list of what the school needs and I intend to send them what I can when I can. I have reached out to companies to ask for donations as well.

The need is great. But so is my ambition and my heart for this city as well. I was able to meet some other incredible teachers who traveled to meet me as well and I treasure meet them as well.

On my final morning in Subic Bay, I raced to the water just in time to meet the sun rise and I will never forget it. I was in awe. I stood for a moment with the breeze in my hair and just closed my eyes when the brilliant colors were almost too brilliant to seem real. But they were real and so was the hope I felt in that moment as well.

I have been writing children’s books and speaking for a few years now, and yet somehow, because of this journey, it seems like it has only just begun. ♥️

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About Gretchen Leary

I am 32 years old, I live in the Boston area, and I am writing from the perspective of an individual with Asperger's Syndrome.
This entry was posted in Autism. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Angels & Palm Trees #Autism

  1. Renee Espriu says:

    How wonderful to feel so welcomed in the place of your birth and to have such insight into the love felt for you after all this time. Thank you for sharing your story and the photos as well.

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