Friday, September 26, 2008

Three weeks down!

Hello! Sorry I haven’t written in a long time but I just couldn’t get myself down to that internet café. We’ve been teaching for three weeks now and all of us are exhausted. Luckily we have a three-day weekend and are leaving for the beach tonight!

There would have been no way for me to adequately prepare myself for this. I have no idea what to expect when I wake up each morning. While this definitely keeps things interesting, my high hopes for the day, or even for each individual class, can easily be shot down. I’m learning to let things go—if a class doesn’t go well, then that was that and we’ll see what I do differently tomorrow. In the end it doesn’t take much for a kid to make me smile and realize that I really do love this place. Like Anderson, for example, who has a flat top, is missing a front tooth and is called gordito by everyone. He has this cheeky little smile and he’s always happy to give and receive hugs.

I get on the bus at 7am and my day isn’t over until 7:45pm. The commute from the downtown center (called La Marín) back to the Cotocollao center in the middle of the day really takes it out of me. Luckily I get to walk for a little bit so I’m not completely dead by the time I get back and get ready for my afternoon classes. We eat dinner in the late evening—below is a photo of Maria (in the backwards Nike hat and traditional dress…I love her) one of the two women who make us dinner six nights a week. They work so hard and I am usually able to help out with dinner. I told them I don’t eat animals or anything that had a mother and they think it’s hysterical. Accordingly, they always set aside a little something for me if the main dish involves meat, or animales y mamas, as they like to say.

The boys and girls are split up for their English classes; I have one group of girls and two groups of boys. Sometimes the kids are adorable and sometimes they try my patience like you wouldn’t believe. You really wouldn’t believe it! If you know me, you know I’m rather mellow—it doesn’t feel good at all to raise my voice at the kids but sometimes there’s just no other way to get their attention. It usually works because I don’t do it that often, although I did lose my voice this week…

In addition to my English classes I have twelve periods of music each week, plus choir rehearsals. I’ve taught the kids how to stand and breathe correctly, how to hear their own voice by covering one ear, and how to feel the sound from their cabezas and not their throats. The regular music teacher (Flavio) and I teach together most of the time, but sometimes he takes kids out to work with the choir and I stay with the class. Thankfully, my guitar playing is improving rapidly and I’m able to accompany the kids most of the time.

I fall in and out of love with my students almost every day. There are times when they’ll do something so frustrating or shocking that I can’t believe what I’m seeing or hearing. There is a lot of violence here—not just horseplay but actual physical damage. Mean words get thrown around easily too. I’m told that in most homes parents don’t really use discipline until they just don’t know what to do but hit the kid, who then doesn’t understand why they were punished.

That means that in my classes with the older kids I get talked back to and argued with much more often than I was expecting. I think it’s because no one really explains what is and is not polite—they’re just talking the way they’re used to talking. I’ve never touched a kid in a harmful way, but it’s very difficult to persuade them with words. Usually a reward system will work, but not always.

My second grade boys are difficult sometimes, but they’re usually not rude—they just aren’t thinking. I teach this particular class in the Health room and discovered one day that a kid (Pablo, who I love dearly) had been taking dental floss from a drawer and was eating it (?? welcome to the second grade, I guess!). I also had a kid steal my white board markers and put them in his shoe-shine box. I don’t think he did it to be a pain, he just did it because it was something to do. It’s like they have no idea what their squirmy little bodies are up to.

Sometimes the kids act up, but in the next moment I’ll melt with love for them. Absolute adoration and pride in their small successes, even something as presumably simple as being able to walk to class without smacking each other around. They have a good sense of humor as a whole and can be very funny when they’re in a playful mood.

It must sound like I’m stressed out all the time but I am most definitely not! I enjoy these kids so much, and they love to run up and hug me every time they see me (well, almost every time). My name here has been shortened to Mari (pronounced like sorry) and the fact that the kids shout it across the playground just to get my attention makes me feel well-loved among them. Soon I’ll share more photos to give you an idea of what life is like here but until then, take care and write to me! love, Mare

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

This is what Quito looks like

I've survived almost three weeks of classes! A more descriptive post will come soon but I hope this photo will keep you happy for a least a little while. much love, M

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Classes start on Monday!

Whew! Sorry I haven’t updated in so long but it’s been a busy two weeks. We’ve been spending our time preparing for classes, which start tomorrow! I’ll teach English and Music and will be working for the “Girls’ Program” (more on that some other time). I’ll also spend some time organizing the various Teacher Resource rooms. Apparently a lot of teaching materials have been donated over the years, but it’s so overwhelming that the elementary school teachers (local Ecuatorianos) haven’t been taking advantage of them. I’m supposed to see what’s there, learn how to use it all, and teach teachers about the various resources. I’m excited to teach music—I had no idea they’d put me in a music classroom but I guess that’s how the proverbial cookie has crumbled. I guess I’d better beef up my guitar skills!

Yesterday we went to the Ecuador vs. Bolivia World Cup qualifier and had a blast. Latin American soccer games are exhilarating. Ecuador won, and to tell the truth it was a relief to be on the winning side. Not much vegetarian food at the stadium, but I survived on some of the tastiest roasted peanuts fifty cents can buy. Below is a photo of fellow volunteer Brandon and I in our matching Ecua jerseys.

Today we had a minga, which is sort of like an Amish barn-raising. Everyone gets together to help a family with some kind of home improvement project. We moved cinder blocks, huge wooden poles, and sand from one place to another (usually up and down hills—we are in the Andes).

A wonderful little boy from the center bought me a frozen yogurt snack for no reason and it made me feel wonderful. The kids I’ve met so far are a lot of fun. All they have to do is exist and I love them. Of course, we’ll see how long days in the classroom affect my current sentiments. I’ve been told that the first year of teaching is the most difficult, so let’s hope my patience kicks in and I don’t go crazy! I start off every morning on an hour-long bus ride to the downtown center, where I’ll start teaching at 8am. I end the day with a girls study hall that ends at 7:45pm. I get a few breaks throughout the day, so it’ll be a little bit like a college schedule (start early, end late, but there’s plenty of time for lunch).

Miss you all—we might be getting internet access in the house soon, which means I can update this bobloblaw lawblog more often and you can send me more emails (I’ll respond as best as I can!). Much love, Marian