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

1 comment:

Ally Stoltz said...

finally a blog post, I've been waiting in eager anticipation and baited breath. i don't know if that makes sense. BUT WHAT DOES MAKE SENSE is you being in Ecuador. That is clear just by the way you write with so much joy. I'm real happy for you and please write another one before another 3 weeks passes. thanks. lovealpal