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.

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