About Me

I am in South America from October 3rd until December 17th! I am spending the month of October volunteering in a child care center in Quito, the capital of Ecuador. Then I have a month and a half to explore Ecuador and Peru!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Bittersweet Goodbyes

This is me and a few of the kiddos reading a book in Spanish and English.

Hellow! I just arrived home from my last day volunteering at the daycare center :(. I will tell you about it later, but first I need to pick up where I left off...

The remainder of last week at the daycare center went great. I brought in another bilingual book, Riscotos de Oro y Los Tres Osos AKA Godilocks and The Three Bears. The story was familiar to most of the other workers there and the kids loved it! The especially liked my different voices for Mama, Papa and Baby bear. I figure since they dont understand much of the English part I have to read it more expressively for them to know what is going on. And of course we learned the words for bowl, chair and bed as well as a few others.

On Friday I left my project a little early to visit John and Trumans project (two other volunteers and my travel buddies). They are working in a center for street children. There are only boys and they are ages 12 to 18-ish but they all look a few years younger than what they are because of malnurishment. I do not know any of their stories personally, but either they were kicked out of their homes or they ran away (either because they were naughty or they wanted to escape from their home environment). Most of them lived in parks around Quito until they agreed to live at the center where they get food, shelter and opportunity for education.

This is a very special project. They boys were so sweet! Within half a minuted I had a ping-pong paddle in my hand and was playing a game. If I had met them in any other situation I would not guess that they were street children. Other than their extensive swearing vocabulary, they were all very well behaved. Besides when they tried to coerce me into letting them "borrow" my watch...

John, Truman and I hung out with the kids for a couple of hours. By the end of the day Truman was playing the guitar and we were all sitting around him singing the songs. A song called Wagon Wheels, some Red Hot Chili Peppers and a little of Ball and Chain later we headed out before the sun set. I got a few I love yous and even some of them calling me their girlfriend. They dont see many girls there. haha.

That night we three went to a movie in the mall. We saw Julie and Julia which is about a woman named Julie who makes every recipe in a woman named Julias cookbook. The movie was pretty good but honestly just made me want Food. I felt like I was in America at a movie theater. The setting was so familiar. I expected to walk out the door into the streets of North Platte. But I didnt. We walked out the door into the streets of Quito and took a cab home.

Early on Saturday morning we three set off for another adventure. This weekends destination: Banos. Banos is notorious for hot baths. Just before getting on our early morning bus we met six girls from the US who were also going to Banos. Most of them were studying aboad from Boston University. They were a great group of girls who I ended up talking with a lot on the bus and hung out with the majority of the weekend. One girl, Amanda, is volunteering in a hospital in Guyaquil. She had done a study abroad program a couple years ago and had been to Banos a few times before. She is a beautiful soul and is also headed to Peru soon...potential travel companion...

When we arrived in Banos my trio found a hostel then met up with the Boston chicas for lunch. Then, guided by one of Amandas friends from 2 years ago, our pack set off on bikes to see 5 of the waterfalls close to Banos.

My favorite waterfall: P-something del Diablo. We each had to pay one dollar to climb up some stairs and go on a balcony. This is the best dollar I have spent in South America (so far). Upon entering there was a sign that said, "Are you ready for a little secret? God Exists!" I did not fully understand this until I saw the waterfall. It was soooooo powerful!!!! The water below it was a current of turmoil and strength. So beautiful! AND--we crawled (yes, crawled) up a little passage to get to a second balcony that was positioned right behind the waterfall. We all held our hands out and felt it! And we walked out of there soaked!

After that we all piled our bikes in the back of one pickup, and our selves in the back of another and rode back into town. There were about...12 ish people in the back of this truck. We sang songs the whole way into town with the darkness of night falling around us.

That night my trio plus Amanda rode a in Cheba (similar to a school bus without sides) part way up a mountain. When we got off the bus each person was given a cup filled with a warm liquid (similar to sprite?) and then they asked us "Con trago? or sin trago?" With alcohol or without? Can you imagine this in the US? No IDs, nothing.

We saw all the lights of Banos below us and watched some guys juggle fire and spin poi and even try to light a cigarette that a man was holding in his mouth by throwing flaming sticks back and forth in front of his face. Then we headed back down the mountain and to our beds to sleep.

The next morning we got up and had breakfast at Amanda and the other girls hostel. I met a lot of other volunteers and backpackers at breakfast. A lot. I have met so many others on busses and just around town. I can usually pick out a Gringo (probably because I am one myself) and we mutually will stand by eachother on a bus just to have a good conversation in English and find out what the other one is doing. Anyways! Lots of people with similar interests and plans at breakfast.

Then my trio headed to the warm baths. It was nice. Cold shower, hot bath, cold shower, hot bath. After the baths we decided to have a nice lunch before catching our 12:40 bus back to Quito. While in the process of fining a nice place to eat three South Americans around our age asked us if they could interview us for a class project. We agreed to a short interview and were momentarily surrounded by about 12 of their classmates. Turn out their teacher Jeff had given them an assignment to interview some people in English and dumped them in Banos to do it. They all got out their phones and voice recorders and took turns asking us questions like, where are you from, when did you get here, do you like Ecuador, why, do you have a boyfriend, do you want to be my boyfriend, what is your favorite holiday in the US, tell me about some of the traditions there....by the time we were done with the interview we had just enough time to eat a quick almuerzo (lunch with soup, rice, egg, salad and meat) and run to our bus. We go on the bus just as it was pulling out of the parking lot. That was a close one. We would have had to wait a whole hour for the next bus to Quito.

And that brings me to my last week in the daycare center.
Here Edwin. He is always full of smiles and hugs. My first day at the daycare center he smeared yogurt on my arms.

I have gotten closer to the kids and other teachers. When I walk into a room the kids erupt into a mass of "Hola Tia!" They are adorable. Yesterday I was kneeling down outside showing them one of the books and momentarily found myself almost flat on the ground with a bunch of the 3-4 year olds on me and hugging me. I could hardly stand up because of them and I was laughing so hard.

English classes went great this week. I do classes outside so the kids can listen to the story or do the activity if they want to, and if not they can play on the playground. It works out well because the kids who want to learn can. I have about 5 loyal students. They can count to ten with a little help and know a few basic colors and body parts.

This week I have figured out a pretty good schedule for myself. When I arrive I help feed the kids breakfast. Then I go to the baby room with Sophia and feed my little guy, Darlys, a bottle. He only lets me feed him...I am not sure what they will do next week. After that Sophia and I talk and play with the babies then I do English classes with the older kids and return to the babies to feed them lunch at 11:15. Then I help Sophia change their diapers and put them to bed (and feed Darlys again) then head back to the cafeteria to help all of the other kids eat. Then I help put the kids age 2-3 to sleep and usually end up close to sleep myself. Then I help sweep the cafeteria then eat lunch with the ladies.

I cannot help but to compare this daycare center to the one that I worked at in Colorado for 9 months, Miller Ranch. I have come to a few conclusions. The main difference is everything physical. There are more kids, fewer kids, smaller classrooms. They play with toys that we would probably throw away in the states. And of course the germ thing. But besides all of that, the teachers and kids are so similar to the ones in the states. Who they are, what they do, how they play is el mismo. The same. The kids love to build block towers and knock them down. They like stories. They fight and cry when their feelings get hurt. And the teachers love them like they are their own children.

A major holiday, Dia de los Disfuntos, will be celebrated on Monday. Tradicionally, everyone drinks Coloda Morada and eats Pan de Wawas. Coloda Morada is a DELICIOUS drink made of pineapple, strawberries, mora (berries) and a bunch of other fruits all boiled together and blended with herbs and sugar. Pan de Wawas is bread in the shaped of a baby with frosting on it. Wawas is the Quichwa (indiginous) word for baby.

This morning when I arrived at the daycare the Colada Morada was already brewing. At about 2 this afternoon each of the kids got a cup of it and a piece of bread. It was my first taste of either! And I cannot believe we do not have this stuff in the US. IT IS SOOO GOOD. Rico.
And here is Michelle making her own Pan de Wawa.
Then the teachers gave me a stuffed animal bear as a thank you for working here. They said they dont give one to all of the volunteers. They are so sweet! Then I said goodbye to each of the classrooms and teachers.

It is bittersweet to leave the daycare. I have come to love the kids, teachers and entire daycare center. They will always have a special place in my heart. However, I am excited for the next step in my journey: Peru.

But first, Dia de los Disfuntos and a hike around the Quilitoa loop.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Semana Tres (week 3)

This is a picture of three of my kids in the 2-3 age group. They all really like this little space on the shelves.

This was my third week at the daycare center. I am getting to know my co-workers at the daycare a lot better. I finally have the names and faces figured out...there are 8 teachers and 2 women who do a wonderful job preparing food for 100-ish people every day. Plus me, to float around and help out wherever help is needed.

Last week I left with the other two volunteers at 1 so they could get to their Spanish lessons. This week I have been staying at the center longer and having lunch with the ladies while the kids are sleeping. They are really fun and interesting people. I only understand about a third of what they talk about at lunch. I brought pictures of my family to the center yesterday and they loved seeing and hearing about my family. They asked me if I missed them and I said of course, its my family!

And my mom was so sweet to make baby blankets for me to bring to South America with me. I gave one dozen of them to the daycare center. The teacher in the infant room, Sophia, was sooo happy to have them! She loved all of the different designs on them. Thanks mom! I have different plans for the rest of the blankets...

English lessons with the older kids are going...alright. The past two days I have not been able to have them because I was filling in for teachers in their classrooms and could not sneak away. But on Tuesday I brought in a new book, Los Tres Cerditos, or The Three Little Pigs. The book is written in Spanish and English. The entire class of 4-5 year olds (about 25 kids) sat outside and listened to the story. I read it in English and another teacher, Alexandra, read it in Spanish. Alexandra is 19 years old and is a teacher there. All of the other teachers at in their 20s or 30s. She is so sweet. She doesnt say much and always is calm and patient with the kids (even when a child is throwing chairs across the cafeteria).

A few words about germs: either they dont exist or the kids at the daycare have very strong immune systems. Today I found the hand soap at the daycare center. This is my third week there and I just found the soap! When the kids wash their hands before eating they just run their hands under water. I guess their bodies are used to all of the germs around them. At lunch time all of us teachers serve the food and go around the tables helping the kids to eat. If one is not feeding themselves we spoon feed them. Today I saw a little boy spoon feeding a little girl. It was so adorable! Then he put a spoonful of the rice in his own mouth. Then he grabbed some of the rice from inside his mouth and put it in the little girls mouth! haha. There was nothing I could do besides laugh and try to communicate to him not to do that...kids, they are so innocent.

But really, other than a few runny noses here and there all of the kids seem to stay illness-free.

Last night I went to the salsa club, El Aljun, with a couple teachers from the studio and a few other students. It took me a minute to get in to the swing of things...dancing at a club is different from dancing in a classroom. But it was so much fun!

Chao chao!

PS Happy birthday Mikala! 22, is it?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Weekend in Mindo

Friday we did not have classes so I went with Amy and Ruth to ride the TeleferiQo, a gondala that goes up the side of Volcan Pichincha. We could see all of Quito below plus three more major mountains in the distance. Ruth and Amy flew home at 7. It was great to have them here this week!

This weekend I spent in Mindo with two guys who are also volunteering in Quito. On Friday night we went out to "Gringolandia," the hub of all the discotecas here in Quito. We spent most of our time dancing...it was alright. The gringolandia scene was a little busy for me though. But here is news--inside one of the bars there was a collection of liscence plates from the US and guess what state was among them? None other than Nebraska.

Early on Saturday morning we took a 2 and a half hour bus to Mindo for $2.50. While on the bus my friend Truman got out his camera and took a picture then put his camera back in his bag. He then put his bag on the floor and laid back to relax for a while. About 5 minutes later our bus stopped at a town along the way and the man sitting behind Truman got off the bus. About 10 minutes later Truman was going to take out his camera only to find the case was empty. Probable event: his camera was stolen by the man who was sitting behind him. Gotta be careful on busses!

When we got to Mindo the first thing we did was look for a hostel. We found a cute little place a short walk away from the town center that was run by two sisters and their mother. It was the nicest hostel I have ever seen! We each paid $10 each for 2 rooms which also included: a balcony with a hammock, warm water and breakfast.

Mindo is famous for 3 things: butterflies, flowers and waterfalls. On Saturday we explored the waterfalls. But first we had a lunch that costed a total of $5.50. We got rice, beans, hot sauce and the boys had chicken while I got a banana with cheese in it. It was delicious! I dont know anywhere in the US that you can get a meal a big and delicious as these were for as cheap.

We could pay a dollar for a shuttle to the waterfall area but opted to save money and walk the hour and a half to get there. Then we had to ride in a metal cart OVER a forest and river. We were ridiculously high up above the trees in a metal basket. And a lady who worked there stood on a ledge outside the basket like it was nothing.

Once we got to the other side we went for a nice hike on some jungle paths to get to the waterfalls. When I say jungle, I mean vegitation like I have never seen before. Trees everywhere. Ferns and mosses growing on the trees. And we are pretty sure there was even a palm tree growing on top of another tree...

We saw one cool creature there...a gigantic millipede. And we saw leaves that were almost 2 feet big. They were everywhere.

When we got to one of the waterfalls we all got in and swam. The water was freezing but it was definitely worth it! John then climbed up on a ledge (about 8 or 10 feet up) and jumped in! Truman was next. So I climbed up there. I stood there for a while not really wanting to jump then I decided to do it and I jumped right away. My train of thoughts in my head was, "Jump now so when you change your mind you will already be in the air and it will be too late to turn back!" And I did. And it was amazing. Definitely worth it.

On our hour and a half hike back to town it rained on us the whole way. By the time we got back to our cozy hostel we were all ready to shower, change and just relax for the night. And that is just what we did.

This morning we woke up and had yogurt and bread with homemade guava mermalade on bread. It was a delicious breakfast. Then we went to the Mariposaria--the butterfly nursery (Mariposa is butterfly in Spanish). The butterflys were beautiful! There were so many different kids and colors. And if you rubbed your finger in a very ripe banana you could hold a butterfly on your finger and they would lick the banana juice off your finger. It was fantastic.

After then Mariposaria we hopped onto some tubes and floated down Rio Mindo. There were about 8 tubes all tied together and we had a guide who pulled us over rocks and guided us down the river. Our safety precautions: helmets and lifejackets. Anywhere else in the world you would have to sign your life away, but here we just put the helmets and lifejackets on and jumped in. And happily floated down the river while our guide did all of the work. I was actually very impressed by him. He knew the river. He knew which rocks to go between and which way to guide us to make it the easiest and most enjoyable.

After all that adventure we ate the $5.50 lunch again then got on a bus back to Quito.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


This is a picture of my host family here in Quito.

Last night I had dinner with the Aschmanns, a family that I met in Wallace, Nebraska who lives here in Quito. They are a missionary family. I met them almost a year and a half ago for dinner to talk about Ecuador and last night we had our second dinner together! They are a beautiful family and it was fun to see how they have grown and changed over the last year and a half. When I got home from dinner us girls (the two other volunteers and myself) were too tired to go out dancing...

Today at the daycare center I worked in the classroom for the 2-3 year olds. I think this is becomming one of my favorite classrooms. If you can get over the potty-training age and all that it involves, they such a fun and explorative age group. One of my favorite things to do with the kids is to turn up the music and dance! Most of them just stand and watch me be crazy, but I get a few to join in :).

Today the other teacher in the classroom planned the activity. Guess what it was? GOMA. Glue! I thought she was crazy at first and I thought the glue would just be messy. Five minutes later all 22 kids were sitting down playing with glue in their hands. For the next 20 minutes they played with glue and then picked it off their hands. All of them. Every kid was content and happy with glue in their hands. It also kept me occupied for a few minutes...if you have not played with a bit of liquid glue lately I really suggest that you do so. A dallop the size of a nickel in the palm of your hand will do just fine.

After the daycare center I went to Salsa lessons! I am learning so many new things in class. My teacher, Isaac, asked me what I was doing tonight at six because he had a lesson with a man and wanted a girl there for the guy to practice with. I had to say, "Estoy occupada." I am busy. It is quite amusing to me that he can teach me to dance salsa. I dont speak Spanish very well and he does not speak English. But I am learning to Salsa nonetheless.

And as for what I was busy with tonight...making dinner for 13 people! Tonight is the New Jersey sister volunteers last night in Ecuador and we cooked dinner for the entire family! It was also Patricks (my project coordinator and the son in law of Aleja and Marco) daughters 2nd birthday.

Amy and Ruth had a delicious recipe for Baked Ziti. We also had green beans, garlic bread, pineapple and mango and birthday cake! We sang Happy Birthday in English and she blew out the candle. Then we sang it in Spanish and she blew out the candle again! The family is so beautiful and loving. I feel so happy to be able to be a part of it this month.

Oh yes, and a word about the fruit. I bought the pineapple for $1.50 and 3 mangos for $1. They were sooooo delicious. The pineapple was WHITE! White! I thought something was wrong when I cut it open but I guess that is what color fresh pineapple is. It was so good! And the mangos...I could almost live off of the fruit here. I had a mango and avocado for a snack this afternoon. If you like avocados in North America you need to come to the southern hemisphere and try these avocados...

Take care!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Salsa in South America

Hello! This week has been amazing so far!

On Sunday I went to the historical center with Marco and Aleja (the grandparents of my host family) and walked around in shops. Then I took a three hour nap. And then two sister volunteers, Amy and Ruth, from New Jersey arrived! They are staying with the same host family as I am. They are here until Friday and are doing the same volunteer project. It is so nice to have people to speak English to and to ride busses with!

The daycare center now has a lot more help with the three of us volunteering. It does not feel like every teacher is overwhelmed with tasks anymore.

Yesterday we each took a group of 5 of the older kids to have English lessons. Amy did flash cards, Ruth tried to do colors and I did songs and Mother Goose Rhymes from a bilingual book that I brought. I had one group that was awesome and interactive and listened. But then my next group did not want to listen. And Ruth was having problems communicating what she wanted them to do, so we joined forces and had a larger group together. It worked alright...

Today for English classes we went outside during their play time and sent up a game to have them run to chairs that were either red, blue, yellow or green. There were about 5 kids out of 30 who were running and joining in. And there was at least one kid sitting in the chair at each color watching the others run. I feel like the game was fun for them and the kids who wanted to play were and if they didnt want to they could go play elsewhere on the playground.

After that game Ruth and I read them the Mother Goose Rhymes. She read them in English and I read them in Spanish. The kids loved the book! We could not get them to sit on the ground. They were all standing around us. I was surprised that the book drew in a bigger crowd than the running-color game. After we read to them we gave them stickers then went inside for lunch!

Oh yes, and to tell you a bit about the food here...
Rice is typical at most meals. Eggs are common. Meat is...different. Juice (jugo) is a must. And bread! The bread here is so delicious! At my house we buy fresh bread every day and the crust is so crispy and flaky and...delicious!

The daycare gives the kids breakfast every day. They get warm milk mixed with some kind of protein-vitamin stuff and also some fruit or something. Then they get a snack in the morning...usually apple sauce or some bread of some kind. Then for lunch they get soup then rice with some meat and veggies and of course...JUGO! All of the kids love their jugo. I think it is because it is basically water with a bunch of sugar and some fruit...but that is just me. We wait until they have eaten most of thir meals to give them their juice. Then they all go take naps. After their nap they get a snack and, you guessed it, more jugo!

Oh yes, and fruit is cheap and everywhere here. There is a furiteria on every street. It costs $1 for a bunch of bananas..somewhere around 15. And it also costs $1 for 25 mandarin oranges. I think I have eaten...one...two...three...four bananas today!

My new favorite saying is, "Estoy bromiendo!" or "I am joking!" Una broma is a joke. I am learning lots of new words every day and Spanish is becomming easier for me. I am able to comprehend a lot more. I still have problems putting what is in my head into words though...

And for my new passion here in Quito...Salsa!!! Salsa dancing, that is. Every day the two sisters have Spanish classes. I was lucky enough to find a dance studio a few blocks away from their lessons (thank you Lonely Planet books!). I have taken two salsa lessons. Today after my class my teacher gave me a card with an add for Salsa Miercoles. A place near the studio has salsa dancing every Wednesday night and I am thinking about going to it tomorrow night with the two sisters. They are also taking salsa lessons after their Spanish lessons. They have the same teacher as me and he has me help them out a bit. Salsa! Un, dos, tres. Cinco, seis, siete. un, dos tres. cinco, seis, siete.

Chao Chao!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

My first weekend in Quito

To pick up where I left off...

On Thursday I began to teach English to the older kids (age 4-5) in the daycare. There are about 25 kids in that one classroom. So instead of teaching all 25 at one time I took them in groups of five to a small classroom. The are so much fun to work with in small groups! The first thing I taught each group was how to say "hello." Then I went over numbers 1-5. Some of the kids already knew the numbers from their homes or from the last volunteer who taught English. After that I taught each group three colors--green, blue and yellow. I had squares of each color that I laid on the floor and when I said the color in English they were to run to the square and stand on it. The kids loved it!

Some of the groups were difficult to work with. I do not think some the kids are used to listening and doing what they are told. I am sure after a few English classes they will understand how it works and it will be easier to work with and more fun for them and me. A couple of the groups were amazing though! Some of the kids are completely interested in learning English.

Thursday afternoon I was in a Pasteleria (a bread and pastel shop) eating a delicious pineapple pastel when I looked out the window and saw people running down the streets and sidewalk. Then a moment later I saw men jogging back in the other direction. I wondered what was going on...

Then someone said there was a building that was on fire. I finished my pastel then went into the street and saw flames coming out of the second and third stories of a building. There were bomberos (firemen) and their trucks and hoses fighting the fire. There was a large crowd gathered to watch. I only stayed for a moment to see what was going on then left the area...big crowds are not a good idea.

Yesterday was the independence holiday in Guayaquil so we did not have classes at the daycare. That left me with a 3 day weekend...

I spent the day with a nueva amiga, Veronica, and her family. I met Veronica at the airpot when I arrived and she helped me to find my taxi to get to my host familys house. She was my first friend in Ecuador :). I got her phone number and added her on facebook.

Yesterday morning, at about 11:30, Veronica and I went for a walk in a very popular park here in Quito called Carolina. We had been walking for about half an hour when a man approached us and asked for 50 cents. Veronica reached in her purse to get it and then the man said "Give me your phone." Veronica said she didnt have it and he said that he had seen her with it a few minutes ago and if she did not give him her phone he would kill her. Veronica gave him her phone. He ran away. We walked away.

I had not understood much of what happened because they were talking very quickly and, of course, in Spanish. I thought he wanted to borrow her phone to make a call but was very confused when he ran away with it. It was only when we were walking away and Veronica said "We just got robbed" that I understood what had happened. We walked away and I held her hand very tightly.

We promptly got a taxi and went to her house.

Veronica said that had never happened to her before, but it had happened to her friends. She said sometimes they ask for money and it is best just to give it to them and not make them angry. That is why she was going to give him the 50 cents. The way I understand it is that its similar to "The Toll Bridge Troll." They make you pay a fee to pass, even just in a park.

It all happened very quickly and surprisingly peacefully. People in the park probably didnt realize what had happened. It was very tranquil. Veronica was so strong and calm. We went back to her house and told her mom and sister what had happened and she called the phone company and cancelled the phone. Veronica said she was very happy that he just wanted her phone. He didnt even ask me for anything, and I probably wouldnt have understood him if he had. I was not carrying anything on me for him to have anyways.

The rest of the day was amazing though. Her family took me to a town nearby, Cumbaya for lunch. We ate at a Chinese restraunt with Ecuadorian influences. I had fried rice with veggies. It was delicious! After that we went to the Mitdad del Mundo "The center of the Earth" Latitude 0. Yes, I straddled the Equator! I was in the Northern and Southern hemispheres at the same time! The Mitdad del Mundo is very interesting to me. There was lots of information about Equinoxes and Solstices. I also learned that on these special dates people who live in a town inside a volcano (inactive) perform ceremonies. Too bad I wont be here for the winter solstice!

Veronicas family is amazing. They took their whole day to show me Ecuador. Veronica is 21 and she has a sister who is 24. They and their father all speak English. Our conversations went back and forth between Spanish and English. Later that night we went to the historical center in Quito to eat and have a drink. I had a Strawberry Daquri, my first legal drink! Oh yes, and Veronicas family invited me to join them for the Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead celebration on November 2. And they said if I am back in Quito on December 6 I can stay with them and join in on Quito holiday festivities.

Today is a big soccer game here in Quito. Ecuador and Uruaguay are playing to go to the World Cup in South Africa. I am going to Veronicas house to watch the game. Go Ecuador!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Los Niños

The past two days have been a whirlwind of Spanish, volunteering in the daycare, meeting new people, playing with kids and figuring out the bus system! My first day of voluteering was on Monday. I live with the in laws of my project coordinator, Patrick. He picked me up on Monday morning when he dropped his daughter off at the house before school. Patrick and I went to the center and he gave me a tour. The center was started in 1995 to help women from the garbage dump. As they were helped and their quality of life improved, more people were allowed to use the clinic, sewing center and daycare. They pay according to what they make. Some families do not pay for care. The clinic is for vaccinations, dentistry and other health issues. The sewing center makes all kinds of clothes. The women do not have to pay for their education. And that brings me to the daycare...

There are 90 kids. 90! They are in four classrooms. Each classroom has either one or two teachers. In the baby room there were 9 babies with one teacher yesterday! In the daycare I worked at in Colorado, we were allowed to have 5 babies maximum for one teacher. Usually we had 8 babies and two teachers and that was overwhelming sometimes! 9 babies for one teacher! Today I was in the classroom with 3 to 4 year olds. There were 28 kids! Que loco...

I arrive at the daycare at 8 30, assuming I catch the right busses, and help to give the kids breakfast. It is very important for us to give the kids food because at home the might not get it. After breakfast the kids go to their classes and either do an art project or sing songs. A teacher in Colorado, Flor, was bilingual and taught me The Itsy Bitsy Spider in Spanish. The kids love it! Then I do it for them in English and today I had all 28 kids watching. After breakfast we go outside and play. Then we have lunch which consists of soup, rice and either vegetables or fruit. After lunch the kids take a nap. In Colorado, each kid has their own sleeping mat and their own sheets and blankets. Here in Quito, there are a few big mattresses the kids lay on and they share big blankets!

While they sleep the teachers eat lunch. I usually eat and catch pieces of their conversation and answer a few questions they ask me and ask them a few also. I need lots of help with my Spanish! I feel bad when the kids get hurt and come to me to tell me what happened and I cannot understand them or correct whoever hurt them.

That brings me to another point...a difference between American kids and the kids here. These kids are tough. They hit eachother hard and kick and pull hair and push and all kids of things that would leave a kid in Colorado crying for the rest of the day. And they usually just get up and walk away. They are tough kids. Fuerte.

I brought my camera to the school today and took lots of pictures! They loved to see themselves on the screen. Oh yeah, and they are perhaps the most impressed with my watch which lights up when you push a certain button.

Quito is beautiful!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

¡Hola de Ecuador!

¡Hola! ¡I am in Quito! I was on airplanes for most of the day yesterday and arrived in South America around 11. I did not find my pre arranged airport pick up right away, but a lovely girl named Veronica (my first friend in Quito) helped me to find where to go. I got a taxi to my host familys house on Sevilla. My cab driver was very patient with my language skills and we talked (as best I could) in Spanish the whole way to the house. My host mother, Aleja, was at the gate to meet me.

My host family is muy carinosa. The grandparents Aleja y Marco live with their daughter and her two children who are 16 and 11. They are a beautiful family and are very nice. Oh yes, and they have a dog...Tarzan! He is a German Shepherd and is very nice. The family is very patient and helpful with my Spanish speaking skills. I took 4 years of Spanish in high school, but am by no means fluent. It is going to take some time and practice...

From the terrace of the house I can see mountains all around me. Quito spreads as far as I can see in the directions North and South. On the East and West Quito is bordered by mountains. Houses and terraces are scattered up the sides of some of the mountains. It is a beautiful city.

This morning I took a shower. Aleja warned me that the gas is turned off on Sundays so the water might be bastante frio (kindof cold). I decied to try it out anyways and ended up with a very cold shower! I might skip Sunday showers in the future. I went to the mall with Aleja and Pedro this morning and got some delicioso ice cream. Then we drove around the city a little and they showed me the historical part of the city and some mueseums for me to check out sometime.

When we got home we all ate lunch together. We had rice with stir fried veggies and chicken. Delicioso! After lunch I taked with Aleja and Kristina (my host sister) about places I need to visit in Ecuador. After looking up a few words in my diccionario and a few newly tabbed pages in my Lonely Planet book I have some good ideas of places to visit in Ecuador...you will have to wait until I visit them to hear about them! Then I brought out some family pictures. They loved them.